Improve your Learning Skills
There are no bounds which stops someone from Learning. Learning is a self improvement skill and it can be improved.
Your path to learning effectively is through knowing
- your capacity to learn
- processes you have successfully used in the past
- your interest, and knowledge of what you wish to learn
If you are not motivated to learn English you will become frustrated and give up. Ask yourself the following questions, and be honest:-
- Why do you need to learn/improve English?
- Where will you need to use English?
- What skills do you need to learn/improve? (Reading/Writing/Listening/Speaking)
- How soon do you need to see results?
- How much time can you afford to devote to learning English.
- How much money can you afford to devote to learning English.
- Do you have a plan or learning strategy?
Set yourself achievable goals
You know how much time you can dedicate to learning English, but a short time each day will produce better, longer-term results than a full day on the weekend and then nothing for two weeks.
Joining a short intensive course could produce better results than joining a course that takes place once a week for six months.
Here are some goals you could set yourself:-
- Join an English course – a virtual one or a real one (and attend regularly).
- Do your homework.
- Read a book or a comic every month.
- Learn a new word every day.
- Visit an English speaking forum every day.
- Read a news article on the net every day.
- Do 10 minutes listening practice every day.
- Watch an English film at least once a month.
- Follow a soap, comedy or radio or TV drama.
A good way to meet your goals is to establish a system of rewards and punishments.
Decide on a reward you will give yourself for fulfilling your goals for a month.
- A bottle of your favourite drink
- A meal out / or a nice meal at home
- A new outfit
- A manicure or massage
Understanding how you learn best may also help you.
There are different ways to learn. Find out what kind of learner you are in order to better understand how to learn more effectively..
The visual learner
Do you need to see your teacher during lessons in order to fully understand the content of a lesson?
Do you prefer to sit at the front of the classroom to avoid visual obstructions (e.g. people’s heads)?
Do you think in pictures and learn best from visual displays including: diagrams, illustrated text books, overhead transparencies, videos, flashcards, flipcharts and hand-outs?
During a lecture or classroom discussion, do you prefer to take detailed notes to absorb the information?
Tip – you may benefit from taking part in traditional English lessons, but maybe private lessons would be better.
The auditory learner
Do you learn best through verbal lectures, discussions, talking things through and listening to what others have to say?
Do you interpret the underlying meanings of speech through listening to tone of voice, pitch, speed and other nuances?
Does written information have little meaning until you hear it?
Tip – you may benefit from listening to the radio or listening to text as you read it. You could try reading text aloud and using a tape recorder to play it back to yourself.
The Tactile/Kinesthetic learner
Do you learn best through a hands-on approach, actively exploring the physical world around you?
Do you find it hard to sit still for long periods?
Do you become distracted easily?
Tip – you may benefit from taking an active part in role plays or drama activities.
Other English Learning Tips
Travel to an English speaking country:-
- England, America, Australia, Canada, South Africa, one of them is only a few hours away from you.
- Specialist holidays are available to improve your English.
- Take an English speaking tour or activity holiday.
Spend your time on things that interest you. If you like cooking then buy an English-language cookbook or find recipes on the net and practice following the recipes. You’ll soon know if you have made a mistake!
Keep something English on you (book, newspaper or magazine, cd or cassette, set of flashcards) all day and every day, you never know when you might have 5 spare minutes.
If you are too tired to actively practice just relax and listen to a story in English, an English pop song or talk radio station.
Get onto Google Plus, Skype, other social networks, or be really adventurous and start socialising in Virtual Worlds.
Start networking with native speakers / teachers and other learners.
Don’t restrict yourself to seeking out native speakers. Think about it, the likelihood of needing to speak English with non-native speakers is statistically much higher.
How to improve your listening skills
Listening plays a huge part in learning any language. The first thing you did as a child was listen – you couldn’t talk, or write or speak, so you listened. Unfortunately as we grow up a lot of us lose the skill of listening, but like most things, it is something you can improve on.
The first thing to do is learn to listen actively. Learning a language is a lot like learning to play a musical instrument. You can listen to music for enjoyment, but if you want to study the music you have to listen more critically. It’s the same with languages; you need to make a conscious effort to hear not only the words that someone is saying but, more importantly, pay attention, and try to understand the complete message behind the words.
Watching films, TV shows or videos is a good start. If you’re not sure what films to watch, look at myrecommended films pages.
If you enjoy reading, why not listen to some of your favourite books? Audio books are available in many different formats, and you can even borrow some audio books from libraries. If you like the classics you will find many available to listen to online, for free.
Films and TV shows are scripted, so listening to talk radio or chat shows can be a bit more challenging. It’s all good practise.
Improve Your Reading Skills
Make a habit of reading regularly. Read as many English books, newspapers and magazines as you can get your hands on.
Reading should be fun, so make sure the texts you choose are not too too difficult for you. If the book or article you are reading is a chore, then find something easier. Try reading graded books written especially for ESL learners. Lynne has written a guide on how to choose a book here.
Find an author you like and read all their books. By doing this you will get used to the style of a particular author and the typical vocabulary and grammar they use. As you read more of his/her books you will find it easier and easier.
If you have a local library find out if they stock English books or if they have bilingual editions of English classics. Or ask them to stock English translations of books you are already familiar with.
Try reading things more than once. Read something and then read it again a few weeks/months later. You should find your understanding has improved.
Try to discuss a book you’ve enjoyed with other people. You can even discuss books with us on the forum, or there are lots of online book clubs and you can even write reviews on book selling sites.
Don’t try to read “the classics” straight away. Save them for later, start with contemporary short stories. And don’t forget, there are loads of excellent comics out there too. I actually started learning German by reading Winnie the Pooh!
Improve Your English Speaking and English Pronunciation Skills
My first piece of advice is not to get too hung up on trying to sound like a native speaker. Would you start learning the piano in an attempt to sound like Mozart? The first rule of speaking English is to learn to speak clearly and concisely and remember you won’t just be speaking to native speakers: There are roughly 380 million native speakers out there, but as many as a billion people speak English as a second language, you do the math.
Try to avoid using idioms and slang (I always say learn it, but don’t use it). It might sound clever to say “You’re barking up the wrong tree,” but if you use it in the wrong situation, or if the other person simply doesn’t understand you, you’ll only look silly when you try to explain what you meant to say, or what it actually means.
There’s also a saying in English “Have you swallowed a dictionary?” It is applicable to anyone who uses long, complicated words when a shorter word will do. Short sentences are just as good (if not better) than long rambling explanations. The value in what you have to say is what you say, not how clever you look or sound when you say it. So it’s a good idea to try to use simple, clear vocabulary, KISS – keep it short and simple.
English speaking tips
Get over any fear you might have of making mistakes. You will make mistakes.
Be patient with yourself. Learning any language can be frustrating, but frustration won’t help you, so let it go.
Grasp every opportunity you have to speak with people in English.
Talk to friends who are also learning English. Go out together for coffee and only speak English to each other!
Read short stories out loud and try to see, say and hear the words to reinforce your memory. Record yourself and play it back later, how does it sound?
Find English speaking friends:-
- You might not be able to find any friendly native speakers where you live, but If you can’t find anyone who’ll actually help you, don’t worry, you’ll still be able to figure out if they can understand you.
- Get onto Second Life. It’s the one place I’ve found where you’re guaranteed a conversation – it’s an adult environment, and you won’t always want to talk to the people you meet, but for every blood sucking vampire who asks if they can bite you, there are at least ten, nice people who just want to socialise. If you want a list of nice places to go, just contact me on the forum.
- There are several internet based voice chat programmes out there: iVisit | | MSN Web Messenger | Yahoo! Messenger | Google Talk | Skype and I’m sure there are lots more.
- Look for people with the same interests as you. It’s no good asking everyone you meet to help you with your English, rather develop natural friendships based on your hobbies etc. Eventually you will make friends and they will be much more likely to give you correction / guidance.
- Join an English club or conversation group. Around the world there are many English speaking clubs, these clubs aren’t just for expats but for people interested in the English way of life. They can be friendly and fun. Check magazines as well as your phone book, your local newspaper and your local university. Or if there isn’t one in your area – start one! Place an advertisement in your newspaper for people interested in starting a group or go to Meetup.
- Visit an Irish/English/Australian theme pub or British food shop, you can usually find one in the larger cities. Often, the waiters and waitresses come from English-speaking countries, the menu is often in English too!
- Once your English is good enough, go shopping in some tourist areas. You’ll find lots of shop assistants speak very good English.
- If you can travel to an English speaking country, do it.
Try singing along to English songs. With friends or in the privacy of your own bathroom. Lots of the major games consoles have karaoke games nowadays, like Sing Star on the Playstation.
On the internet :– You can speak to me on Skype or in Second Life (see the forum calendar for times and dates) – you can also listen to or chat with other learners and native speakers there, or join one of the many social networking sites. They are all free, so there are no more excuses.
On the network:– Use the pronunciation pages to improve your understanding. Use my Voice Thread to practise tongue twisters, introductions etc.
On this site:– You can find some karaoke resources and ideas on the learn English through songs page.
On the Network: You can find the words to some popular songs on the English magazine.
Accents really don’t matter any more. You can spend a fortune and waste a lot of time trying to “get rid of” your accent, time and money that you could spend learning more English. So, unless you are up for a role in a film, don’t worry about your accent too much. That said, people need to be able to understand you, so pronunciation and enunciation are important.
Be playful. Mimic famous people, play with the different accents in films etc. I do a mean John Wayne.
Learn the phonetic alphabet.
List words that have the same sound add to the lists as you learn more words.
For example words that rhyme with me:-
Work on one problem sound at a time. Read slowly concentrating on the pronunciation of particular words. Record yourself, keep the tape and record yourself later, have you improved? Don’t be shy – ask a friend to listen to the tape too.
Don’t worry about sounding like a native, it is more important to speak clearly and pleasantly than it is to sound like the Queen of England – Even the Queen of England doesn’t sound like she used to.
The most important thing to think about is can people understand you? If you have a problem being understood then find someone who speaks English clearly and try to copy the way they speak. Pay particular attention to speed and enunciation.
Improve Your English Vocabulary
We have a series of vocabulary pages.
Start by learning practical vocabulary. Learn words that are actually important to you at work, at home and out and about.
Use stick it notes and label things around your home.
Use self-study vocabulary books, these should include a good dictionary, and a thesaurus.
Expose yourself to as much English as possible by reading, watching the TV, films or the news and listening to the radio or music.
Read an English magazine. If you can afford it take out a subscription to a magazine or newspaper.
Do online exercises. Keep a note of how you did and go back in a few weeks / months to see how you have improved.
Try to memorize whole sentences, not just individual words. When you have learnt a word, write about it in context.
Create or play word games. Scrabble, Crossword Puzzles, Hangman, and Dingthings are all great ways to play with words.
When you know you need to learn a particular word list for a test, start using the words immediately, use them in context and frequently. See if anyone is talking about those words online and comment on people’s blogs or pages in Facebook, or on Google Plus.
Review, revise, review. These are my 3 rs. Review your word lists. Revise the ones you keep getting stuck on. Review the list … ad infinitum.
No one said it was going to be easy, but unless you are studying to become an Aerospace engineer, it’s not rocket science.