5 Top Tips For Improving Your English
In our ever-more international and interconnected world, improving your English can open doors to a wealth of new career opportunities. Recent figures suggest that roughly 1.75 billion people worldwide speak English to a useful level, and with employers in all corners of the globe and across all sectors keen to recruit top-notch English-speakers, investing time in your language skills can pay dividends.
If the idea of improving your English brings back painful memories of textbooks, grammar tables and endless lists of vocabulary, don’t despair! There are plenty of effective and enjoyable strategies you can use to work on your English. Here are five top tips for improving your English:
1. Keep your goals in sight
It was a wise person that coined the phrase “where there is a will there is a way”. Motivation is key to staying on track when it comes to improving your English, which is why it is essential to decide upon and commit to a goal. As a rule, specific and measurable goals are most effective. Your goal can be anything from interviewing for a new job in English to passing an exam or obtaining a qualification. Setting a time frame and mini-goals along the way can help you track your progress and you will be motivated by seeing evidence of your improvement. Specific goals will also help you to target your learning and focus on areas that are most relevant to you. If you wish to improve your English for travel purposes you would be wise to brush up on colloquial language and conversation skills, whilst those looking to use English at work may prefer to hone their grammar and work on specific business vocabulary.
2. Embrace technology
In recent years the world of technology has made it easier, cheaper, and more fun than ever to learn languages. For learning vocabulary, Memrise can’t be beaten as it offers thousands of free courses to suit any learner. Best of all, the site analyzes your performance on each word you learn and tests you at intervals designed to maximize retention. For beginners, the Duolingo and Babbel apps are great for learning the basics of a language and beginning to converse. Google Translate is improving, but for a reliable and extensive bilingual dictionary, look no further than Wordreference. The Wordreference forums are also a goldmine for in-depth discussions of vocabulary and grammar. If you find yourself stuck on how best to use or translate a particular phrase, Linguee.com is another excellent resource. The site pulls up examples from around the web of how professionals have translated words and phrases. This is particularly useful when it comes to polishing your business English and improving your command of specific terminology.
3. Television is your friend
In an ideal world, all language learners would be able to immerse themselves in their target language, conversing with native speakers and absorbing vocabulary as they went about their daily lives. In reality, most of us do not have the luxury of full immersion, however television and film can be a great substitute. Many of the best English speakers I know credit television with their fluency, and with a vast array of American and English series available online, if you are trying to improve your English you are spoilt for choice. Beginners should look for children’s films and TV, which are easy to follow even with a very low level of comprehension. For learners with an intermediate level of English, TV series are usually easier to handle than films since more information can be gleaned from context, and familiarity with characters and plots aids comprehension.
4. Chat with native speakers
Attending language classes can be costly, however in many cities there are plenty of mother-tongue speakers keen to take part in language exchanges. Partners usually meet for an informal chat over a coffee and spend half an hour conversing in each of their native languages. This is a perfect way to improve your language skills and expand your social circle if you find yourself in a new city. Find a partner in your area on Craigslist, University message boards or Meetup. If a one-on-one exchange sounds like too much pressure there are also language conversation groups that meet regularly for a drink and a chat. Speaking with other language learners from around the world in English can feel less daunting than diving into the deep end with native speakers, but take care not to gravitate toward learners from your own country of origin since you may end up reinforcing common errors and mispronunciations, or even slipping back into your native language. If you live in a large city, you will likely be able to find an English conversation group online. If not, check Craigslist, dedicated forums and online communities for partners further afield and connect via Skype or other video platforms.
5. Read, but choose your books wisely
Reading books in your target language is a great method for improving your English vocabulary and writing skills. However, it’s not easy to immerse yourself in a book if you find yourself stopping to look up unfamiliar words every 10 seconds. Learners with a lower level of English should look for English-language books they have already read in translation, or English translations of books in their own native language. You may be surprised by how much new vocabulary you pick up from context and a knowledge of the plot, without having to look up words! Alternatively, the Kindle allows readers to highlight words they do not understand and brings up a dictionary definition. The definition will be in English, so this is more useful for intermediate and advanced learners struggling with harder vocab.