Ten English Learning Commandments

I have been teaching English as a Foreign/Second Language for over three years now in such exotic places as Poland and Alaska. Students are always asking me how they can improve their English without spending hours memorising lists of vocabulary (only to be forgotten 20 minutes later) or ploughing through tedious and dry grammar exercises. After years of being asked this I have finally decided to compile a list of the top ten things a language student can do (without wasting an eternity in boredom) in improve their abilities. As a learner of French myself these tips have proven invaluable. So if you are an English student, or a learner of any language, here you are:

1) Set yourself small and achievable goals
These can be based on all aspects of English from speaking to writing. Your target could be to learn 5 new words a day OR learn vocabulary on the topic of travel for that holiday to England you always dreamed of. By keeping the goals small you will stay motivated and not feel overwhelmed!

2) Do 5-10 minutes of listening 4 times a week
Listen to your favourite English song (pronounce along if you like) or survey a bit of an English film, listen to the radio or utilize Internet listening resources such as those on the BBC website. Don’t always have a pen in your hand, sometimes it helps to just listen-this is after all the first thing babies do when learning to speak!

3) Talk to yourself in English
No, this doesn’t mean you are crazy! When alone in your house talk to yourself about anything and everything. This will help to improve your pronunciation and become familiar with your own voice in English.

4) Picture your own voice
I know this can be embarrassing but I promise it is useful. By re-playing the recoding a few days later you will hear where your pronunciation weak points are and so be able to practice and improve these areas.

5) Read something everyday for 5-10 minutes
Make obvious it is at the appropriate level and most importantly that it interests you-if it is too difficult or unprejudiced plain boring you won’t learn anything. When you have finished quickly summarize (writing or speaking) using – who, when, where, what and how – as prompts.

6) Hold a personal dictionary of new words
When reading or listening write down any unusual words in your personal dictionary. Write down what part of speech they are, and invent a sample sentence with them. Spend a few minutes before be each night reviewing this.

7) Keep a diary or journal
This doesn’t have to be a long and in-depth thing, just employ about 10 minutes 3 times a week writing this. Don’t always pay attention to grammar, learn to enjoy writing. Improvement comes with practice.

8) Re-write your local news in English
If you don’t want the personal approach of a diary then try re-writing the news in English. Remember to do it for a short time often! Sort, regular, intense session are more beneficial than long and irregular ones.

9) Always use an English-English dictionary
DO NOT us a ‘your language’-English dictionary! It is a bad habit to always rely on translation. Imagine the satisfaction you will feel when you translate something with your own brain!

10) Treat Yourself
Perhaps the most important rule! Always reward yourself when you carry out one of the targets you area. The reward can be in the form of good food, or a new toy to play with, even a nice weekend away with a loved one. Whatever makes you happy! Rewards will sustain you motivated!


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