- Language level: intermediate, upper intermediate & advanced / B1, B2 & C1
- Time needed: 10-15 mins
- Focus: improve studying habits & attitude
Part 2: Practice Makes Perfect
Improve your studying habits and explore ways to practise English
Extract from The Essential Guide to English Fluency
PRACTISE NEW VOCABULARY
One big mistake that people make when learning a language is that they expect to learn and remember a new word after seeing it only one time.
Unless you are Rain Man, it isn’t going to happen.
Experts say you need to USE new words or expressions about 15-20 times before it becomes fixed in your head. So, always review new vocabulary words or phrases.
A simple way to practise this is to just say this word to yourself as many times as you need to. Sounds banal, but it is effective.
ps. putting vocabulary into contexts is a meaningful way to remember words!
JOIN AN ONLINE COMMUNITY
Do you kind of HATE these Facebook groups for ‘learning English?’ I hear you!
Facebook is full of English Learning groups. If you have a MID to HIGH level of English, most of these groups offer you LITTLE value: the ‘lessons’ are too basic, the community is usually made up of beginners and low levels and, too often, questions go unanswered and mistakes uncorrected. I.e. A WASTE OF TIME.
However, the idea of a Facebook group is too good an opportunity not to exploit. Private groups offer so much in terms of SHARING KNOWLEDGE, creating communities and finding supportive LIKE–MINDED people.
I participate actively in several groups and get so much value out of them. Try joining one on a topic that you are interested in – it’s a double win and a fantastic way to practise English for free.
Visit www.facebook.com to check out groups.
Choose topics that are relevant to you and you will progress much faster.
PRACTISE SPEAKING TO YOUR FAVOURITE PERSON – YOU!
Sounds embarrassing? Sounds abnormal? Who cares! You’ll be alone, so no one will hear you.
This tip is one of the most effective ways to become used to thinking in English and to start gaining confidence. I’m speaking from personal experience – I do this a lot!
I LOVE having conversations with myself in Italian – in the shower, when I am driving, when I’m cooking – no one is there to judge me and I am free to practise without any pressure.
When I tell my students about this strategy, they always laugh and say –ah you crazy teacher. However, then they come to me later and say they tried it – and LOVED it.
The best thing about this is that you can literally talk about ANYTHING. Nobody is there to correct you, that’s true, but it’s not about that. It’s about practising, making sounds, trying to express yourself without the fear of being grammatically correct or anyone judging you.
“It is wonderful fluency practice -it’s free and if you do it a little bit everyday, you’ll see that your your fluency will really improve.”
If the purpose of tip 3 is start gaining confidence and familiarity with English, the purpose of tip 4 is self-evaluation and progress checking.
Recording yourself, then listening to that recording allows you to evaluate your speaking skills.
- How is your pace?
- Are you using too many fillers?
- Are you making mistakes?
- Are you using a wide vocabulary?
Once you identify areas that you personally need to improve on, you can work that into your mini-missions or goals
GO OLD SCHOOL!
“Next time you watch a tv series or film in English, why not take notes about the new vocabulary that interests you?”
I’m talking pen and paper. Ditch the phone and the computer!
Writing things down has been proven to be a more effective way to learn than typing.
Why? They say when we write things down, we are slower and it gives us more time to absorb what we are learning.
DON’T ONLY FOCUS ON SPEAKING
Another common mistake students make is thinking that the only valid way to practise English is to practise speaking. It may be the case that you need to improve your speaking skills the most. It is certainly my weakest area in Italian.
However, a great way to practise English is through reading, listening and writing. They all contribute towards your speaking ability.
Here is an example of how something that I was listening to helped my speaking: I was watching the news a few weeks ago and they kept saying the word ‘allagamento’. I knew that this meant ‘flooding’, but it is a word that I never remember how to say.
So I wrote it down and put it in my vocabulary book to study. Now I can use it when I speak. Win!
ASK FOR FEEDBACK
How often do you write in English? If you are lucky, you use English at work and, therefore, probably write emails on a regular basis.
Writing is a wonderful way of improving your fluency. It is also one of the absolute best ways to practise English, I swear!
However, if you are writing the same thing all the time
A) it is repetitive and unchallenging and
B) you could just be repeating the same mistakes.
Ask a colleague, friend or teacher to have a look at your daily emails and correct any errors you’re making.
WRITE A DIARY / JOURNAL
Journal writing can be a meaningful way to practise English and improve the quality of your writing.
This type of writing encourages you to think about past experiences and evaluate them. You will start thinking in English and you will be pushed to use adjectives and emotive words to express your feelings.
You will also develop your ability to use high order thinking skills in analytical or hypothetical questions. This helps you actively use English in thought.
It’s also a cheap way to practise! All you need is a notebook and a pen. And of course some quiet time to dedicate to the habit. Sit somewhere and allow the ideas to flow.
ps. check out this website for lots of tips and writing practice exercises https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/skills/writing
GET HELP AND GUIDANCE
Feedback is key to improving your language skills
There are many ways to study alone and we encourage it and expect it from all of our students.
However, there is no substitute for having someone to guide you.
A good teacher will know what you should be studying, and in what order. He or she will guide you to the right materials and will help you spend your time more wisely doing the studying you need to get done.
Feedback is essential because there are so many things you might not be aware of, and, therefore, don’t know.
For example, if you keep making the same mistakes, or you have the same doubts each time you use a certain sentence, you’re not progressing.
I often have students come to me asking for solutions outside of the courses we run at school. The reasons vary, but usually people are too busy with work or personal commitments to be able to attend courses at the school.
With technology, there are so many options out there which means you don’t have to stop studying English just because you can’t fit in going to class. Why not try:
Online digital learning with e-courses.
This is the future! These are great for people who need something they can work through at their own pace and have the freedom to decide when and where to do it.
Often digital courses fix a very specific problem and can get you results fast and effectively.
Lessons with a teacher (maybe through Zoom or Skype)
These are great for people who want individual lessons and need something very specific. If you have time constraints and need a bit of flexibility, this could be right for you. Often teachers are flexible and willing to change the day and time to suit you.
The drawback is the cost. Effectively you will be paying for individual lessons. If you find a teacher who is charging a lot less than other teachers, you should ask yourself why!
PS. I hope you found these tips useful!
This is an extract from our ebook The Essential Guide to English Fluency.
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