Everyday I get asked by students how they can improve their English, so I have decided to put together a list of practical things you can do get better. Learning a language is not easy. Sometimes however, people look for a ‘magic pill’ that will help them become experts overnight. Unfortunately, we know there is never any easy way to learn a language.
The good news however, thanks to the internet, there students have never had so many resources available to learn English. You don’t even need to be in a country where English is spoken, but you can get online and meet with a native speaker at anytime during the day.
Learning English or any language is like anything that requires sustained effort, like training for a marathon, or trying to lose weight. Rather than doing 1 or 2 days of studying all day, it is much better to do a small amount of study or practice everyday, or at least on a regular basis.
Anyway, here is a list of some practical ways to improve your English.
- It is important when learning English or any language not to be afraid of making mistakes. The important thing is to be able to understand and communicate ideas. Even native speakers when they speak don’t speak with perfect grammar. If you do want to improve though, ask your teacher to correct any mistakes you make. If you speak English with any close friends or family, ask them to correct any mistakes you make.
- Put yourself in an environment where you are surrounded by English. Watch TV in English, listen to English music.
- Try to practice every day. Make it a habit in your life. Find a time in your day where you can study in a quiet place. There are many different ways to study English, so choose something that you enjoy. If you play tennis for example, find a club which has English speaking members.
- Tell your friends and family about your goal or desire of learning English. Find friends with similar interests and who are supportive of your goals. It could help to also explain why you want to learn/improve your English, such as studying abroad or getting a new job.
- English has 4 skills: reading, writing, speaking and listening. Make sure to cover each skill. Spend time on areas which you have trouble with. Generally skills required to produce language like speaking and writing will develop slower than listening and reading.
- Keep a notebook whether it is using a paper notebook or an electronic device like a computer or mobile phone. Write down or record words that you don’t understand, so you can check the meaning later.
- Try to do one thing a day, whether it is a lesson, listening to a podcast or practicing writing.
- Use mindmaps to help remember vocabulary. Avoid trying to memorize long lists of vocabulary, unless you feel that this is the best way to learn.
- Find the best time in the day to study, that suits your personality and schedule. Do you prefer to study early in the morning or in the evening?
- Try to learn words in a context. It will not only help you to remember the words, it will help you to use them correctly when you are writing or speaking.
- Schedule a test in the future such as IELTS, so you have a goal to work towards. You will also get to see which areas you need to improve.
- Set goals for your learning, both short and long term goals. Write down the steps that are needed to achieve your goals.
- Link your goals to the bigger picture goals that you want to achieve in your life. Do you want a better job? Do you want to move abroad?
- Reward yourself when you achieve your goals.
- Everyone has their own individual way of studying. What might work for you, might not work for someone else.
- People learn in different ways. Some people are visual learnings, they learn better with video or images. Some people learn better by listening and others by reading. Some people even need to physically touch or experience something to learn. These are call kinesthetic learners. Find out which learning style suits your personality and adapt your study to this.
- Find a study partner who as at a similar to you and has similar goals.
- Take time to review what you have studied.
- While it might not affect your study directly, try to eat healthily and get plenty of exercise. You can even combine exercise with study, for example listening to podcasts while at the gym or jogging.
- Movies or TV shows can be better for studying than just watching TV, since you can stop the program any time if you need to take notes or to check a word that you might not understand.
- Read as many different styles of writing as you can. Start with children’s books and stories if you are a beginner.
- Try reading and getting a general idea first about the text, rather than looking up every individual word that you might not know.
- Try learning to guess a meaning of word by looking at the surrounding words of the text. It is a great skill to develop.
- Learn root words of your vocabulary. Happy for example is the root, which you can use to make other words, such as unhappy and happiness.
- Learn the various prefixes and (un-, dis-) suffixes (-ly, ful) in English, which can help to easily build your vocabulary.
- Check which English words that have been derived from your own language, or any other languages you know.
- Don’t translate everything from your own language to English. Try to think and develop your thoughts directly in English.
- Try to expose yourself to native or fluent English speakers. Preply for example is a great platform to find online English tutors.
- Don’t focus too much on studying grammar. Don’t get stressed if you cannot remember all of the rules and exceptions. Remember that even native speakers don’t use perfect grammar.
- Keep a diary of your learning progress. Even if it is just writing down a couple of sentences every day. It will be useful also to see who much your English improves.
- Sign up to our free English forum and post any questions you have about any aspect of studying English.