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!
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.
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.
Speak English whenever you can: in shops, at the pub, in a queue – seize your opportunity to communicate!
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!
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.
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 quiteexpensive, 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.
You could also take online lessons using a company such as Preply, who can put you in touch with English tutors for online lessons wherever you are. All you need is an internet connection.
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. You could also write Christmas cards and birthday cards and send postcards whenever you travel to somewhere new.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
You can also play word-based board games, do crosswords, chat in internet chat rooms or read crime thrillers – whatever floats your boat, as long as it is in English!
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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Many people struggle with writing in English and it can seem like a real challenge to improve. Don’t worry, though. Here are some simple steps that you can take to improve your written English and impress people with your writing skills.
Expand your vocabulary
To express yourself clearly, you need a good active vocabulary. That’s not just being able to recognise lots of words – it means actually being able to use them correctly. Do this by learning new words with example sentences, not just word lists.
Tip: When you learn a new word, try learn all the forms of that word and the prepositions that are usually used with it. (For example, rather than just the word ‘depend’, make a note of: to depend on, to be dependent on, a dependant.)
Master English spelling
You must know how to spell those words correctly. Incorrect spelling changes the meaning of your sentence. For example: ‘bare’ and ‘bear’ sound the same but ‘bare’ means naked and ‘bear’ is a large animal. Additionally, incorrect spelling makes it difficult for the reader to understand what you’ve written.
Tip: Practice your spelling using flash cards and test yourself whenever you have some spare time.
People often say that we learn to write best by reading. Reading in English is useful in many ways. It is a great way to get an idea of the different styles of writing and see how to use words appropriately.
Tip: Choose books or articles with topics that interest you.Learning shouldn’t be boring. Read each text several times to make sure you understand how to use new words and expressions in the text.
Improve your grammar
Grammar is very important because it improves the quality of your writing. Always use the appropriate tense and remember to use punctuation. Punctuation is a great way to make your writing clear and fluent.
Tip: Always proof-read your writing twice. The first time, look for general mistakes and the second time look for mistakes with the particular grammar point your are studying at the moment.
Just do it!
Writing can be daunting. However, the best way to improve is get a pen and paper or sit in front of your computer and actually write. Be prepared to write several versions of each text because even for professional writers, the first draft is never perfect. Remember, practice makes perfect, so now is the best time to sit down and get started with our free English quizzes!