If you’ve spent any time browsing the web, chances are better than not you’ve encountered the popular videos known as TED talks. These unique videos are both informative and entertaining, which is one of the many reasons they’ve grown so popular over the past decade.
What you might not have considered is how TED talks can help you master the English language. In this post, we’re going to explore the concept behind TED talks in greater detail and explore some of the most popular TED talks of all time. Not only have these TED sessions captured the attention of viewers around the world, but they share interesting parallels and lessons in the language learning journey.
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What Is a TED Talk?
TED is a media group that has been hosting conferences across the globe for nearly 30 years. The organization regularly holds events that draw well-known speakers, scholars, and business people to the stage. The lectures these presenters give at the event are later distributed online as “TED Talks.” Best of all, the organization wants to cultivate “ideas worth sharing.” All of their videos are available free of charge.
TED speakers and the subjects they cover truly run the gamut. Each video explores a central theme, with the presenter breaking it down into easily understood concepts and principles. There are also certain constants that need to be respected; notably, each presenter only has 18 minutes to get their point across to the audience. This results in bitesized content that contains incredible gems of wisdom.
From design to academics and nearly everything in between, the organization has made nearly 3,000 informative videos available to internet users. Whether you’re completely new to the world of TED talks or you’ve already spent some time watching some of these great educational videos, you won’t want to miss the TED talks that inspired internet viewers around the world.
1. Tony Robbins: Why We Do What We Do
Over 10 million people have watched this incredible TED talk since it first went live in 2007, and for good reason. Tony Robbins is a high powered business executive in the United States who hosts very popular events and seminars on personal development. In Tony Robbins’ TED talk, the popular speaker delves into why humans make the choices they make.
Tony talk revolves around what he calls “invisible forces.” These factors motivate your decisions, thoughts, and actions.
Of course, the principles Tony shares can apply to numerous parts of life. If you’re an English learner, however, you might be particularly interested in the concept of resources vs. resourcefulness. What are you letting hold you back from reaching your dreams of speaking English live a native? This TED talk covers the six human needs we all share and how to identify what drives you to meet them. Can you think of new ways to meet your language learning needs? How are you letting the obstacles in your path prevent you from improving?
2. Shawn Achor: The Happy Secret to Better Work
Could your perspective on work be causing you to stay stuck? What if your approach to learning English were all wrong, for example? Could rethinking the way you approach challenges change everything?
Shawn Achor, a proponent of positive psychology, presented this talk in 2011 at TEDxBloomington. (TEDx conferences feature the same general structure as the main TED events, but independent groups organize them with permission.) In the lecture, he explores what makes some people better than average and how to encourage thinking outside the box.
Have you ever considered how your perspective on the challenge in front of you impacts your ultimate success? Shawn, a Harvard graduate, spends his days studying exactly that. Happiness and positive perspective make a noticeable impact on the results people manage to achieve. Per his speech, as you work to shift your perspective, you’ll see more impressive results.
What truly makes this video riveting is Shawn’s research into happiness. For example, his team found that IQ and skillset only make up 25% of professional workplace potential. Positivity, optimism, and your ability to deal with stress make up the remaining 75%. He also challenges the common mentality that you need to work harder to be successful and become happy. In fact, our brains are wired to do the opposite. Happiness should spur on hard work and success, not the other way around.
Dive into this talk if you’re feeling overwhelmed in your English studies and ready for a complete perspective shift.
3. Kelly McGonigal: How to Make Stress Your Friend
So, Shawn Achor told his audience that learning how to deal with stress makes a huge impact on your ultimate success. But, how do you go about changing your mindset on stress itself?
Fortunately, this TED talk from Kelly McGonigal explores exactly that. Kelly is a health psychologist and for years, she taught her clients why it was so important to avoid stress. After all, stress causes nothing but problems, right? Then, she discovered new research that explored how avoiding stress isn’t the key to success. Instead, it’s important to reshape how we view stress.
Kelly shares interesting scientific research that demonstrates how thinking positively about stress changes how your body actually handles it. She cites a Harvard study where participants were taught that stress had positive repercussions; as participants began to grasp this ideology, the physical response within their body changed.
In short, “how you think about stress matters.”
It’s easy to become overwhelmed by your English studies. And, if you’re up against a deadline or following English classes, you likely feel a lot of stress. How will you memorize everything in time? What if you never manage to speak English as well as you’d like?
This talk should open your eyes to a whole new way of experiencing stress. As Kelly puts it, make stress your friend! It might sound a little crazy, but Kelly actually shared a lot of actionable information that could change your whole way of thinking.
4. Elizabeth Gilbert: Your Elusive Creative Genius
You might not think you know Elizabeth Gilbert, but you’ve probably heard of her book, Eat, Pray, Love.
The bestselling author understands the importance of harnessing creativity and genius. She also sees how so many people feel like these concepts somehow burden us. We think of artists and thinkers as geniuses—people who have this incredible ability to do things that others can’t. In reality, however, what if we’re all simply receiving genius from an outside source?
This TED talk takes a decidedly different approach; instead of covering complicated scientific concepts and ideas, Elizabeth shares knowledge she learned by studying ancient civilizations. For example, the Greeks believed every person had their own genius. This wasn’t a reflection of the person directly, but instead, a gift given from the gods. Could this same ancient belief be relevant in our modern day world?
The author challenges audiences to rethink the pressure they put on themselves to be perfect. Whether you buy into some of her mystical perspectives on life or not, it’s interesting to consider how other cultures once thought of creative expression. Are you putting too much pressure on yourself to speak English perfectly? Could thinking about your language skills as a gift make an impact on your studies? How can you learn to let go of the constant pressure?
5. Dan Pink: The Puzzle of Motivation
Are you one of the many English students who try to use rewards to motivate yourself to study? What if using rewards to motivate yourself was actually hurting your desire and ability to learn?
Dan Pink discusses how incentives only work in certain situations. In more complex scenarios, rewards don’t work well. Instead, the larger the reward offered, the poorer your performance. Dan specifically cites multiple studies that explore how large rewards demotivate us and cause us to lose focus.
The solution? Instead of focusing on physical rewards, it’s important to focus on the intrinsic reward. As this pertains to your studies, instead of giving yourself something for devoting time to learning, you should be keeping your eye on the ultimate prize. Why do you want to learn English? How will learning English positively affect your life experience?
While Dan’s TED talk specifically targets business owners, his principles apply equally well to any student in the academic environment. He finishes his TED talk by exploring the value of problem-solving using your own energy and ideas, rather than following a schedule someone else sets for you.
How could you apply this idea to your learning gameplan? Are you relying too heavily on curriculum and English language books, when exploring new concepts and ideas on your own could have a greater impact on your understanding of the language?
Ready for more motivation? Check out additional TED videos in the Woodpecker app now!