To learn English quickly, you have to work hard and smart. If you want to give yourself the best shot at high quality learning then you need to know the secrets of picking up the information at speed – and retaining it.
To kick-start the knowledge soaking process, here are 11 tips to help you maximize your learning experience.
1. Get stuck in!
Don’t hesitate, just speak! The more you sit there and think about it, the more difficult you’ll find it to speak. Make sure that every time you come across the opportunity to speak English you do – note the number of times you’re contributing in your English classes and try to double it the next time you go.
2. Don't apologise
Saying “I’m sorry but I don’t speak English” because you’re afraid of making mistakes is an absolute no-no. Remember that you’re learning and that means you’re allowed to make errors or form half-sentences at first. Instead of simply saying you don’t speak English and shutting the opportunity down try phrases such as “I’m sorry could you repeat that/speak slower/say it differently?” or “Could you explain that?” or “I’m English, could you say that again?” Turn the situation into another opportunity to practice.
3. And on that note… don’t be afraid of making mistakes!
Fear is a barrier to learning – and an unnecessary one at that. If you’re holding back because you’re afraid people will laugh at you, or you’ve got perfect grammar comprehension but you can’t actually have a conversation, then you’re simply slowing down your progress. Remember that absolutely everyone who has ever learned a language made mistakes, felt silly and thought they weren’t as good as others in the class. Mistakes and errors are just a process that you need to go through to learn – so if you’re going to be a great English speaker then you need to make plenty of them!
4. Don't give up
As with any new skill that you’re trying to learn there will be a period where it just feels like you’ll never get it. No one is born a natural English speaker when it’s not their first language but, like any skill, the more you practice and the longer you practice for, the better you will get. Think of yourself as an athlete in training – you need to put in the practice hours if you want to get over the line.
5. Don’t translate ‘word for word’
If you’re translating every single word that you hear into your native language then you’re really slowing your progress down. Instead, hone in on the words that you do understand and use all the contextual clues happening in the conversation, from gestures and facial expressions, through to any images or actions that are taking place at the same time.
6. Listen to everything!
If you listen only in the context of strict grammar structures or words on their own then you’ll find it harder to progress. It’s far better to learn to understand phrases, as this is what will give you fluency. You can do this by listening to English films, TV, audiobooks and radio – you’ll be able to pick up on understanding actual English rather than book learning.
7. Make notes
It can be useful to keep a notebook with you – or use a notes app on your phone – so that you can write down whole phrases that you hear. Whether it’s because you don’t yet understand something, or you think it’s a good phrase and you’re going to want to use it again, if you make a note of it then you’re much more likely to be able to remember it when you need it – and to be able to use whole phrases rather than just single words.
8. Set yourself targets and have clear goals
To maintain perspective and stay motivated you need to bear in mind why you’re doing what you’re doing.
What are your targets? I.e. being able to study in English, to learn a new language, do you want to travel to English speaking countries, are you going to work in an English speaking country?
What are your goals? How long do you want to spend learning English, what learning methods do you want to use, how will you know when you’ve got to a point that you’re happy with?
9. If it’s broke, fix it!
When you hit a wall with your learning then it’s time to find new ways to do it. The more methods that you can incorporate into the learning experience, the more quickly you will learn. Try everything: online learning sources, podcasts, digital radio, films and TV, Skyping with an English speaker, listening to English music or even finding a new teacher.
10. Remember that your learning needs are individual
You do need a textbook, yes, but you don’t have to stick to it religiously, as your learning needs may not be the same as the textbook structure provides. A textbook is a one size fits all approach so use it as a resource but structure your learning on what you need to know.
11. And finally…stay positive!
If you’re constantly telling yourself you’re rubbish, you’ll never get anywhere and you can’t speak English then you won’t! Recognise the negativity, identify the problem and then give yourself a break. You can acknowledge that it’s tough but tell yourself to keep trying and make yourself stay positive. Anyone can learn English with a bit of time and effort – including you.