Lesson #254: ‘I’ve learned a new and valuable lesson today’ – 7 Study Insights from ‘Anne Of Green Gables’

📗 “Marilla, isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?”

“I’ll warrant you’ll make plenty in it,” said Marilla. “I never saw your beat for making mistakes, Anne.”

“Yes, and well I know it,” admitted Anne mournfully. “But have you ever noticed one encouraging thing about me, Marilla? I never make the same mistake twice.”

“I don’t know as that’s much benefit when you’re always making new ones.”

“Oh, don’t you see, Marilla? There must be a limit to the mistakes one person can make, and when I get to the end of them, then I’ll be through with them. That’s a very comforting thought.”

– L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables (1908)

🍃 We tend to think of Spring as the natural start of the year. However, in my experience September is one of the best times of all in which to make a fresh start and commit to learning something new. 🍁

Do you have any ‘new (academic) year resolutions’? 📆

Do you have an idea of what you can learn between now and the end of 2021? Trust me, you can learn so much in the time that is left!

👉 If you have an idea about what you want to achieve in learning English this year, let me know in the contact form and I can prepare materials to help you (either in a free short post or as a one-on-one live lesson, whichever you prefer).

For a short while longer I am also offering customised language coaching to a very few students right now who really want to advance in their English language skills – I share all about it here if you are curious! 😊

💡 Like Anne Shirley, the young teenager who ‘never makes the same mistake twice’, we can only expect a more productive, better future if we are intentional in taking the right steps to grow.

In this wonderful Canadian classic by L. M. Montgomery – which is set on Prince Edward Island, Canada, in the late 1800s – Anne is a cheerful, animated (lively) orphan girl who learns through her creativity and curiosity.

Through her lively eyes, we can learn several things about educational development and growth that are so relevant for English language learners today.

Here are 7 points I have gathered from the pages of this classic …


📗 “There are so many things to be thought over and decided when you’re beginning to grow up.”

– L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

I like this quotation because it reminds me that we generally assume that thoughtfulness, pre-planning, and decision-making are not as important as actually acting on something (for example, signing up for a course of study).

But by taking the time to figure out where we are heading and what we really want (for example, recognising that what we really want to learn is how to write correctly in English), we are less likely to make costly mistakes (such as enrolling in an English school that doesn’t develop those skills).

🗝️ In the long run, the time and effort we put into thinking over the direction of our development will pay off.

Anne’s words remind us that if we want to ‘grow up’ properly, we need to give some thought to the decisions we are making before we actually go ahead with them.


📗 “It’s a serious thing to grow up, isn’t it, Marilla? … I feel it’s a great responsibility because I have only the one chance. If I don’t grow up right I can’t go back and begin over again.”

– L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Sometimes we meet with an opportunity to grow and expand ourselves, an opportunity which appears so perfectly suited to our needs and wants that we are amazed! I can remember applying for a postgraduate research programme that seemed to have been ‘designed for me’ from heaven!

Have you ever had such a moment, such a revelation (when something is revealed or shown to you) in your own life?

But not all great opportunities will be so special and obvious, or even suited to what we really need.

🗝️ For this reason, we need to discern (figure out, judge the difference between choices) what really is right for us because we recognise it as aligning (matching as in a perfect line) with our greatest desires and needs (the ones we already figured out in the first step, mentioned above).

With all of these choices there comes a responsibility. At the end of the day, YOU are the only one who knows what aligns best with where you want to be.

So learn from Anne that with unique opportunities there comes a responsibility to make wise choices because, to use her own words, if you don’t ‘grow up’ correctly, it is almost impossible later on to ‘go back and begin over again’ to fix wrong habits and layers of learning.

💡 Remember, the word ‘responsibility’ includes ‘response’ and ‘ability’ together: you have an ability to respond fully or not at all to whatever opportunities come your way!


📗 “That Anne-girl improves all the time …”

– L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

📗 “I felt glad, for it shows I’m improving, don’t you think, Marilla ..?”

– L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

I really like this quotation because Anne Shirley, a fairly unlucky girl, is still described as improving ‘all the time’. This is because, in spite of all her mistakes, she keeps trying hard to do better next time.

There is a popular saying in English that says, ‘While there is life, there is hope’. In other words, as long as you are eager to keep improving yourself or whatever you have at hand just because you are alive, then you can definitely expect to advance and progress on the way. 🏵️

So once you have committed to learning something, do it with all your energy and perseverance (the attitude of not giving up even when something is difficult or repetitive)!


📗 “I just love trees. … I used to say to them, ‘Oh, you poor little things! If you were out in a great big woods with other trees all around you and little mosses and June bells growing over your roots and a brook not far away and birds singing in your branches, you could grow, couldn’t you? But you can’t where you are. I know just exactly how you feel, little trees.'”

– L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

🗝️ The people you surround yourself with are going to influence how much you can grow and develop.

Just like the trees that Anne is describing above, you need to get as close to people who have already studied, know, or are learning English at the level you want to have it. We can compare this to the ‘great big woods’ that Anne talks about – only then can you ‘grow’! 🌳

One of the practical ways that you put this into action is to try and watch your favourite movies or videos only through English. This is one way to expose yourself to native English speakers – the kind of person you yourself want to become. If you don’t, ‘you can’t [grow] where you are’.

Remember: successful learning involves strategic placement! 🌳


📗 “I’m willing to own up that I made a mistake,” she concluded candidly, “but I’ve learned a lesson.”

– L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

📗 “Well,” explained Anne, “I’ve learned a new and valuable lesson today. Ever since I came to Green Gables I’ve been making mistakes, and each mistake has helped to cure me of some great shortcoming.”

– L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

When learning a language, you are bound to (expected to, guaranteed to) make many mistakes!

But as long as you pay attention to and analyse what you did wrong, you can always learn what not to do next time and how you can do it better.

I once heard that ‘mistakes’ should be written as ‘must-takes’: they are unavoidable! So let’s make the very best use of them to learn, to strengthen what we know is right, and improve ourselves!


📗 “I just let my thoughts run and I thought of the most surprising things.”

– L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

📗 Matthew nodded over a Farmers’ Advocate on the sofa and Anne at the table studied her lessons with grim determination, despite sundry wistful glances at the clock shelf, where lay a new book that Jane Andrews had lent her that day.

– L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Anyone who has read this classic will remember that Anne, like many of us, tends to be a distractful student whenever she tries to study. She likes to daydream about books, mainly English literary classics, a lot!

By contrast, we tend to think that ‘proper study’ has to be dull, repetitive, and involve lots of effort. 👉 Yet daydreaming and having fun using our imagination shouldn’t be seen only as counter-productive (this word simply means inefficient for the purpose or not helping us to work well). 🗝️ In fact, sometimes when we ‘let our thoughts run’ using good materials (such as classic literature, in Anne’s case), our mind can become more open and receptive to new ideas.

✏️ So here is a little exercise I suggest you try:

  1. Spend a little while every week thinking or daydreaming in your own language about what you would like to be able to say or write in English (it can be about anything that interests you).
  2. Then brainstorm (search for, creatively suggest) for good words in English with which to express the same idea. You don’t need to write out complete sentences: just jot down quickly any words that you can think of that might be helpful.
  3. When you do this on paper you will quickly see what words you do know and what you still need to find the correct English word for.

This is a light and easy way to study effectively, combining open-minded and imaginative thinking with more focused study.


📗 “I’ve done my best and I begin to understand what is meant by the ‘joy of the strife.’ Next to trying and winning, the best thing is trying and failing.”

– L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

📗 “I make so many mistakes. But then just think of all the mistakes I don’t make, although I might.”

– L. M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

We already talked about how much we can learn and grow from the mistakes we make while learning English.

But what happens when you make BIG mistakes that feel like a failure? 🤔

This might be in the form of messing up a public speech, or investing financially in an expensive English school that doesn’t benefit you fully in the end.

The most important thing to remember here – according to Anne Shirley’s insights – is that ‘trying and failing’ is a part of life, so don’t let it discourage you to the point of completely giving up. If you meet with a ‘failure’, `

1) try to take a break,

2) consider what you can do, and

3) get up to try it again (or try something better) – but don’t quit!

I know from having worked with so many students that learning English is challenging, whatever level you are at! So remember what Anne calls ‘the joy of the strife’ (‘strife’ means battle or fight): the learning process demands energy and focus from us, but we can succeed in making progress if we don’t lose heart! 🕯️

And remember: each ‘failure’ makes us stronger if we chose to learn from it.

I am always excited to hear about your own learning experiences and hopes and to help you avoid wrong choices that will slow down your progress! So do send them to me (and any questions you have about learning English) in my messaging form here. I might be able to help you further one way or another! 😊

by J. E. Gibbons

English language tutor and researcher at 'Learn English Through Literature' (2023)