10 ways to improve your English between lessons
How can you improve your English everyday between lesson?
Throughout my teaching career I have been asked the same questions several times: "How can I improve my English faster?". The simple answer to this question is that you need to be dedicated and committed.
This is easier said than done.
Because of busy work schedules, family or studies, most of us can't spend more than one or two hours each week doing extra activities, such as learning a new language.
Most of my students live in countries where English is not spoken, so there's not a lot of opportunities to practice the language between classes. While taking lessons each week is a positive initiative and highlights your commitment and is definitely to the first step you need to take, there are a few additional things that you can do to make sure that your learning journey is progressing in the right direction.
Most of this tips below shouldn't take you more that 15 minutes each day to accomplish.
#1 Set a clear goal
Before learning anything new, you need to have a clear goal in mind. Write it down in a notebook or on a piece of paper and stick it somewhere you can see it everyday, such as your fridge or your bathroom door.
E.g.: I wish to improve my English to better communicate when I travel abroad / I would like to have a promotion at work.
#2 Have a vocabulary diary
Try learning one new word each day. Write the word in your diary and write down a short definition or the translation into your mother tongue. Then write down a synonym (word with the same meaning) and and antonym (word with the opposite meaning). This short activity works best with adjectives and adverbs .
E.g.: fast (French: rapide)
Synonym: speedy, quickly
You can use online dictionaries to help you. A good one is wordreference.com.
#3 Listen to songs in English
Listening to songs in my opinion is one of the best way to learn new words and improve your pronunciation. I've leaned Spanish as a second language and this is a method that has helped me a lot. Pick a song that you like or google popular songs (you can even google 'best songs for learning English'), then find the translation in your own language. A lot of lyrics websites now provides translations in different languages. Learn the meaning and sing along to the tune! This is super fun and helps to develop passive learning (which is when you learn without being aware of it). And bonus, it is an extremely good way of practicing pronunciation.
#4 Watch short video extracts in English
The key word here is 'short'. Watching an entire movie in English where you only understands half of it is not very motivating and can quickly put you off watching movies in English altogether. Remember that movies contain a lot of slang and expressions that can be hard to understand for non-native speakers. The best way to do it is to choose TV shows which are usually about 20 minutes long. 'Friends' is good one, language is good, it's funny and entertaining and you can find short extracts on youtube.
If you really want to watch a whole movie, see tip #5 below
#5 Watch movies in English
Ok, I will now contradict myself, but not entirely. If you want to watch a movie in English, choose a movie that has previously been dubbed in your own language. Watch it a few times in your mother tongue, then watch the English version. By doing this, you will become familiar with the plot and it will be much easier to understand the English Version and to use it as a means to learn new vocabulary words.
#6 Read children's stories and books
If you are a beginner, choose short children's books to read. The language is simple and it's just what you need to develop your reading skills and develop your confidence. If your level is higher and you feel confident reading long stories or even books, I've found that a best way is to stick to one author at a time. Why? Because most authors tend to have favorite lexis or expressions that are repeated in different stories. By becoming familiar with a particular and style, you are more likely to progress and and enjoy what you are reading.
#7 Listen to podcasts and audiobooks
Do you drive to work? Do you have a long commute? Or do you simply walk? Why not use this time to improve your listening comprehension by listening to some podcast or audiobooks. Audiobooks (for novels) are particularly good as they give you a reason to come back to them everyday. Again, if you are a beginner, favor children's book over longer recordings.
#8 Join a language exchange club
If you have time and know of language exchange groups in your neighborhood, join them. They usually have groups on social media and they organize meetings regularly. I used to go to one when I was living in Andorra and it was a great way to meet people, make some new friends, enjoy a few drinks and practice my language skills in a relaxed atmosphere. What if there are no language groups in your area? You could take a leap and create one yourself, set a time and location and post your event on social media!
#9 Do an activity in English but which is not related to English learning
If you live in a country where English is spoken or where there is a large community of expats, you could look for an activity that you enjoy and that is taught/performed in English. E.g. Do you love cooking? Why not join a cooking class taught in English? Again this is a great way to improve your language while doing something that you love. And the perks? Make new friends with whom you have a common interest!
#10 Be consistent
Do not miss a day. The goal is to do something related to English everyday. Take your English lessons regularly, online or face-to-face, you pick what's best for you. Go through the 9 tips above, choose which ones you like best and suit you the most and spare 10-15 mins accomplishing something in English everyday: listen to a song or a podcast or, watch a short extract of your favorite TV show, or read a short paragraph in English. The aim is to do it everyday. Do not forget your vocabulary notebook to note down new words. For activities that require more time, such as attending a language club or a fun class, spare a couple of hours per week or per month. And remember, setting a clear goal at the start, will motivate you and help you to be consistent in your learning journey.
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