1. Read everything you can get your hands on
Classic literature, paperbacks, newspapers, websites, emails, your social media feed, cereal boxes: if it’s in English, read it. Why? Well, this content will be full of juicy new vocabulary, as well as a fair amount you already know. This helps you improve quickly, as re-exposure to learned vocabulary gives you new examples in context, therefore reinforcing those words in your mind. On the other hand, learning new words and expressions is essential to building your vocabulary arsenal, particularly in a language like English with so many words! However, don’t just read and move on – next, you’ve got to…
2. Actively take note of new vocabulary
This tip is a classic one for good reason: it works! When learning, we often enjoy a new word of phrase so much that forgetting it seems impossible. But trust us, not everything sticks the first time. To fight this, get into the habit of carrying around a funky notebook or using a tool like Evernote. Whenever you hear or read a new word or expression, write it down in context: that is, in a sentence and with its meaning noted. This saves you time as you won’t return to that word and ask yourself: “What did that word/expression mean again?”
3. Talk with real live humans
What is a language for if not to communicate? Sure, we humans have become experts at communicating without opening our mouths – thanks Whatsapp! – but when push comes to shove, it’s true that speaking a language helps it stick in your head far better than only reading or writing it. Just think of how many times you’ve heard people say that they “understand, but can’t speak English.” A lot of would-be English speakers have turned talking into a huge insurmountable barrier that only serves to psyche them out. Don’t be like that. Seek out native speakers for an informal language exchange, enroll in a course, or take classes online.
4. Subscribe to podcasts or Youtube channels (in English)
Like humor? Politics? Blogging? Cooking? With topics covering every interest imaginable, there’s an English-speaking podcast or Youtube channel out there for you. Subscribe to a few and listen while driving or watch during the commute to school or work. At first, you might find the native accents difficult, but stick with it and you’ll soon start to understand what you hear (as well as learning lots of new vocab from a native speaker!)
5. Go abroad
If there’s a better way to learn English than being immersed in it while living and studying in an English-speaking country, we’d love to know! It’s no secret that English is the most widely-spoken language in the world, and with a long list of countries to choose between, you can select your ideal learning environment based on hemisphere, weather, or favorite city. Think Australia, New Zealand, the UK, the US, Canada, and South Africa to name a few!
6. Use your friends
Have friends who post online in English? Don’t gloss over them in your newsfeed: scan the items they share and commit to exploring one or two each day. They might be news or magazine articles, videos, talks, blog posts, songs, or anything else: if it’s in English and the topic interests you, it’s going to be helpful!
7. Ask a lot of questions
Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it also propelled the language learner to fluency! As you learn English, you’ll soon collect a mountain of questions. Don’t sit on your doubts – be curious and resolve them! If you’re enrolled in a course, ask your teacher (it’s what they’re there for, after all). But if you’re learning alone, don’t worry: find answers in blogs or language websites, ask other learners, or read through forums. You’ll be happy you did!
8. Take a lead from the stars
Mix up your learning by picking a native English-speaking actor or singer you like. Now, head online, find a bunch of interviews they’ve given – and watch them! Watch once for gist, then again, taking time to note down interesting expressions and words you hear. The slang, stories, humor, and anecdotes that come out of these interview are sure to give you plenty to work with!
9. Start with what you really need
Your English studies are likely to go far more quickly if you constantly remind yourself of your motives for learning. Are you going on a study exchange? Then, focus on vocabulary related to your studies. Have an overseas conference? Brush up on conversation starters to use with the other participants. Going on a gap year? Looks like travel and tourism vocabulary will be your guide. If you simply launch into learning English hoping to magically learn anything and everything at once, you’re likely to end up confused and burned out. Which brings us to…
10. Don’t kick yourself while you’re down
When you start to feel like you’re not making ground – which happens to all learners at some point – don’t say, “I don’t speak English,” or “I’ll never get this.” In fact, ban those phrases from your vocabulary! They only blur your understanding of the progress you’re making and convince you that your dreams of speaking English well are impossible. Instead, say “I’m learning English and making improvements everyday,” “It’s not always easy, but it’s worth it,” “I’m so much better that I was six months ago,” and other phrases to remind yourself of the big picture.