Tips for improving your English skills on your own
Are you studying English now or have studied English before and wish to carry on practising at home and keep up with your English on your own for free? If yes, then these tips are for you!
Whether you are currently studying English in an English-speaking country, busy doing your degree in varsity or working in your country, you will need to set aside some time to practise English every day. The good news is: you don’t necessarily have to spend 5 hours a day. Only 30 minutes suffice as long as you keep it up EVERY DAY.
So, here are my tips and favourite websites and apps to help you improve the four language skills: listening, speaking, reading and writing.
For your listening
- Watch TV series and movies with English subtitles to work on vocabulary and pronunciation and without subtitles to work on your listening.
If you don’t have English subtitles, find the script (all the dialogues) on Springfield! Springfield! http://www.springfieldspringfield.co.uk/ (You can watch the movie on your laptop and have the script open on your phone. That way, if you didn’t quite catch what the characters said, you can quickly glance at the script and go back to the movie.)
- Watch at least 1 video a day on English Central to practise your listening, but also vocabulary, spelling and pronunciation: http://englishcentral.com/ (Website and app)
- Watch TED videos to listen to great inspiring talks: https://www.ted.com/ (Website and app)
- Listen to English music, read the lyrics and sing along! Lyrics Training is great to learn English with music: https://lyricstraining.com/?nr=1 (Website and app)
- Other great websites to practise your listening:
ESL Lab for everyday-life conversations in American English: http://www.esl-lab.com/
ESL videos to improve your grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation with videos and songs: http://www.eslvideo.com/index.php
IDEA to listen to worldwide English accents and dialects: http://dialectsarchive.com/
Howjsay to find out how a word is pronounced: http://www.howjsay.com/
For your reading
Drop everything and read
- Download Medium on your phone to read stories and ideas about any topic you are interested in: https://medium.com/ (Website and app)
- Visit Breaking News English to read news stories written in different levels of difficulty: https://breakingnewsenglish.com/
- You can practise your reading speed through this amazing tool on the same website: https://breakingnewsenglish.com/speed_reading.html
- Keep up with the news by reading articles from the English and American press:
Two great websites to practise reading + listening
- VOA Learning English: https://learningenglish.voanews.com/
- NPR All things considered: http://www.npr.org/programs/all-things-considered/
And of course read books, books, books, books!!
For your writing
Keep a diary or a little notebook where you write down any thought that springs to your mind. Write about your day, your last holiday, your feelings… Plus, writing heals. Whenever you feel sad or melancholy, write! Putting words on your feelings will help you feel better. Each problem has a solution – and all too often we don’t know the solution because we didn’t name the problem. ? By writing in a paper notebook, you will also improve your handwriting.
Another idea for some daily writing is to keep a “Grateful for journal”. Every day, write down what you are grateful for. For example: “Today I am grateful for Bob who invited me for lunch today.” It will also make you focus on what you have and on all the good little things in life that we tend to forget in our busy daily life (someone helping you out at work, a friend calling you, a stranger helping you carry something heavy, etc.).
A student of ours used to take a picture a day and write a caption or comment related to the picture. This way, she would practise her writing skills while doing what she loves – here being taking photos.
For your speaking
Speak every day for 5 minutes alone and if possible, record yourself to keep track of your progress. Talk about your country, your family, your past, present, future, your best friend, your day, your cat, your projects, a memory, something you saw, heard, read… ANYTHING, as long as you can speak for at least 2-5 minutes ? This will improve your FLUENCY: getting the words and sentences that are in your mind out loud: from thoughts to vocalized words.
Speak as much English as you can, whenever you can. Being in an English-speaking country is the easiest way to practise your speaking as wherever you go you can find someone to speak English to (which is no longer the case when you go back to your country). That’s the reason why at English One we insist A LOT that you speak English AT ALL TIMES. The majority of students don’t realise that until they leave our school. So here is a word of advice for those of you studying with us at the moment: your stay in South Africa isn’t forever and one day you will go back home and won’t have that golden opportunity of speaking English with anyone you meet any longer. Therefore, you must make the most of your stay. It’s never too late to start speaking English non stop!