Learning any language can be a challenge and we have to accept that making progress takes time and effort. To be a really successful language learner though you need to make the new language part of your life and part of what you do each day.
Here are some tips to help you build good learning habits and make your lessons more productive and to make English language learning part of your life.
1. Plan your learning
Learning any language doesn’t just happen. You need to make time for it and plan how and when you fit it into your life. Small regular chunks of study tend to work better than less frequent long chunks, so it’s not necessary to have lot of time, just try to spend five to ten minutes each day to review your vocabulary or do an exercise. This along with a regular lesson with a teacher should soon help to improve your level.
2. Use the language for something you enjoy
You will be able to learn more quickly if you actually use the language as you learn it. There are lots of ways you can do this, but one of the best is to use it to do something you enjoy. Whether your hobby is travel, sport, music, fashion, art or even reading the news, try to do it in English. Find an online English magazine or website where you can find out more about your hobby or interest and choose a specific time each week when you combine developing your interest with improving your English. You can find lots of free online magazines at: http://issuu.com/
3. Listen to songs
One of the easiest and most enjoyable ways to improve your listening skills is by listening to songs in the language you are studying. You can find lots of music videos in English on YouTube or use services such as Spotify https://www.spotify.com on your computer or mobile phone. Listen on your phone or audio player while you commute, while doing household chores or even while you are at work and soon you’ll start identifying new words and expressions as your listening skills improve.
4. Watch films and TV
Watching films and shows in English is a great way to improve your level. When you watch films you get exposure to a wide range and variety of accents and vocabulary. If you watch contemporary films and TV shows you also hear the kinds of authentic English expressions that are used in everyday conversation. Film can also show you a lot about the culture of the language you are studying and how people interact within that culture. This is particularly important if you are thinking of visiting an English speaking country where some cultural aspects of communication and life may be very different from your own. You can find lots of English films and TV clips on YouTube just by search ‘English movies’ or ‘English TV shows’.
5. Don’t worry about mistakes
Everyone tells us that mistakes are part of learning and that is especially true when learning a language. The best learners take risks with the language and try to express themselves even when they don’t know the exact words or grammar. A good teacher will be able to understand what you are trying to say and then they can help you express yourself more accurately. If you don’t make those mistakes then they can’t help you improve.
6. Record and listen to yourself
Good language learners are self-critical and try to assess their own level of improvement. You can do this by regularly recording yourself and listening back to your recordings. There are lots of ways you can do this. You can use the webcam on your computer, or the video camera on your mobile phone. Record yourself saying a short text or talking about a topic. Once you have made your recording, watch it immediately and think about how you can improve it. Record it again and then watch and compare to your first recording to see if it is better. Save the best of the two recordings and then watch them again a week or a month later and record yourself again and see if you can improve your recording. Keep doing this and save all your old recordings and after a few months you should be able to see some clear improvement.
7. Try to imitate
Everyone has an accent, even in their first language and only a tiny minority of people are able to eradicate this in the language they are learning. However, it’s good to try to train your ear to hear different accents and to try to imitate them. You can do this by listening to very short extracts from audio or video and then trying to copy them. Try to copy the expression of the voice too, if the speaker is angry, sad or happy. You don’t have to do this perfectly, but listening carefully and trying to hear how the different accents sound can really help to train your ear to hear more accurately.
8. Take notes
Most students go to class with a notebook and when they finish the class the notebook is still empty. Make sure that you use your notebook during your lesson. Organize the way you take notes. Have a specific part of the page where you add new words you have learned during the class and use another part of the page for grammar notes. When you add new words to the vocabulary part of the notebook be sure to add information about the word such as a translation, the part of speech (whether it is a noun or verb, etc.), make a note of any specific pronunciation features such as silent letters or sounds that you find difficult and remember to add an example sentence that contains the word.
9. Revise your vocabulary
Increasing your vocabulary is one of the fastest ways to improve the level of your English. In order to remember the new words you learn during the your English lessons, you must review them regularly. Research shows that you will remember more if you review the words you learn at regular intervals after the lesson. Start by checking through new words 10 minutes after each lesson, then 1 hour, than 1 day and then 1 week. This will help you to remember more of your vocabulary.
10. Share your goals
People learn languages for many reasons, whether it’s to study abroad, for work or to travel, and the purpose for learning can impact on how you approach learning and what you study. If you tell your teacher why you are learning they should be able to help you and adapt their lessons to make sure you reach your goals more quickly.
I hope you find these tips useful and soon start to develop some rewarding study habits.
This article was originally posted in Portuguese on the EnglishUp Blog
Related links for teachers:
- Using the webcam to develop pronunciation
- Warmers and fillers for the online classroom
- Using the webcam to engage with online students