More tips for improving your English skills on your own
Early January, I shared with you my top tips for improving your language skills at home. This post is focusing on how to work on and memorise vocabulary better and master your English grammar. Finally, at the end of the article, you will find your “English prescription” to help fix your English followed by my top most essential secret ingredients for improving your English dramatically. So, are you ready?
Write down any new vocabulary. NEVER BE LAZY. Never say “Ugh, I’ll look up the translation later. It’s okaaaay…” NO! Go on WordReference NOW and find out the meaning and its translation to your first language: http://www.wordreference.com/ The app is available too. If you postpone that essential step, you will never learn new vocabulary. When you need to translate a word (not a sentence), say goodbye to good old Google Translate: WordReference MUST become your default bilingual dictionary. You will also find the pronunciation of the words in worldly accents said at two different rates, entries from Collins as well as an English dictionary, synonyms and collocations.
Keep a vocabulary notebook – a paper one or a digital one on your phone, both work – and review it often, particularly before going to bed or in the morning. Find the moment where you learn best. Personally, I know I memorise a lot easier when I am relaxed – lying in my bed before sleeping or while having breakfast.
In addition, when you write new vocabulary down, don’t write the new word only, but put it in a sentence. For example, you want to memorise the word “touristy”. Write it in the sentence; for instance, “Cape Town is a touristy city”, so that next time you want to say “touristy” but can’t remember the word, you will think of Cape Town and then “touristy” will come to your mind.
Use apps to practise vocabulary. Cram is a good one. You input your own vocabulary list and learn it by revising flashcards: http://www.cram.com/flashcards/apps
I find Memrise excellent as you practise vocabulary through tests and quizzes: http://www.memrise.com They have an app but the website has more options as you can create your own course, which means adding your own vocabulary words with their translation. Try to keep up with the streak by doing one lesson every day. Each lesson takes about 5 minutes but you can do as many as you want. The hardest part is to keep it up every day!
Sign up to the Word of the Day by WordReference: https://daily.wordreference.com/ and receive a new word in your mailbox every day!
You know what they say, practice makes perfect. Practise regularly in your own time or with friends at a café or in a park. Try and make it fun and enjoyable, you might even love doing grammar exercises!
The links below will provide you with hundreds of online grammar quizzes with the answer key and an explanation at the end. Just choose the language focus you want to work on (prepositions, tenses, articles, superlatives, etc.)
Here are my selection of sites:
EngVid: https://www.engvid.com/ (my favourite teacher is James from Canada)
Perfect English Grammar: https://www.perfect-english-grammar.com/ (very clear lessons and exercises)
LearnEnglish: https://www.learnenglish.de/ (grammar, vocabulary and more)
British Council English Grammar: https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/en/english-grammar
English One Facebook Page weekly videos: https://www.facebook.com/englishonecapetown/
The magic ingredients to really improve
Finally, my final tip which is probably the most important one. Depending on what your goal is, make sure you have a study plan and set daily goals accordingly. Remember that how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives and that what you achieve today builds your tomorrow. This is why it is better to practise 15 minutes a day then 2 hours a week.
So here is an example of daily goals you can set to yourself:
1 video/1 song (3 min)
1 article (10 min)
5 minutes of free speaking/recording (5 min)
5-10 lines of writing (7 min)
Learn 5 new words and review the old ones (5 min)
= 30 minutes a day!
Setting daily goals will give you motivation as they are more easily achievable than your long-term goal of “improving my English” or “reaching a B2 level”. Besides, I’ve heard people say: “Speaking English is my dream”. That’s beautiful; but do you have a plan to reach your objective? On that note, it feels almost inevitable to quote Denzel Washington from his famous speech Don’t Be Afraid to Fail Big, Dream Big:
“Dreams without goals are just dreams. So have dreams and have goals; life goals, yearly goals, monthly goals, daily goals. Understand that to achieve these goals, you must apply discipline and consistency. You have to work at it every day. You have to plan every day. You’ve heard the saying “We don’t plan to fail, we fail to plan”. Hard work WORKS.”
Giving yourself a set of achievable goals and reaching them daily will keep you motivated and make you feel happy and proud of yourself. And if you can reach your daily goals, imagine what you can achieve in a month or in a year! So, go get it! 😊