How to improve your English
How can you improve your English language skills? This is the question most students ask at some point in their studies and there are many answers that are practical for English students of all abilities.
There are many ways to improve your knowledge of the English language, whether it is your English speaking skills you would like to work on, or need to further your reading, writing or listening skills.
Here are some useful ideas, methods, tips for improving your English:
Practice, practice and more practice!
It is true that the more you try to speak English the more you will naturally improve. Just by using the English language as much as possible, your fluency will rapidly develop.
Speak on the phone, write e-mails and letters, make lists, read as much as possible. Surround yourself with English!
- One step at a time
Try learning just a handful of words a day and aim to use a new word every day in conversation with someone.
In this slow and steady way, fluency with the new word develops naturally and you are able to produce the word more and more quickly and accurately without much thought.
- Don’t be shy!
In order to chat with as many English people as possible, you need to try not to be self-conscious of your language usage. If you make mistakes – so what? Speak up, loud and proud!
People will be pleased to help you and flattered that you are making the effort to speak their language. Normally, you will be able to get your meaning across without perfect grammar and those you are speaking to will understand the gist of what you are trying to say.
Make contact with native English people
If you have friends who are English then speak with them about as many different topics as possible. The more diverse your subject matter, the wider the vocabulary you will develop.
Try mixing with different kinds of English people, those in different jobs and with diverse interests in order to expose yourself to wider varieties of vocabulary, accents and language usage.
Watch English television
Many films are in English and this is a great place to start to listen to faster spoken sentences, colloquial expressions and accent varieties.
If the voices sound too fast, try using subtitles in English to help you follow the speech. Be aware of which English you are listening to though, as in many mainstream films you will be listening to American accents which are very different from British accents.
Television soaps are an excellent way to pick up idiomatic expressions and casual language usage, though these expressions often may not be ‘proper’ English!
Find a Good Dictionary
A good quality dictionary is vital for every language learner. To start with you will find a dual language dictionary more useful but as you improve your skills, a mono-lingual dictionary will be much better for your development.
This is because it will help you learn synonyms in addition to finding the meaning of your chosen word.
There are many excellent dictionaries available, including light and portable electronic dictionaries, such as those produced by language experts, Etaco. This company also makes translators for instant translation at the touch of a button. The current offers from Ectaco can be reached by clicking the image below:
- Listen to English radio, song lyrics and audio books
Listen all you can to English language radio programmes, such as the discussions and stories on BBC radio 4. Song lyrics are also an excellent way of learning English idioms, slang and colloquial expressions (just don’t necessarily use these expressions in a formal situation or in an essay!)
Audio books put English into context in an interesting way and can be especially effective when used while reading the book yourself, letting you hear how the words are supposed to be pronounced.
Read all the English text you can find. Newspapers are a good way of reading lots of smaller articles if you do not feel ready to tackle a book. The tabloid newspapers use more basic English vocabulary and sentence structures and will be easier to read than broadsheet newspapers.
Cartoons are a excellent way of involving humour in your English reading and offer visual clues to the text. Broadsheet newspaper cartoons often contain puns so are good ways of improving vocabulary and comprehension.
- Take private lessons
One on one practice with an experienced teacher of English language is one of the best ways that you can improve your English language skills.
Even though this can be quite expensive, the personal attention you will get means that you should improve more quickly than with a larger language class and any problem areas can be more quickly identified and tackled.
A teacher will teach you the proper way to use the language and personal lessons are especially useful when combined with these other improvement methods as any colloquial expressions you have learned can be discussed with your teacher.
- Find a pen friend
English writing skills can be improved by writing to an English person regularly. Perhaps you can find an English person who wants to learn your native language? You could both write half a letter in English and the other half in your native language and correct each other’s messages.
Exchanging letters, e-mails or chatting on instant messengers on the internet are great ways of making friends.
The messages from your English pen friend will expose you to new words and sentence structures which, as they are written down, you can then study at your leisure.
- Join a language group
Your local library or citizens advice unit will have information on local groups who meet in an informal setting to practise their English language skills.
Many groups are for people from a specific country, perhaps your country has a language club in your current home town? If not, there will be similar communities online that you could join.
There are lots of other people wanting to practise English just like you – once you find them, you can help each other.
- Identify your motivation
The goals and aims of the English language learner are crucial to the learning experience and its success. Why do you want to learn English?
If you keep this goal in mind when learning, you will find a strong motivation which will carry you through you studies to becoming a fluent English speaker. Read our tips to improve your language learning.
Find regular study time
Even if you are comfortable with using some aspects of English, it will always help to review old knowledge to consolidate phrases and grammar in your mind.
Finding regular times to study will encourage you to remember all the new things you have learned. Studying for twenty minutes three times a week is always better than two hours once a fortnight.
Combining new and old knowledge will help you to understand how words and grammar fits together and will help your fluency in the long run.
Regular study time also provides a backbone to your language development, putting it down on paper, structuring your knowledge, reviewing it and letting you see just how far you have come.
- Make English friends
Making friends with native English speakers, whether British, American, Canadian, Australian or otherwise, will really help your English.
The chances are that you will be far better at speaking English than they will be at speaking your native language. This means you will be forced to use your English and, of course, this can only be good for developing your English language skills.
Even socialising online will improve your grammar and vocabulary and you could use a voice attachment or a verbal communication tool, such as Skype or Google Hangouts, for pronunciation practice.
- Make it fun!
If your language learning is not enjoyable then you will find it hard to be motivated. What do you find fun, amusing or fulfilling? Try to incorporate the English language into that.
If you like computer games, you could find an English language interactive adventure game where you have to understand and use instructions to play. Alternatively, if you like cartoons, you could try reading them in English. Similarly, if you like comedy, watch English comedies or go to see a English comedian.
- Set yourself targets
It is important to regular, realistic targets. You might want to improve pronunciation one week, so work hard on that and by the following week you can be proud of your achievements.
You need to be clear of your goals and how you propose to achieve them. This will form a structure for your learning and therefore create a more confident and relaxed environment as you can see exactly where and how you are progressing.
- Acknowledge your achievements
It is always important to acknowledge the progress you are making. It is a big step to learn a new language and every further step you take is one bit closer to achieving your goals.
Think how much better you are at English now than a few months ago, or a year ago! Feel proud when you use that new piece of grammar correctly – your confidence will grow and you will feel even more motivated to improve.
So there are a few useful ways to improve your English language skills. If you have any more tips on improving your English language skills, share your ideas in the comments box below!
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