- Education and Science
Ten Ways to Improve Your English
Language Learning Can Be Fun
Today the English Language has become the de facto auxilary language of the world. For this reason, it behooves learners of English as a Second Language, ESL (or EFL, English as a Foreign Language), to learn as many methods to acquire English faster and better. This includes knowing how to learn new words at a faster rate and to understand the grammar better.
Following are 10 steps that will help you or someone you know to better their new language learning with methods that have been proven to speed up the language learning process as well as make it enjoyable.
1. Love your new language!
For some people, the love of a new language is automatic, or at least something gained while growing up. For instance, maybe you have always found the Italian language to be absolutely beautiful in its sing-song cadence. That coupled with the amazing history of art and inventions that the Italian people have given the world makes many want to know Italian even more. With that in mind, a consideration of why you want to study English (or another language) is important, particularly as, if you love a subject, learning it will come even faster and more pleasurably. Come up with at least 3 reasons in your mind as to why you want to impove your English. Is it simply to get a better grade in school? To impress a boyfriend or girlfriend? To be able to do better business, or to travel easier? By keeping your reasons for studying the English language in mind, you will increase your desire (and ability) to learn it faster and with more conviction.
2. Use flashcards -to quickly learn new words and even grammatical rules.
Most of us remember flashcards. They are cards, often made of index cards or a similar material which our teachers had us use as a leaning tool -and what a great learning tool they are! Yet flashcards aren't merely for schoolchildren, they work most effectively for anyone desiring to learn anything new, including a new language, such as English. Simply write a word in English on one side and on the other side, write it's equivalent in your first language. Do this with fifteen to thirty cards, or whatever amount of new words you feel comfortable with. Then, whenver you've got a few moments while sitting on a bus, waiting in a car at a stop light, or any other appropriate time, practice your new words or even the grammar of your target language. For best results, always look at the words in your language first, as that's what you'll think of first before translating a word in your head.
3. Speak aloud to yourself
Practicing your English is always important, but you might not always have someone to practice with. Thus, you must speak to yourself (and answer!). Pretend that you are having a conversation with another person. Discuss everything from everyday matters, like brushing your teeth, to the more important matters, like politics and philosophy. You don't even have to believe what you say, just say it, as it's practice, practice, practice which will make you more competent in your new language.
4. Practice conversation with a friend.
If you can meet regularly with a friend or even a stranger and practice speaking English (or other new language), this will be highly beneficial. It will not only keep you in practice, but by speaking with someone else, you will learn new words, idioms, and expressions. If you don't know anyone that speaks your new language, put an advertisement in the newspaper or on the internet. There is bound to be someone who would like to meet with you to practice speaking.
5. Read every day!
Reading is one of the best and fastest way towards achieving a profound level in another language. Read everyday and you will learn new words and expressions, as well as, inately, new grammatical rules. A way to speed up your memorization of texts from your reading is to read the same books or articles over and over, while also constantly reading new material. The basic rule is to read about a subject that you enjoy, as well as reading at a level that is fairly easy, but not too easy. There should be at least a tiny bit of challenge to your reading selections. Also, read aloud and you will remember what you've read with greater ease.
While reading in English or another language is a great means of achieving "input," writing in your new language will help you to practice this language in a more careful, contemplative means while reinforcing what you already know. As with every other approach, enjoyment is key. Write about a subject that you enjoy, whether it is about animals, racecars, space travel, or even your family. You might also try writing letters to people you know, famous people, even to non-existent people, like characters from stories. "Dear Ahab, -Can I call you Ahab...?"
You didn't want to hear it, but there are few shortcuts in learning a language, and this is the cornerstone of new language acquisition. Study daily, at the same time and place, if possible. Try to avoid places with loud noises, and while it's okay to drink something non-alcoholic during studying, shun eating, as food is generally too distracting. Learn to enjoy not only the benefits of study, but also the aesthetics and joys of studying itself.
8. Listen to language tapes/CD's.
Listen to tapes over and over again. Repeat what you've learned aloud. Language tapes and CD's have been such a staple in new language acquisition that sometime they're ignored as they're seen as an "old" method that is no longer so very essential, but this is absolutely not the case. By listening to tapes of native speakers of English, French, Greek, or Bantu, you will hear how the words are meant to be said, and this will increase your pronunciation, as well as other arenas of your knowledge.
9. Read before going to bed.
We mentioned reading before, but when you read just before you go to sleep, it will have a profound affect on your learning, believe it or not. In fact, just 15 minutes of reading in another language will deeply impress itself upon your mind and memory, enabling you to excel at your new language moreso than if not practiced. Who knows, you may even dream in your new tongue!
10. Think in English (first in seclusion, then in passing throughout the day).
One of the interesting phenomena for those who've been studying another language is that after a time they often begin thinking in their new language. This is a potent sign that the new language learner "has arrived." That is, he or she has reached a very high level in language learning, at which learning even more will be all the more simple a matter. Begin by spending just 5 minutes alone each day, even if it's just before going to sleep, and force yourself to think in your target language. Don't worry about what you should think in, either. Whatever comes to mind is fine, even if it is something as simple as a poem that you've memorized from ESL class. As you get used to doing this, extend the amount of time that you think during each "thinking session." Then practice this from time-to-time throughout the day. Before long, thinking in your new tongue will come easily.
As you see, there are many habits and techniques that you can incorporate into learning English as a Second Language, or any other second (third, or fourth) language. The list is not limited here, but this is a fine beginning. For a more detailed explanation of each step, look for my articles specific to each step. Good luck with your studies!