Learning a new language can be daunting, especially when you’re first starting out. If you’re a beginning English language learner, check out these fourteen tips for developing your speaking, reading, and writing skills in a fun and effective way.
Identify why you want to learn English. For example, maybe you plan to study abroad in an English-speaking country for a semester, or you’re going to do a grad school biology program in the US. Use your goals to motivate yourself and help you identify areas of English to focus on.
Do a vocabulary warm-up
If you’ve been focusing on a particular vocabulary unit in class, get warmed up by thinking in English about a topic related to the words at the beginning of the lesson. For example, if you’re covering food vocabulary, spend some time thinking about your favorite foods to cook or order at a restaurant.
Keep a journal in English
Try to write at least a paragraph every day about whatever’s on your mind. You can write about what you did that day, what goals you have for tomorrow, the lyrics of a new song you heard, or an idea you have for a short story. Writing on a daily basis will help you get used to expressing your thoughts in English, and writing by hand as opposed to typing will also help you improve your spelling.
Watch movies in English
Most English learners consider this one of the more fun ways to improve their language skills. Choose an English-language movie that you want to watch and put on subtitles in your native language so you can follow along, or watch a movie in your native language and put on English subtitles so you can see the words on the screen.
Read books in English
Start with easy reader books that are appropriate to your learning level, but don’t be afraid to work your way up to longer books with more extensive vocabulary. Young adult books like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games are good because they’re written in relatively simple language but are still entertaining for adults.
Try reading part of an English novel, play, or poem aloud in order to improve your pronunciation and get yourself warmed up for English conversations.
Keep your trusty dictionary on hand
Having an English-to-native-language dictionary with you is especially important when you’re reading, because you’ll likely come across vocabulary words you haven’t encountered before. Try to figure out words based on context first, and then double-check them in your dictionary.
Don’t stop at one vocabulary word
Every time you look up a new vocabulary word, try to find one synonym (a word with the same or similar meaning) and one antonym (a word with the opposite meaning), as well.
Have conversations with native speakers
Whenever possible, practice your conversation skills with a native speaker so that you can get a sense of the normal speed and inflections of the English language.
Learn from your mistakes
Whenever you’re having a conversation with a native English speaker, let them know that you’d like them to correct you if you make any mistakes. This will help you avoid many of the common grammar and structure errors that beginning English learners often make.
Pay attention to sound patterns
When listening to native speakers talk, pay attention to the words they emphasize. You’ll find that they usually stress content words more than function words. Content words are usually nouns, verbs, and adjectives. They help you form a picture of what the person is trying to communicate. Function words, which are usually pronouns, prepositions, determiners, and auxiliary verbs, help connect the content words and make the sentence grammatically correct. Paying attention to the content words will help you figure out the meaning of what a person is saying.
If you’re musically inclined, you can practice English by singing along with your favorite English-language songs. Print out the lyrics and look up English words you don’t know so you can improve your understanding.
Learn how to be a selective listener
When you first start listening to native English speakers, it will be tough to understand all the words they’re saying, so focus on the words you recognize, and try to figure out meaning based on the context.
Make English part of your everyday life
No matter what study methods you choose, make sure you’re practicing English on a daily basis. This is the best way to develop your language skills and make sure they stick.
What strategies have worked well for you? Share your experiences in the comments.