Martin Jarmar | blog

How do I learn English?

It is almost never ending run when learning a foreign language. I have learnt English since my third grade, and I think it is pretty good. However, I also know that there is always a way to make it better. As any other activity it needs to be trained and practiced. Otherwise, I would just forget. For instance, I could speak German quite good as well, but it is a long time since I last got in touch with this language. Nowadays I am hardly able to produce a single sentence in German language.

Here are some of my little tips to improve (English) language skills. It is basically telling what to do, not how to do it.

Tip #1: Learn

This is the hardest part because everything is new and seems difficult. However, you cannot improve your foreign language skills without knowledge of proper grammar or vocabulary. You can use textbooks (obviously) or better you can take classes with a native speaker / teacher. Someone who can explain grammar properly and who you can ask questions. Some language schools are also aimed at preparing their students for certificate exams (FCE, CAE, etc.), which is a nice bonus.

Besides that, there are some applications that can help you with vocabulary. My favorite one is I use to memorize mainly phrasal verbs and English idioms, but there are also courses for other vocabulary or grammar, and for other languages. It works in a unique way that helps with memorizing stuff and reduces the chance of forgetting.

Tip #2: Get

To get used to the language it is important to often read and listen to it. It helps with better understanding of what people are saying.

I personally prefer watching TV series or films without subtitles. At first, it feels just weird without subtitles and I missed a lot of lines, but later on it starts to be natural. Now I do not need them anymore and I am quite comfortable watching my favorite series.

Another good practice is watching videos on YouTube. There are so many great YouTubers you can watch and listen. Some of them can teach you directly with their videos, and some of them are just entertainers that are fun to watch. I also like those unedited, unprepared vlogs because the language is just natural. (Btw, I have learnt to tell the difference between British and American accent from YouTube.)

Reading, on the other hand, might not be that entertaining, especially if you do not read at all. In my case, I like books, but reading English books might be harder than one would expect. However, it extends the vocabulary. Though looking up unknown words in dictionary may get annoying.

If you do not like reading books then there is gaming instead. Yes, I mean playing computer games. But do not play Call of Duty because you will not learn anything from that. I recommend playing adventure games or role playing games with a lot of text and dialogs (like Black Isle studios games). Not only these games are fun to play but there is enough text to learn from.

Tip #3: Produce

Besides learning stuff it is also good to “produce” something. You can start your own English blog and write in English regularly, like I did. It does not have to be perfect; everyone makes mistakes (I am pretty sure that I did many of them in this post). I would just recommend to turn off automatic spell checking, so you can learn the spelling as well. Use the spell checker after you finish writing.

Other form of language production is speaking. You can vlog or just record yourself and then hear what you have said. It is a great way to practice pronunciation. Repeat recording a phrase or a sentence and hearing it until you are satisfied with your pronunciation. Some native speaker’s sample recording to compare with is recommended.

Tip #4: Exchange

This might be a tricky one. A good way to learn the language is to have a partner to talk to. It might be difficult to find someone appropriate. By conversation I do not mean email or instant messaging (still possible) but actual conversation face to face or at least via skype.

Other possibility is to live abroad. Many schools provide opportunities for their students to spend some time abroad. If you are a student do not miss such a great chance. If you are not a student you can try your luck and find a job in a foreign country.

Tip #5: Practice

Do not forget that you forget. Everyone does. Just keep practicing regularly and you will be fine.

Bonus Tip: Think

My teacher always said that students should learn to think in the foreign language. It is then easier to talk and write more fluently. Not mentioning that there are usually some differences between your native language and the one you want to learn. The translation in your mind can then just go wrong.

Posted on 27.1.2012

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