Friday, February 10, 2012

17 Fun and Easy Ways to Improve Your Language


It is important to know that although this post talks about improving your English, you can use the suggestions given below to learn and improve any foreign language.

1.      Have English radio on in the background while you are doing your housework. Even if you are not listening carefully, it will help you get a feel for natural English rhythm and intonation.

2.      Teach your children or friends some English. Recent research has shown that elder children tend to be a couple of IQ points above their younger siblings, and the most likely reason is that explaining things to their little brothers and sisters gives them an intellectual boost. In the same way, teaching someone lower level than you the English you already know is a great way of permanently fixing that knowledge in your own brain.

3.      Listen to MP3s. Not many people know that you can download speech radio such as audio books (an actor reading out a novel) and speech radio. Not only is this better practice for your English than listening to English music, from sources like Scientific American, BBC and Australia’s ABC Radio it is also free. 

4.      Say or think what you are doing in English as you do your daily tasks. As you are doing your chores, try creating sentences describing what you are doing, e.g. ‘I am unscrewing the ketchup bottle cap’. This gets you used to thinking in English without translating, and can be a good way of seeing what simple vocabulary that is around you everyday you don’t know. yet 

5.      Watch English language films with English subtitles. If it is too difficult to watch the whole film this way, try watching the (usually important) first 10 or 15 minutes of the film with subtitles in your own language, switch to English subtitles after that, and only switch back to subtitles in your own language if you get totally lost following the story of the film.

6.      Watch the same film or TV episode over and over again. This will mean that you can really learn the language without having to study it. Some comedies can also get funnier the more you watch them, especially if you watch them with no subtitles and so understand a little more each time you watch it.

7.      Be realistic about your level. One thing that holds many language learners back is actually trying too hard and tackling something that their brain is not ready for yet. Checking your level with a level check test on the internet, by taking an English language test (FCE, CAE, IELTS, TOEIC, TOEFL etc.), or by taking a free trial level check and/ or lesson in a language school will help you find out what your level is and so choose suitable self-study materials. 

8.      Be realistic about your reading level. Most researchers agree that people learn most when reading something they understand almost all of. If there are one or two words per page that you have never seen before, that is about the right level. If there are three or more difficult words on every page, you should switch to reading something easier and come back later. 

9.      Watching English children’s films or TV programmes. Although some of the vocabulary you can learn from things made for children can be a bit strange (lots of animal names and maybe animal noises, including baby names for things), the fact that not only the language but the structure of the story is simplified can make it an easy and motivating thing to watch. Like good language learning materials, the same language is also often repeated to make it memorable, and the use of catchy songs etc. can increase this positive effect on your memory.   

10.  Label things in your house or office with post-its. The easiest vocabulary to learn is the vocabulary of things you see and use everyday. If you can write the names of things around you on slips of paper and stick them on the real thing, this is a great way of learning useful vocabulary. If you can leave them there over the following days and weeks, this is a very easy way of revising the vocabulary until it is properly learnt. 

11.  Online chat. The closest thing to speaking for people who don’t have the chance to speak English is online chat, as you have to think and respond quickly, and the language is short and informal just like speech.

12.  Listen to the radio news in English. You can make this easier by reading the news in English first, or even just by reading or listening to the news in your own language.

13.  Record your own voice. For people who don’t have much or any correction of pronunciation from a teacher, recording yourself and listening back makes it easier to hear whether you are really making the English sounds that you are trying to or not.

14.  Arrange a conversation exchange. Swapping lessons and conversation with someone who wants to learn your language can be a good alternative for those who aren’t looking for romance, or can sometimes lead onto dating for those who are!

15.  Model your accent on one particular actor. e.g. try to speak like Robert De Niro. Students who say they want to sound more like a native speaker have the problem that native speakers don’t sound all that much like each other. Choosing one model can make the task of improving your pronunciation more clear, and is quite fun. 

16.  Use an English-English dictionary. Trying to use a bilingual dictionary less and switching to a monolingual one can help you to stop translating in you head when you are speaking or listening, and other useful English vocabulary can come up while you are using the dictionary.

17.  Set goals. Deciding how many hours you want to study, how many words you want to learn or what score you want to get in a test are all good ways of making sure you do extra study.

(This is a shortened version of 70 ways to improve your English.)

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