I’ve been a teacher for over 15 years, and my students always ask me what they can do to improve faster. There are many theories and tips out there, and we all have individual learning styles, but here’s what my experience has taught me works every time:
1. Be brave
People often say, “I’m too old to start learning something new.” However, what I’ve found is that it’s not our ability to learn a language that changes with age, it’s our willingness to take risks and put ourselves out there. So my most important piece of advice to you is, get out of your comfort zone and be brave. Don’t be afraid to try.
2. Keep your goal in sight
Why are you learning English? Do you want to progress your career? Attend university? Or do you simply want to grow as a person? Think about what you want to achieve and remind yourself often of that goal – it will help keep you motivated.
3. Know your level
There is nothing more discouraging than trying to understand a text or a talk that is too difficult for you. It will do nothing but make you feel like you are making
no progress! Try out our free level test to help you get started.
And use this rule of thumb as a guide: if you have more than 5 unknown words on the first page of a book or 15 seconds of a talk, it’s too difficult.
4. Embrace your mistakes
You will make mistakes. A lot of them. And this is amazing! Because what comes with mistakes is feedback – ask your friends and teachers to correct you, and learn from it.
5. Do what you love
Do you enjoy reading? Read books in English. Watching TV or films? Watch them in English with subtitles. Playing board games? Play them in English. Listening to music? You guessed it, listen to music in English. It’s a fact that we are more likely to continue doing something we enjoy, so why not apply that to our language learning?
6. Ask questions
No need to explain this one – if you don’t understand something, ask! The word “why” can be your best friend when you’re trying to learn anything new – just keep in mind that with a language, the answer is sometimes: it just is.
7. Talk to yourself
OK, maybe it’s not a good idea to do this in public, but try thinking or talking (to yourself) in English for 5-10 minutes before your lesson (or job interview) because it will help “prepare” your brain for the change of language and you are going to be more likely to understand more and learn more! If you’re finding this difficult, reading out loud or singing also does the trick.
8. Use it (or lose it!)
Experts have long been suggesting that we are capable of learning 5-10 new words each day, but we need to hear, read, and use a new word or phrase (in context) seven times before it becomes a part of our long-term memory. So, if you want to improve your vocabulary and speaking, make sure you use the new phrases you learn. Here’s some ideas to help you retain new vocabulary:
Write the phrases you want to learn (with an example) on post-its and put them all over your house. Every time you walk past one, read it out loud! Once you feel you’ve learnt it, get rid of it (and replace it with a new one).
Visualise idioms and phrasal verbs: draw (or find online) an image that reminds you of the idiomatic expression you’re trying to remember.
Choose up to 5 target phrases every day, and write a daily diary, a short paragraph using your chosen phrases in context.
Join our UW English Club and participate in our communication-based lessons and evening activities - click here to try for 7 days for free!