There are several reasons why people from all over the world need to improve their English level: for work, for pleasure or because they went to settle in an English-speaking country. You will easily notice if your English is rusty, but luckily it is also easy to improve it. With a little dedication, you can quickly end up speaking as if you were a native speaker.
Part 1 of 3: Expand Your Knowledge
Step 1. Label all the things inside your house
Look for those sticky cards that you hardly ever use and start labeling everything you see around you. Do it even if there are some things that you already know. Think of the names of these things in English before doing it in your mother tongue; This will help you speed up your memory. When you start remembering without so much effort, you will notice your progress.
Try to get to the point where you think about these things in English without hesitation. Sit on your bed and go over all the labels in your head. If there's something you can't remember, get up and go check. Once you've gotten to this point, start labeling other things. Go from "window" to "window pane", from "couch" to "cushion", from "shirt" to "cotton blouse". In the English language, there is always a higher level
Step 2. Use a notebook
As the day progresses, you have a good chance of coming across some English words that you won't fully understand. The time has come when you have to quickly take out your cool and very useful notebook. Write down the word and when you get home, you can look up its meaning. Instead of lamenting and thinking, "Oh my God, what does that weird word I saw on the cafeteria menu mean?" You should write it down so you can learn a new word.
If this method is a bit outdated for you, then write it down on your smartphone. Start a new note (or whatever app you want to use) to dedicate exclusively to new English words. Then you can review it from time to time to make sure you remember them all
Step 3. Surround yourself with people who speak English
If you have friends who are fluent in English, join them and invite them to dinner so that your house becomes an English-speaking club. Find a tutor to instruct you in a personalized way. Do language exchanges where you can teach your mother tongue and learn those of others. Get involved in these types of activities as much as you can.
- You should avoid using your mother tongue as much as possible. When you get home from work and sit down to watch TV, you may be tempted to use your native language with those you live with again. Do not do it! Take time to speak in English every night, even if it's only for an hour. Set your TV in English, listen to radios in English, set everything in English!
- Find language practice groups in major cities where you can practice English while teaching your native language to others.
Step 4. Read magazines and children's books
They are attractive, usually contain short articles or simple story lines, and come on various topics (science, literature, improvement). But the most important thing is that they are well illustrated. Pictures allow you to understand many words without having to use a dictionary. You will speed up your learning and enjoy it more.
When it comes to books, once you know the characters and the vocabulary they use in the series, reading becomes easier and you will start to do it faster, memorizing expressions and vocabulary from one volume to another. Try Nancy Drew, Animorphs, Sweet Valley Twins, or any other easy-to-read series book widely available in libraries.
If your level is higher than this, you can read anything. You have the young adult fiction genre with which you can develop your language learning skills and discover a whole new world. It is best to choose something with a lot of dialogue, as it is more like real life
Step 5. Discover your own learning style
Each person has their own style of learning. Some people learn best with their hands, some with their eyes, some with their ears, and some with a combination of all three. Your best friend may be able to recite a poem in English after hearing it once, while you need to see it to understand it. Once you know what your learning style is, you can acquire study habits to develop your skills.
Plus, you can stop wasting time on methods that don't work for you. If your teacher just talks and talks, and you don't seem to remember anything, you can start taking notes. If you read a book and can't remember anything, you can start reading aloud to yourself. There is a method for everything
Step 6. Learn roots, prefixes and suffixes
Even English speakers had to learn root words. Because there are so many words in this blessed language - around 750,000 by certain counting methods, far more than in comparable languages - learning the root words can help you speed up the process. When you see a word whose root you know, you probably won't even need to look up its meaning.
Let's say you come across the following sentence: "It was an acceptable society" (It was a headless society). You're probably thinking something like "But what the hell does that mean?" Take it easy. Think about that word for a moment. You know that "a-" means "without": amoral, asexual, asymmetrical. You know that "cephal" means "head": encephalitis, encephalogram. Also, you know that the suffix "ous" indicates an adjective: ambitious, delicious, glamorous. Suddenly, you already have the meaning of the phrase: "It was a headless society, without a leader." Ready! Who Needs a Dictionary?
Step 7. Read newspapers in English
Some newspapers use more complex language than others; so, choose the most suitable for you. Remember that you can start reading the headlines and continue with the articles as you gain confidence. You can advance at your own pace and choose the articles that interest you the most, or at least read the comic strips.
If you have friends who are also learning, form a discussion group. Everyone can bring an article that they find interesting and talk about it (in English, of course). You can simultaneously study and talk about world events
Step 8. Don't be afraid to make mistakes
If none of your teachers have mentioned this to you, they have probably been teaching you robots. Making mistakes is crucial. If you don't, you will never learn what is right or wrong; you are not going to risk it, and you are not going to really understand the concepts you are learning. It is embarrassing, yes, but it is necessary.
This is the reason why most people stop learning and stagnate. They are afraid to converse with native speakers; they are afraid to step out of their comfort zone; they are afraid to truly develop. Can you imagine what would have happened if Edison had thrown in the towel at his first mistake?
Part 2 of 3: Use the technology
Step 1. Get some DVDs in English
Television and movies can also be helpful, but it's best if you have material that you can watch over and over again. You can rewind the content, start noticing things you've never seen before, and your brain can relax instead of fussing up trying to keep up. Ask your friends if they have a series you can borrow.
- Thanks to satellite television, British, American and Australian films and programs are widely available around the world. Try to record them. You can turn the subtitles on at first, and then, as you gain confidence, turn them off. As you raise your level, you will be able to study better.
- Watch a TV show or movie with English subtitles, and watch it a second time with the subtitles in your language.
Step 2. Listen to the radio
The BBC World Service is an excellent source for English-speaking programs and even broadcasts educational programs for students. Listen to the radio while doing housework. If you always listen to everything in English, you can learn the language passively. You don't need to sit in front of the radio, just leave it on.
- Is the radio too old-fashioned for you? Well, you have no excuse. There is also Internet radio, did you know? There are programs that cover practically all topics. Plus, you can find classics like NPR and "This American Life" online.
- Podcasts will allow you to slow down and rewind broadcasts, so that you can listen to phrases that you do not know again.
Step 3. Use computer tools
You can listen to online radio, watch TV clips, read articles, and even search for games to improve your English level. You can even chat with English speakers. In addition, there are many websites dedicated to teaching English as a foreign language. Obviously, it is better if you learn with real people, but you can find very useful tools on the Internet.
Both the BBC and Wikipedia have versions of their websites designed for learners of English as a second language. But there are also many other websites that offer exercises, articles, crossword puzzles and stories for different levels
Step 4. Visit websites that have "proofreaders."
If you are not leading a class or do not have a native speaker at your disposal, it can be quite difficult to improve your writing. How do you check if you are typing correctly? Very simple! Use websites that correct your work. Use Google to find websites that help you correct your grammar (many of these are free). Once again, you have no excuses!
It's easy to forget how to write correctly, but if you do these exercises all the time, you will see big improvements. Write emails in English; write your notes in English; write a blog in English. Even if you can't correct what you write, get into this habit
Step 5. Listen to one song a day
Not only is it fun, but you will learn new words and their respective pronunciation. Listen to new songs! Pick one a day and study it until you memorize it. Find a genre that appeals to you, and pick songs that aren't too fast; That being said, hardcore rap is not a good choice when it comes to learning English. Start with something from the Beatles, Michael Bublé, Elvis, or you can even try musicals.
You can do this instead of listening to the radio. Listen to the songs you've been learning and sing them. Maybe it will make you want to go to karaoke next weekend
Step 6. Get some CDs of language learning programs
The Rosetta Stone program may cost you an arm and a leg, but it is very useful. Some even offer the availability of a native speaker. But this is not the only one on the market. You also have Pimsleur and Michel Thomas (just to mention two). Each encompasses a different style of learning. Find out which one works best for you.
Ask within your circle if anyone has these programs. There is no reason to pay twice for them. Also, some of these can be found online. You just have to be a little creative
Step 7. Use an application on your phone that teaches languages
Download a free app on your smartphone or tablet to help you learn the language. There are many applications that offer interactive games that allow you to practice speaking and identifying the English language.
Look for apps like DuoLingo, Memrise, or Busuu
Part 3 of 3: Push Your Limits and Push A Little More
Step 1. Practice speaking English everywhere
You really should take every opportunity you get. If you live in an English-speaking country, this is easier; but if not, then you can talk to foreign visitors. Don't be shy and don't worry if you make mistakes. Just go ahead! Even if you just say "A cup of coffee to go, please". This will help you control your nerves and prepare for the real battle.
Also, you can create new opportunities. If you see someone you think speaks English taking a picture, ask if they would like you to take it. If you go to a restaurant ask that they bring you the menu in English, if it is available. It's these little things that differentiate mediocre speakers from more fluent ones
Step 2. Listen to your body clock
In the same way that we all have our own learning styles, we also have great times to learn during the day. Going to class in the morning can be good, but you can't pay as much attention because for your brain you're just getting out of bed and brushing your teeth. See what time of day you are most alert, and reserve that time to study.
Most people have periods of alertness in the late morning and then at night (although this doesn't work for everyone). If you can, schedule a new time so that your English learning takes place at a time when your brain can get the most out of it
Step 3. Learn the international phonetic alphabet
Really, this may seem like strenuous work, but it will be very useful and practical once you get the hang of it. You can look up a word in any dictionary and you will know exactly how it is pronounced. You can observe the differences between American, British and Australian English. You can check your own pronunciation and notice which vowels you are actually pronouncing. It is fascinating!
ɪts ˈlaɪk ə ˈsiːkrət koʊd! (It's like a secret code!). You can even pass notes with your friends during class. But remember that each accent is a little different. If you come across a strange pronunciation, see if it is American English, Queen's English, or something else
Step 4. Record your voice
You may already know what your voice sounds like, but what do words sound like when they come out of your mouth? Probably a little different. So we suggest you record yourself. By doing so, you can realize your strengths and weaknesses. It's a bit difficult to hear your own voice at first (you may sound unnatural), but don't worry because that feeling goes away as you progress.
Take the time to learn the pronunciation patterns. Because English is a conglomerate of many languages, there are no hard and fast rules, but there are general patterns. Two-syllable verbs are stressed in the second (project), while nouns (project) and two-syllable adjectives (hap py) are stressed in the first. Usually, the third to last syllable is stressed (although this is not true for all cases): photographer, continuous, national, etc. See if you reflect all this when you speak
Step 5. Take classes with different learning styles
If you have the opportunity to take an English class, complement it with another that has a different learning style. If you are in a group class, you can complement it with a personalized tutoring. If you are in a public speaking class, take another in which you can practice writing. If you are concerned about improving your pronunciation, take a class where you can decrease your own accent when speaking. Practicing different skills in different settings is the only (and fastest) way to improve.
If this is not an option, get creative. Form a small study group or meet a friend so you can chat for a bit. Get a pen pal or use Skype. There are other means to improve your level of English besides face-to-face classes, which often cost a lot of money
Step 6. Have different perspectives
Sometimes opportunities have to be created, and sometimes they can seem a bit forced or make you feel a bit silly, but they are worth it. Here are some ideas to put your creative wits to work:
- Call customer service for any brand name. Ask about their products, their services, their plans, the options they offer you if you decide to buy from them, etc. With this, you already practiced a conversation for free.
- Host a dinner for tourists. Post that you are offering a dinner in exchange for a conversation in English. Many tourists are looking for something a little out of the ordinary, and if you use this resource, you could lead them to your table.
- Form a club. You will be surprised how many people are in the same situation as you. You can save yourself the cost of a class by meeting with a few people and contributing some resources. Get together at the same time in the same place every week and you will start to attract attention.
- Read books and articles in English on topics that interest you.
- Watch movies in English, with or without English subtitles, depending on how much help you want.
- Use English with your friends or family.
- Listen to songs in English, and focus on the lyrics to improve your pronunciation.
- Learn expressions in English. In English, a lot of strange and puzzling phrases are used, and most English speakers have no idea where they originated. You just have to learn its meaning.
- When trying to learn new phrases, try the following: observe, pronounce, run, annotate, verify. Look at the phrase, look over it, pronounce it, write it down, and then check its meaning.
- Get a good bilingual dictionary.
- You can select one or two words each day and learn their meaning, synonyms, and antonyms.
- English accents vary enormously in Britain itself and around the world. It doesn't matter what accent you use, and don't worry if you come across an accent that is difficult to understand. You must always practice. In addition, most native speakers also have problems with accents.
- There are differences between American and British English (not to mention Australian), both in spelling and in vocabulary and grammar. Still, the speakers of these different varieties understand each other quite well. Take note of the variety you are listening to and try to learn the standard form.