Language-learning tips: How to improve your English quickly

All Bucksmore students know that learning English takes a lot of effort and dedication.  Of course, all language learners experience this situation and it is not limited only to English, however, as there are so many speakers of English worldwide, it seems to take a long time to really master the language.  What is correct in American English may be incorrect in British English, and an Australian may still have problems understanding you.

Many students of English have been learning the language for a long, long time.  When you first start to learn the language, you learn a lot very quickly.  You learn the names for all the things around you.  You can say ‘table’, ‘chair’, ‘book’, ‘teacher’ and ‘pen’.  Then you quickly learn how to say where things are and who things belong to with sentences like ‘The pen is on the table’ and ‘That’s my teacher’s book’.  Your confidence grows, and within a year or two you find you can communicate pretty well.  You make grammar mistake here and there, but English-speakers generally understand you and you generally understand the things you read and listen to in English.  Then it starts to take a long time to really improve.

This is a common problem for many learners of English.  Students tend to reach intermediate level, then their learning slows down and it becomes difficult and takes longer to reach upper-intermediate, advanced and proficiency levels.  Coming to Bucksmore during the summer and surrounding yourself with English is a good way to accelerate your learning.  When you hear English all day, every day, it is much easier to pick up new words and phrases.  You can also improve your English quickly at home by following these tips:

  • Use new words and grammar structures in lots of different ways – When you learn a new word or structure, the more you use it, the more you will remember it and eventually it will stay in your brain.  However, students often make simple sentences when they use new words or structures.  Make your sentences, but then challenge yourself.  Say to yourself, “Can I say that in 7 words?”  Or, “Can I say that in 10 words?”  This is how a sentence like “I go to school” can become “I go to a really good high school in Lisbon”.  Without making too much effort, you have rehearsed the sentence again and again in your head and created better, more informative sentences.  Good work!
  • Try to use different words to give the same meaning – When you write an article or some sentences, look at the words you used and ask yourself, “Can I change any of these words?”  The best words to change are verbs and nouns.  For example, if your sentence is, “I’m going to the concert tomorrow night,” by playing with the verbs and nouns you could produce the following: “I’m attending the show tomorrow night” / “I’m watching the performance tomorrow night” / “I’m heading to the gig tomorrow night”.  This will help you to stretch your vocabulary.  Remember, some words are more appropriate in certain circumstances, for example, “a gig” usually describes a rock concert, whereas “a performance” may refer to classical music.
  • Notice the pronunciation when you’re listening in English – One of the easiest and most fun ways to practice your English at home is to watch films and TV shows in English.  When you do this, focus on the pronunciation.  Listen for the words that are stressed and the words that are unstressed.  Ask yourself, “Why are those words stressed?”  Or, “If I change the stress, does it change the meaning?”  Repeat the sentences in your head and then say them for yourself.  For example, “I’m having DINNER with John” has a different meaning to, “I’m having dinner with JOHN”.
  • When you’re doing self-study, look behind the answer – Many students practise English at home through self-study.  There are many books that you can buy that will help you with this.  When you are doing the exercises, ask yourself, “Why is that the answer?”  If you are always asking “Why?” you are always evaluating English.  You can do this when you are at Bucksmore and listening to English all the time, asking yourself, “Why did that person say that?”  For example, you may have a sentence such as, “If I went to the UK, I’d make lots of English friends.”  Why has the speaker chosen to say “If I went…” instead of “If I go…”?  Do they think going to the UK is a possibility for them?  Always look for meaning in everything you read and hear.

Try these tips and see if they work for you.  We would love to hear your thoughts and comments.  Good luck!