So, you have decided to learn, master or conquer English. That’s amazing, well done! But now you may be a bit unsure where to begin? What’s the best way for you to learn English? Or maybe you have been learning English for a while but you would like to improve your English in new and exciting ways, yes please!
Let’s start at the very beginning. The most obvious step would be to get an English teacher or join your local language school. But you don’t need to (and you shouldn’t) leave your English learning only to the English classroom.
Before we begin you need to now WHY you are studying English and set some English goals.
Knowing why you are studying English will make sure you learn English much faster and keep you motivated for longer. Trust me, this is essential. If you haven’t read my previous article yet, please go read it here before you read this one. It is the basis for any English learning. Read this article first.
Feel like sharing? Please share your ‘why’ in the comments below, I would love to here why you are studying English.
Here are five ways to learn English outside your classroom and the resources you need to do it
1. Daily practice
Do 15 to 30 minutes of (high intensity) English everyday rather than 2 hours of English on the weekend (when there are so many other distractions, like wine and friends).
Daily practice creates a good English learning habit that is easy to keep doing (the best way to stop you giving up) and it ensures a little progress everyday, which will give you big results.
Daily practice will also stop you having to relearn everything every time you practice. And according to the American Phycological Association (and some other very clever people too), daily practice will help you improve your long term memory learning (which you definitely need to master any language!).
Here are some resources to help you practice a little everyday:
Try to read an article for 15 minutes everyday at one of these GREAT blogs:
Ginseng English founded by Rob (the socially responsible English blogger) where they have articles about learning English, English idioms, everyday English vocabulary and a little grammar too.
Jennifer’s blog, Next Step English, where they write on a wide range of topics from general vocabulary, grammar, tips and tricks, history and culture (I enjoyed these interesting articles) to pronunciation.
Becky’s blog, Online English Skills, where she writes about how to learn and become fluent in English.
Take a look at Clare Whitmell’s blog, English At Home. She writes about business and general English. Her real life English section always has great articles.
If you want Business English articles, check out my blog posts at My Business English Coach.
If you prefer listening, then try to listen to 15 minutes of a good podcast everyday such as:
The Business English Pod podcast, where they cover all Business English related topics; or
Al Slagle’s podcast, AlSensei 2.0, which talks about general and Business English topics.
Or try out a Youtube clip everyday:
Gabby, from Go Natural English, has the latest and greatest lessons on great pronunciation and fluency.
But remember that listening and reading are passive skills (they don’t require you to create the English material) so make sure you actively practice your new vocabulary or phrases with your English teacher, English friends, at work or start an English journal.
2. Change your news feed to English and follow some English teachers on social media
Do you like reading the news every morning or scrolling through social media? What better way to learn English than to sneak some English into your downtime spent scrolling through the news or social media.
The best part is that can use ‘downtime’ to do this. Downtime is time when you are not doing anything productive such as sitting on the train, waiting in lines or sitting in boring meetings at work. Reading some news or updates in English everyday will definitely improve your vocabulary and you’ll have some good stories to chat about with friends later.
To read the news in English try out these sites:
At this site you can listen to the news instead of reading it (yes please), or try News in Levels which gives gives news articles in different levels of English. If you are able to, read the Newspaper in English too.
Get some English tips straight to your phone and spend your downtime scrolling through social media learning English (now you have an excuse to be on Twitter). Here are some great teachers to follow:
Follow ESL Expressions @eslexpressions for great content;
Jennifer @nextstepenglish for good English tips and vocabulary; or
Shayna @espressoenglish where she releases great lessons everyday.
3. Watch English Movies
Pull out your popcorn (and if you’re like me, your wine) and put on a movie. If you love watching movies as much as I do, you will love this next tip. Watch your favourite movies in English (with English subtitles to help you).
Watching movies in English is excellent for your English because the conversation is authentic. The actors use everyday spoken English (including slang and common phrases that are not included in most textbooks).
Movies also have different accents and lots of back ground noises to help train your ear. It might not be easy at first (don’t feel frustrated and quit, please keep trying) but it will get much easier, in the meantime, use subtitles to help you and watch it again (so choose a movie you actually like!).
The best part is that watching your favourite movies is really fun and doesn’t feel like studying at all, so you will want to do it.
Here are some great resources to help you:
Mooveez, out of the Czech Republic, has created an app to help ESl students learn English through movies (try out their free trials).
Fluentu also provides English learning through movies.
Justin, Chad and Ethan (from RealLife) have also created a Fluent with Friends Course which uses the well known TV series, Friends, to help you learn English. Check it out here.
4. Talk to and make friends with native speakers!
You don’t need to live in an English speaking country to speak English to the people around you, there are lots of English speaking foreigners living in your country. Join some meet up groups, a toast masters club hosted in English or make friends with your English colleagues.
There is no replacement for speaking English in a natural, relaxed environment. Who knows? you will make lots of new friends and may even meet that someone special.
If you’re worried your English is not good enough, don’t! I have spoken to hundreds of people all around the world at different levels of English and I have enjoyed every conversation and made new friends. There is much more to communicating than good English grammar, fluency and a wide range of vocabulary. Just remember to smile, make eye contact and use open body language.
If you make a mistake, have a laugh and if you don’t know a word use google translate or, even better, act it out. If you need confidence, have some wine (it is scientifically proven to improve your English, I’m serious!).
Here are some resources to help you:
5. Use your hobby or passion
Take a course on your hobby in English, research it in English or connect with fellow hobby enthusiasts all over the world. For example, if you love reading murder mystery novels try reading them in English (or downloading the audio and listening to it in the car). Use your love for your hobby to motivate your learning, this way you will enjoy working with English and you will learn much faster.
So, now you have some great tips. Go ahead and try them today, take some action (if you want to see results!). Join a toastmasters now, order an English book online and full your newsfeed with some more English by following me on twitter or LinkedIn or head over to my blog for more great English learning tips and free Business English lessons. Next week I will share with you how to master written Business English in half the time with only one principle!