Nowadays, English is becoming fundamental for our life. In the era of Internet people need a global language to communicate and the most widely used language is English, which has over 1.8 billion users world wide.
The first thing you should know is your current lever of English. Online you can find plenty of websites with English tests; an example is “Englishatag”. If you have an elementary or intermediate level don’t get discouraged. You already know something, and you can probably already communicate and make people understand you somehow. To speak a perfect English as a native speaker require years. To understand people and make them understand you though, can be done in much less time!
I have been in Australia for more than 10 months and I can say my level of English is enormously improved. I wrote 10 advices based on my experience aimed to who would like to learn English staying in his own country or living abroad.
The best advice to learn English is to have the right attitude and push yourself out of the comfort zone every time. To give an example, I personally know that that this article is likely to contain a few minor mistakes but I know that I’m not a native speaker and if I want to improve my writing I need to keep practicing. You need to be motivated. Without willpower you will not make progresses. Try to follow these 10 advices as much as you can and try to do your best every time.
Start to change little things like the language on your phone and your computer. It will be harder to find the informations or settings you need and even if you will struggle in the beginning, you will soon realise that you are using your devices in English without any problems. Start to think in English: ask yourself how to say in English what you just said in your language and if you don’t know it, do a research or write down a note and check it later. Try to talk with as many people as you can if you are abroad. Ask people the meaning of a word instead of translate it with your phone. If you are in your country, try to talk as much as you can in English when you have the possibilities. Even easy expressions like “Hey, how is it going?” or “have a good day!” will help you to remember that you want to learn English and you need to think in English.
2. Movies and TV in English
This is probably one of the most common advice. Watching movies is easy and also a very good way to improve your Listening. It is very easy to find movies to watch. Another option is to watch the television in English. Although often you can’t add subtitles, almost all televisions today have the possibility to change language and set the original audio for an english movie. However, I advice to start to watch them with subtitles. If your lever is elementary you could start setting them in your language. If you are intermediate I definitely advice to start with English subtitles also if in the beginning it may be tough to understand. When you get used to, you can push yourself to watch movies without; in the beginning you probably won’t understand a lot, but if you keep going you will surprise yourself.
3. Music, Podcast & Radio
Music! This is the second most common advice! (: Everybody likes music and everybody today have the possibility to listen English music. The problem is that most of the people listen to English music just because they like the melody without understanding anything about what the singer say. You won’t improve your English in this way.
If you want to make progresses listening to your favourite music you should watch the lyrics, learn it, and if you want, try to sing it. Despite that, this is not the best way to learn English. A lot of singers have a very strong accent and often their language can be slightly different.
However, listen to Podcasts is a very good way. Many of them are not very interesting but others will make you addicted to them. On-line you can find podcast about every topic. If you are interested in history, psychology or other, you will probably find plenty of podcasts about it. I started to listen to them because of a friend of mine who advised me the podcasts of Radiolab. If you have an iPhone, you can find them on the Itunes Store and synchronise them between your devices.
If your level is advanced you can listen to the radio. All the biggest radio companies have today an online radio available. For example, if you are in Sydney, you should keep yourself updated with the local news. ABC radio is a very good option for Australia. You can also find the application for your smartphone.
4. Flashcards – write down new words
Flashcards helped me a lot (and still do it) to learn new words and extend my vocabulary. When people find a new word, they usually look for the meaning to understand the sentence they are reading or what they are listening. This will let them understand but after one day, if they don’t use that word, they are going to forget it and the only solution will be to look for it again. This is the big problem of learning words in English: we don’t use them in our everyday’s language and we forget them right away. Well, flashcards are the solution!
A flashcard is like a note you can write to remember a word. You can also download free complete lists of flashcards from ankiweb website. Anki is a free software for you PC or Mac. Although the app for smartphone Android and iPhone is available, the latter is not free. This software is able to show you your flashcards one after another and you have the possibility to decide how much do you remember about every of them. Anki will receive your responses and decide when to show you the flashcard again. With this method you will see often a flashcard you don’t remember and after days a word that you have learned. I used to write a note on my phone for every new word I meet during my day and create the correspondent flashcards in my personal deck in the evening. With this solution you’ll see over and over a word until you’ll learn it.
5. MyLanguageExchange & Meetup
To learn a new language living in your own country without a school may be difficult. Even more, to find someone to talk in English is sometimes impossible. The website MyLanguageEschange, like many other, may be very useful for this purpose. In this website you can find people who know english and want to learn your native language. It would be very useful for you to exchange your language for english.
If you are abroad you have much many possibilities to talk with native speaker. By the way, even if you live in an English country, it can be tough to make good English friendship because of the cultural difference and the difficulties with the language. Meetup is a nice solution to meet people with your same interest. On Meetup are available many groups with many different interests and you have the possibility to join them and attend meetups.
When you have an elementary level and you try to communicate in english is likely that people won’t understand everything you say because your accent is still too strong. A good solution to know how to pronounce a word if you are alone is Google Translate.
6. Youtube & Ted
How many times did you go on Youtube to watch some videos? I imagine a lot of times.
Even Youtube can be a very good tool to learn a language. Everyone have spent several hours surfing on Youtube and watching a great quantity of videos. What if you watch all those videos in English? You might improve your English just watching tutorials on how to learn guitar or every other thing. This is another occasion for you to join your passions with English. To learn would be easier for you and you will be happy to struggle for understand what the video says.
During my IELTS preparation course in Sydney I received another advice about video websites from my teacher. It’s name is Ted.com. Ted maintain a database of talks of professionals about every kind of topic. Moreover, almost every video have the transcript of the video and the possibility to add subtitles in every language. You can discover new things about your favourite subject and learn about very interesting thing about others. Psychology, science, robotics and also politics: Ted is an amazing storage of knowledge.
7. Books & Newspaper
I know, many people do not really like to read, but when you are learning a language, reading may enormously help you! Even in this case Google can help us to find what we need. You can give it a go starting with children books if you are elementary level or technical books if you level is advanced.
If you are abroad and your English is already quite good you should try to read newspapers. I still find newspaper quite difficult because the authors use high level language with slangs and idiomatic expression. You need to learn also these expressions if you want to understand everything a native speaker say, but I personally would not go crazy with those expressions if my level is still low. On the internet there are also plenty of news websites. One of the most famous in Sydney is the The Sydney Morning Herald.
Reading books and newspaper will notably improve your vocabulary. Reading actively means to notice every word or expression you don’t know and doing researches to understand every sentence you read. You can create new flashcards through Anki and constantly review them. It is a heavy activity but this method would help you to make incredible progresses in a few time. My advice is to active read only if you are very determinate. The other option is to read even if you don’t understand everything, looking for a word only if it is fundamental. After you’ll read a page, you will understand all the meaning from the context.
To translate new word don’t use Google Translate. Wordreference is a very professional translator witch often have synonyms and examples to make you surely understand the meaning. If you are already confident with English you may avoid translators and use directly an English dictionary. The best dictionary is the
8. Diary or Blog
To learn English people need also to learn how to write a good email. To have the ability to write without grammar and spelling mistakes is a very important skill. It seems silly but even native language people can often make mistakes with difficult words such as “questionnaire” or “entrepreneur”. In English you do not say exactly what you read. Furthermore, some words have different spelling but same sound (hear, here / write, right) or same sound but different spelling (red->colour and read->past participle of read). The only way to understand and stop to make mistakes is practice over and over. If you are abroad you have probably realised how many times you need to write an email to apply for a job or to ask for a new accommodation.
A very good way to practice is to open a blog or begin to write a diary every day. It will be easier for you to write about yourself and it will substantially improve the way you write. You can write it in your own language and translate it in english. When you get used to you can start to write in English from the beginning.
9. Practice everyday
It is not important to follow all of these 10 advices but it is fundamental to follow this one: practice constantly every day or at least every 2 days. Do something, watch a movie or write to a pen friend in America to tell him what are you up to. This is even more important if you are living in your home country because you haven’t the possibilities to talk in English with everyone you meet. You need to remember what you are aiming to and find a way to make time for keeping practicing.
If you have the possibility to enrol to a course or an English school do it. If you paid for it you will be keener to attend the class. A school can seriously help you and if you find good teachers your English can jump easily to the next level.
Another solution to constantly practice is to register and participate to forums in line with you interests. Internet is crowd with forums about every topic you can imagine.
10. Go abroad
This is probably the less practical advice. Perhaps you are not planning to leave you country, but if you really want a substantial improvement in a few time this is the best choice you can do. However, sometimes this is not a solution. Learn English or not is always up to you and go abroad do not make you a native English speaker. I met many people who had left their country with friends to learn English and travel. Almost everyone was speaking in their own language all the time using English just occasionally. Well, as you can imagine their English was only slightly improving.
Leave your country will help you by the way. You can find very difficult to stay far away from your family and friend and you will miss everything, especially if you are alone. You will feel very relieved when you will find someone who talks your own language and has you same culture. You will feel at home but this can become a double-edged sword. I met many people who regretted staying a long time with old friends in Australia. I’m not saying that you should avoid your friends, but you need to have clear what is your goal and why you left your country. Sometimes you can miss everything but when you’ll find yourself struggling to remember an expression or words in your language you will be surprised because you’ll know you’re doing a good job.
– – –
Remember that you cannot upload the English language from you computer to your brain. Not yet =) And there are not magic solution to do it. You just need to work hard for it. Nobody can help you as good as yourself.