Top tips for English learners
FACT: anyone can learn a foreign language! Yes, that includes you. You don’t need to live in a foreign country or read boring grammar books to master Englih. In fact, you only need to follow some basic rules to become a successsful learner and make English a part of your everyday life. Here are some Top Tips for you.
TIP 1: DON’T BE AFRAID OF MAKING MISTAKES
Fact: making mistakes is perfectly fine… as long as you realize the need to stop making them. Perhaps this is the single most important piece of advice any language learner can receive. Yes, learning a new language is a difficult, time-consuming task. And yes, human beings are not perfect. Here is the fun part: making mistakes is OK. Mistakes help us in our learning process. When we make a mistake, we realize we have a problem with a specific part of the language. Realizing why we make mistakes and understanding them is crucial to learning a new language. Remeber the words of American writer and philosopher Elbert Hubbard: “The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one” (The Note Book, 1927).
TIP 2: LEARN TO LEARN
Fact: not everybody learns the same way. Do you know how you learn? Have you ever thought of what your learning process is like? Some people are visual learners. They find it easy to connect words with images. Reading comics and books, drawing your own vocabulary cards or watching films with subtitles is an excellent way of learning if this is your learning style. Others are auditory learners, that is, they learn mainly by hearing and listening to other speakers. Watching films, listening to music or speaking to others is a good way to improve your English if this is your case. Some people like to interact with others, whereas some people prefer to learn individually, performing solo tasks. Learning about the different learning styles will help you choose the best tasks for you.
TIP 3: MAKE ENGLISH A PART OF YOUR DAILY LIFE
Fact: 80% of your learning takes place outside the classroom. Sure, the classroom is a nice space to communicate with others in a safe manner, ask questions to your teacher and learn new grammar and vocabulary items. Yet classroom time is a very small part of your learning process. Learning a language is no different than learning any other skill in life. It requires a lot of practice (and when we say a lot, we mean… a lot!). There are many things you can do to include English in your daily life and turn the language into something that you enjoy doing, rather than an obligation you have to fulfill with boring class tasks and homework. Here are some examples:
- Watch films in English with English subtitles.
- Listen to the radio in English.
- Read English books. If you find regular books too difficult, try graded readers.
- Find friends to speak English with on the Internet. Forum boards and Skype are a great way to find English-speaking friends.
- Subscribe to Facebook pages or connect with Twitter users who tweet regularly in English.
TIP 4: LEARN NEW VOCABULARY EVERY DAY
Fact: we cannot speak a language without words. If you are unsure as to how to go about learning new vocabulary, ask your teacher about vocabulary learning techniques. It is essential that you learn to keep a vocabulary notebook and vocabulary cards. Writing down personal examples will help you remember the new vocabulary better. Here is some advice that will help you:
- Learn time and place expressions with the correct preposition (at night, in the morning).
- Learn collocations (i.e. words that go together: “make the bed” or “do your homework”).
- Learn linkers, connectors and useful expressions (“on the one hand” vs. “on the other hand”, “needless to say”, etc.)
- Learn phrasal verbs in context and draw a picture if you need to in order to visualize the correct meaning.
- Learn idioms (i.e. “it’s raining cats and dogs” or “once in a blue moon”).
TIP 5: STICK TO YOUR SCHEDULE… AND DO NOT PROCRASTINATE
Fact: procrastination is your Number One Enemy. So, do not procrastinate. Let me say that again: do not procrastinate. Learning a language requires a lot of effort, but fortunately there are still 24 hours in a day and 60 minutes in an hour, which means that you can set some time aside every day to learn English. And remember: it is not the amount of time, but the quality of it, that makes the difference. Stick to a schedule and be patient, but steady. Never stop learning.
REMEMBER: YES, YOU CAN!
Determination, patience and perseverance will be your best allies in the exciting adventure of mastering English. Sometimes you will feel disappointed. Sometimes you will feel silly for making the same mistakes over and over again. Sometimes you will want to quit. But remember: every day, millions of people in this world try to learn English… and most of them succeed. Find them, talk to them, become their friend. There is a whole new world out there waiting for you to help you develop your English skills.
As Abraham Lincoln once said…
“I am a slow walker, but I never walk back.”