How to improve your English: your to-do list!
by Claire Jaynes, DoS at Trebinshun House
Our last blog article focussed on what you shouldn’t do when learning English. We’d like to bring our attention to helpful habits and approaches to learning and what should be on your ‘to-do’ list. Don’t worry, some of these can be done instantly….
- Find different ways to practise.
Aside from studying one of our intensive programmes, make time to practise all four skills, even if speaking and listening are your main focus. You can you listen to podcasts and TED talks; practise speaking by joining a conversation group in your town or city or take Skype lessons; vary your reading by reading short articles from magazines or from good online sources (why not read our Trebinshun House blog!) and last but not least, write emails in English when you have the opportunity – keep in touch with friends you’ve met while staying with us. When you finish your course with us, your teacher will give you personalised recommendations for further improving your skills. Start with these.
- Play for time:
Nothing to do with tenses or verbs! It’s useful to learn short phrases to give you some thinking time. For example, when dealing with questions, you could try one of the following: ‘that’s a good question’, ‘I’ll have to think about that one’, ‘I haven’t really thought about that before’ etc. You can add fixed expressions to your repertoire too: ‘from time to time’, ‘during the day’, ‘it’s been a long time since…’ and others. Make a note of these in your smart phone, have them as a screen saver so they are a constant reminder.
- Have an overview of how your language differs from English.
At Trebinshun House, we often cover the key differences with your language on our Individual programmes. You can also go deeper into this by extending your knowledge of ‘false friends’, for example ‘actuel’ in French and ‘aktuell’ in German both usually translate as ‘current’ in English. Other general advice would be for German speakers to think more carefully about word order. On the plus side, there’s no need to worry about masculine and feminine forms or cases!
- Accept that you will need to move out of your comfort zone.
Learning a language involves taking risks (or are they opportunities?). You may need start working on an international team, give a talk at a conference or your company’s official language may change overnight (real examples!). Break down your goal into small chunks and recognise that there are many small steps on the way to becoming more fluent, more accurate and more confident. Research shows that the more you move out of your comfort zone, the more you are willing to do it again in the future. So, again, practise makes perfect!
- Know your learning style
You need to make your language learning very personal to you so reflect on your other experiences of learning – what worked best? Some people are very visual learners and need to see words written down, others can hear a phrase once and be able to recall it and use it. Some of my students write down their own notes during lessons as, again, this seems to fix the words in their brain. We talk about your learning style and different ways of learning during your programme so that is something you can build on after your course.
If you have any other techniques or tips to share, feel free to comment on our Facebook page or let us know directly the next time you see us.