1. Make English a part of your everyday life
Don’t separate your ‘English time’ from the rest of your day. Find English speakers and talk to them. Ask questions – that’s the best way to keep up a conversation. Try to incorporate English into your daily routines: make shopping lists in English; make ‘to do’ lists in English; listen to English radio when driving; have English TV or radio on while cooking; read the English ingredient list and directions on products you buy; label household objects in English; use English recipes when cooking.
Start with something easy like juice recipes. You can find them online, in English of course! Just google easy juice recipes. Then, as your vocabulary increases, try easy food recipes. Use pictures as much as possible. You will store the word + image in your brain more efficiently than word + translation.
Surf the Internet in English. There is soooo much to read and listen to online which will help you improve your English. Just go to YouTube and keep looking until you find a video that interests you. I typed in World Soccer and found videos about Lionel Messi and Ronaldo.
Music videos are fabulous for aiding fluency and pronunciation if you sing along, and language learnt with music is more easily remembered. Anything learnt with music is more easily remembered. You remember the words of songs you sang as a child, don’t you? … My point exactly! I have a lot of songs on this blog, or you can find anything you want online. Be sure to find song videos with the lyrics; even native speakers often can’t understand what people are singing about! Sing a song every day. When you know the lyrics (which won’t take long), sing in the shower … loudly!
2. Copy Native Speakers
Listening is the first step when learning a language. However, just listening is a passive way to learn a language. Language is active so we need to pay attention. Even when we’re really interested in a show on TV, we sometimes lose focus or fall asleep.
So, it’s time to talk back. Yes, you need to talk to your TV and computer. For example, when you watch the Ronaldo video, you will hear the commentator say ‘ … and the best player in the world scores for Brazil!’ Now you repeat as closely as you can ‘ … and the best player in the world scores for Brazil!’ Do this throughout the 8:39 minute video. Do this every day, every time you get an opportunity. If you have English lessons, repeat some of the words the teacher says. Real English is an excellent website with videos of short conversations with people on the street – great practice for you with British and American speakers. Listen, repeat, and then go out and practise.
Copy native speakers every day and you will be impressed by how quickly you improve. Make it fun. Copy people being silly, romantic, annoying, boring, bossy, angry, animated. Enjoy all the ways we use this wonderful, expressive language.
3. Revise, revise, revise
How can you remember new words, new expressions, new grammar, … new anything?
♦ 1. Think about what interests you; topics you know and remember well: movies, sport, dogs, cars, dieting, politics, religion, Lady Gaga, Harry Potter … whatever. I bet you can remember heaps of details about your chosen interest. Why? You have spent a lot of time focused on it. You have heard or seen or listened to the same information over and over again. It’s been easy to remember.
♦ 2. If you don’t revise new information within 24 hours, you risk forgetting up to 70% of it. Your brain creates pathways connecting knowledge, but it takes time and repetition. It’s natural to remember things you enjoy and if you’re happy when you’re learning something new, you are more likely to remember it. But, what about things you have to learn, like grammar?
♦ 3. You have choices:
a) Find ways to enjoy learning. I have given you lots of ideas. Think about how you’ll feel when you reach the target level.
b) Develop good daily habits. ♠ Every night, revise the notes you took in class, before you forget what they mean. You could do it in 10 minutes. ♠ Before the next class, arrive 10 minutes early and revise your notes again or speak to another student. You will be well-prepared for your class with your English brain awake, unlike the students who are sitting in class using their phone in their language. ♠ Spend 5 minute periods throughout the day, after class and on weekends, revising (for example) a few phrasal verbs or listening to a song. When it’s for just a few minutes, your brain is fresh and engaged. You will remember a lot more from 6 x 5-minute sessions than one of 30 minutes. If you’re in an English school, don’t spend the break time talking or texting in your language. Bad habit!
♠ Keep notes, a newspaper or magazine on the kitchen table and read them while you’re having breakfast, or a coffee. ♠ Establish good habits for learning, and they become natural and easy and will prevent you procrastinating. This is true for anything you want to learn and remember. You’ll feel so good when you’re organised!