So many of our students want to learn English fast. Some students are so busy that they only have a few minutes a day to study English. While other students need to improve their English skills in just a few weeks before an important deadline. Here are some practical tips to give your very beginner students who want to learn English as quickly as possible.
Before you begin (or go back to) studying English, ask yourself one question. Why do you want to learn English? Is it because you want to, or because someone else wants you to? Like every decision in life, studying English must be something you want to do. If you know why you want to study, setting goals is easy. For example, maybe you want to travel to an English-speaking country. Your goal might be to learn “Survival English”. Perhaps you already know many useful phrases, but you want to improve your listening skills and pronunciation. Whatever your goals are, write them down. Make an agenda: How long do you need to study to achieve your goals? This answer is different for every student. The important thing is to be realistic. If you work 60 hours per week, don’t plan on spending another 40 hours a week studying English. Start off slow, but study regularly. Use material that is challenging, but not too difficult. Find out what works for you. After you have studied for a few weeks, adjust your study schedule accordingly. Do you study best at night, or on the bus on your way to work? Do you like to study alone in a quiet place, or with friends and background music? Learning English requires a lot of motivation. Nobody is going to take your attendance when you aren’t in class. If you are sure you are ready to begin studying, make a commitment. The things we do best in life are the things we enjoy doing. If you aren’t having fun learning English, you’re not studying the right way! You can be a serious student who has fun at the same time. Make up your own rewards program to give yourself incentives to stay on task.
1. Take a deep breath and SPEAK!
The more you think about speaking, the more nervous you will get. Just try speaking more. Next time you go to English class or speak English, count how many times you speak in five or ten minutes. After that, try to speak more. If you spoke one time today, next English class, try to speak two or three times. The more you speak the more you will learn how to communicate properly.
2. Don’t apologize for not knowing everything or “Not speaking English!”
You are learning English… You are trying, right? That’s what’s important. You don’t say “I don’t know how to cook that.” and stop cooking new things or “I don’t now how to use a computer.” and stop using new computer apps and programs. You just keep doing your best and you learn more and more as time goes on. Please don’t say ‘I DON’T speak English’. Instead you could say:
• “I am learning English. Could you speak a little slower?”
• “I’m sorry, I didn’t understand.”
• “Could you repeat that?”
• “So, you’re saying that…. [rephrase what you heard]”.
• “What does _________ mean?”
3. Stop translating everything word for word to your language.
Translating everything to your native language is a big NO NO when learning English! If you are doing it, STOP right now! Translating everything is slowing down your progress. If you hear something in English and instantly try to translate it to your native language; you will not be focusing on learning English, but rather translating. When you hear people speaking in English:
• Listen for words you DO understand
• Use contextual clues… so, if you hear, “There is a big rhinoceros.” If you don’t know what ‘rhinoceros’ means but you see a big animal in a picture, or someone is pointing at something. Use those clues to figure out what it means.
4. Train your ears to understand.
You need to focus and listen. Train you ears to listen for words they (YOU) know in English. Listen for patterns. Don’t focus on grammar or single words. Focus on the phrases. Listen to English movies, music, and TV. Listen to the way things are phrased or ordered. If you train your ears, you will automatically start to understand more when people speak English. Training your ears to listen to English, will help focus on the big picture; understanding English. You cannot become fluent if you are focusing on words, one at a time. It would take you forever to learn English.
5. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
Fear can stop you from learning English.
• Do you go to English class and think that everyone is going to make fun of you or laugh at you if you try to speak English?
• Do know all the grammar rules but struggle to have a conversation in English?
• Do you avoid speaking with native English speakers and other people that speak English better than you?
Stop being so afraid to speak English! You need to let go and relax. You need to stop thinking of the ‘What if’s…?’. Instead focus on doing and your actions. No one is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. The more you do something the better you get at it. To be a better English speaker and understand more English you need to stop being afraid of making mistakes.
6. Keep Trying. Don’t Give Up.
Professional athletes practice a lot. They weren’t born professional athletes. A ton of hard work and hours went into being so good at what they do. They could never be a professional soccer or baseball player without trying. If a professional athlete stopped practicing today, their skills would get worse. They would start making mistakes. The more you practice speaking English, reading English, listening to English, and writing in English the better you will get. You won’t be able to speak English fluently tomorrow or even next month. Over time if you put in the effort, you will be more comfortable and know a lot more English.
7. Keep a small notebook… write down important phrases.
Write down entire phrases that you hear. You could write it down because you think you will use it, you learned something new, or you didn’t understand. When you look back at the notebook later you will have the whole phrase; instead of one word in isolate (alone, with no example). By writing down the entire phrase you mind remember is like that. Next time you need it, the whole phrase will come out, instead of just one word.
8. Stop Negative Self-Talk
Do you find yourself saying or thinking negative things about learning English? Such as,
• “You will never learn English.”
• “Why do I always make mistakes? I am so stupid.”
• “I never know what to say. English is so hard.”
If you do say these things to yourself, then you do have negative self-talk about learning English.
How do you fix negative self-talk?
• Recognize you are being negative.
• Rephrase or change your statement. State the negative in a different manner
Negative Self-Talk: “I will never learn English”.
Positive Self-Talk: “English is difficult but I am going to keep trying. I am sure I will get it soon.”
Being positive will help you learn English quicker.
9. Set goals- Know why you are learning English.
What do you want to accomplish? Do you want to speak English fluently? Do you want to get a job speaking English? Are you going to travel to the United States? Do you need to know English for University? Do you want to learn English because all of your friends speak English? Think about why you are learning English and set some goals.
• How long will you study English?
• How will you study or learn English?
• What specifically will you do to learn English?
• How will you know when you meet your goal?
• What will happen when you meet your goal?
10. Try something new
Have been trying to learn English the same way for the last year? Three years? Seven years or more? Try something new! Change is good for you. It will help you grow.
• Try listening to English podcast.
• Take an online English class.
• Listen to music in English.
• Watch TV or news in English.
• Watch YouTube English Lessons
• Take a class from a different teacher.
• Do a language exchange online or in your city
• Find an English speaking friend (native or not)