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8 Tips to improve your English learning skills

english communication

English, being the universal language for communication today, has gathered lots of attention and gained significant importance; the kind of attention and importance it did not have centuries ago. Though a young language, the entire world functions on it. Without it, it’s impossible to do anything across borders. In order to function in today’s globalised world, it is essential to be bilingual and be able to speak eloquently in the English language; to communicate your ideas and thoughts effectively and convincingly to others.

Many of us struggle to master a language because it takes a lot to improve—mentally and physically. There are many nuances to a language and in order to get better, it requires a lot of hard work, time, dedication and, most importantly, persistence. One can easily get frustrated because performing well in a language is not an easy job at all, and seeing yourself improve is the challenging part of the learning process. 

Learning a language is also much easier when at a younger age as compared to adulthood due to the declarative and procedural memory system. Improving a language requires one to be persistent; and the curiosity to learn more and more should never extinguish. The traditional understanding of what it takes to improve a language is reading a dictionary and grammar rule books. The fact is that, learning a language is indeed fun and in order to create such an environment for yourself, you need to be patient, don’t be too hard on yourself and don’t make a mountain out of a molehill; take it easy and travel in your own pace. 

So, here are 8 tips for improving the English language!

#1: Listen to the language

The best way to learn a language and improve your skills is by listening to it more often. So, in order to keep listening to the language, you need to cultivate the habit of watching movies, documentaries and news channels. This may seem like an odd piece of advice but it works magic. Watching movies and documentaries does not mean that you can lounge back and watch them leisurely. This is part of your learning process, whereby you have to pay careful attention to the way people conversate or the way information is being constructively expressed.

You will certainly learn how to speak eloquently by watching the news channel if you choose to observe the way the newsreaders pronounce words. Beyond listening, you have to try pronouncing vocabulary words that seem difficult to pronounce and you could even try giving a small presentation or speech. Watching documentaries and movies will be of great entertainment, an excellent platform to gain knowledge as well as to increase the vocabulary bank in your brain and help you develop your critical thinking skills.

#2: Converse with others

converse with others

Holding a conversation with someone in English fluently can be a little challenging, to begin with. This comes with practice and its important to not feel shy or embarrassed. The skill to listen carefully to someone’s words and think of an appropriate answer, and to respond well would take lots of attempts and one must have the patience to reach that goal. Remember that an expert was once a beginner and it takes lots of time and many shameless attempts to get better at something. 

As you speak to someone, observe the way they construct sentences, the way they punctuate and express. Soon enough, as you become more familiar and comfortable, you will find your groove and style of speaking. The key is to practice, to never feel embarrassed or fear failure.

#3: Keep reading

reading

Dr. Kamal Hassan once said in his interview for Mega Icons that “The ascent of a man is because of his curiosity and if you stop learning, you’re standing at one place.”. His words resonate in every other success stories of people who have worked hard to achieve the kind of success they are hailed for today. By reading, it opens numerous unlocked doors in your mind and it widens your horizons. 

In order to improve your language skills in the form of writing, you need to pay attention to how authors and journalists structure their sentences and construct their arguments. As you cultivate the habit of reading books, it will become a kind of healthy addiction whereby you will find yourself in a loop of reading and wanting to read more. 

If you fear to jump into reading novels, you can start off by reading simple news articles written by journalists on CNN, BBC, RT. Keep in mind to read alternative sources instead of just reading one particular source because it can be biased and one-sided opinion laden. When reading a piece of article, never look at anything superficially and always cross-refer to other sources.

As you progress further, you can read more complex articles like that of The Economist, as the language is handled at a very professional level and worldly issues are very well criticised by talented journalists. If you are a fan of watching movies, you can even read movie reviews written by international critics who are very well-versed and highly opinionated with their language. 

#4: Express yourself in writing

writing

Even if you have read lots of books and articles, it is of no use if you do not know how to express yourself well. Expressing your knowledge and presenting it is what’s useful for others around you. Reading great authors’ (ex. Anita Desai and George Orwell) books will make you realise that great writing does not come from rich and ornate prose, but rather it comes from the succinct story-telling, the fine details and the incredible choice of words. Hence, your writing does not need to be colourful with a thousand new vocabulary words; instead, you should be able to articulate your thoughts and opinions with clarity and succinctly. 

#5: Compel yourself to travel

Compelling yourself or creating a situation for yourself whereby you have to speak in the language will help you to develop your language skills to a great extent. The experience will be unforgettable and what you learn on that trip will be deeply embedded in you and hence you will never forget what you have learnt. Remember that does not kill you, makes you stronger; so, venture out and be curious. 

#6: Have confidence

Power, money and the complexion of one’s skin are “superiority” factors in the larger political scheme that have caused feelings of insecurity and inferiority among non-English speaking individuals when they attempt to speak in English. Having a restricted mindset and the fear of getting things ‘wrong’ will never help you in any way. Be confident enough to make mistakes and learn. An expert was once a beginner after all. 

#7: Persevere

Nothing comes easy and nobody owes you your success. You need to keep yourself motivated throughout the journey and never give up. This quality of determination and persistence is essential to keep you going. Never quite from what you have set out for because you will make your way to the other end of the rainbow; it’s just a matter of time. 

#8: Enjoy the process

If you enjoy what you do and if your heart is in it, you will achieve success and there is no doubt about it. You have to genuine with your efforts and you have to enjoy the journey. You only live once so never take anything to be a burden or a make-or-break challenge. Find reasons to stay motivated and remind yourself of the purpose behind the efforts you take!

Bottom line

You are well equipped with all the resources you need to succeed and there is nothing to complain about. Utilise the resources you have to get better at what you have set out for.

Written by Steffen Carter for EnglishClub October 2019
Steffen Carter is a professional English tutor associated with ChampionTutor– a home tuition agency in Singapore. He is dedicated to assisting and motivating struggling learners.

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