How To Learn English Effectively
Last Updated on February 22, 2022 by Estrella
If you are reading this article, you are probably looking for ways to improve your English. Whether you are hoping to communicate more efficiently in your job or simply to increase your English fluency for everyday conversation, this article will offer some ideas on how to learn English effectively.
Learning English effectively
Your experience with learning English
Start by thinking about how you first learned English as a foreign language. Was it in school? And was the English class a requirement? What method did the teacher use? Memorizing? Dictation? Spelling tests? Grammar exercises?
Most importantly, how did you feel about your learning? Did you enjoy learning English? Were you able to use it with English-speaking friends? Did you feel you have to study so you can pass the course and move on to the next level in school? Was it a chore because you needed to pass a TOEFL exam?
Whatever your perception and feeling response was when you were learning English, there is a possibility you may approach your English study today with a similar emotional response. Enjoyment or requirement.
Why am I spending so much time on this factor?
It will make a big difference in how you progress in your English learning.
Why students remember what they learn
Once I attended a language workshop taught by a French teacher. She teaches beginning French to elementary school students. She said in most foreign language classes, after summer vacation, students FORGET about 80% of what they learned the previous year. Maybe more.
However, when her students take a test after summer vacation, they REMEMBER 80% of what they learned the previous year. Maybe more.
I wanted to improve my teaching skills, so I asked to observe her class. Her students did not sit in chairs. They were invited to sit on the floor. Then she took out a deck of cards, spread them out on the floor, and asked the students to say the name of each card in French.
Every student participated. And they did well! It was not a formal quiz, but it gave the teacher an idea of how much the students know, and how confident they feel about the material.
Secrets to language learning success
Her students were smiling, and behaved as if they playing. That’s her secret! Students did not feel like they were “studying seriously” to pass a test. They were having fun! They enjoyed the activities in class. And they were eager to learn more. Why? Because it was fun to learn the language. The games were enjoyable.
Can you think of a time when you were learning something and feeling relaxed at the same time? Maybe you were learning to bake cookies by watching a video. Or reading about a subject you are interested in? You probably still remember what you learned. The reason? Well, 2 of them, at least. You were in a relaxed state, and you enjoyed what you were doing.
How to find enjoyment in your language learning
But what if you feel you HAVE to learn English? How do you find enjoyment then?
How about starting with the subjects you are interested in? For example, if you like to travel, watch episodes of a travel show that comes with transcripts. You’ll be listening to a topic you like in English, while reading the words of the narrator. Now you are connecting your interest with something you feel you have to do. And because you enjoy travelling, watching this video is relaxing for you.
A relaxed state and effective learning
In this atmosphere of enjoyment and feeling relaxed, you are wide open to learning. You can absorb FAR more in this state of mind.
Remember the night before an exam, and you were studying until midnight to memorize some facts? Do you still remember those facts? I am guessing not. Why? You were most likely not in a relaxed state, and it was not all that enjoyable cramming all that information into your brain in such a short time.
How to apply the principle of effective learning
So, applying this principle–feeling relaxed and enjoying the topic, you can master any area of English. Choose topics that you are interested in, and use the same material to improve listening, reading, writing, prepositions, etc.
We’ll use the same example with the travel videos. Let’s say you’ve found an episode you really enjoy. The first time you watch it, just enjoy it. Don’t study it for English. Just enjoy the beauty of this place you would like to see for yourself someday. Then, the second time you watch it, read the transcript at the same time you listen to the narrator. If you are learning pronunciation, then just listen to how the narrator pronounces the words. (By the way, you can use just one paragraph again and again. You don’t need to watch the entire video again.)
Let’s say you want to learn American accent. Then go back to the same paragraph and listen for the inflection, pauses, emphasis on certain syllables, etc. If you feel like it, follow the narrator in your mind (or out loud) so you can absorb the natural rhythm.
If you are learning prepositions, go back to the same paragraph and pick out all the prepositions. Observe how they are used in context. This is probably a better way to master prepositions. By observing how native speakers use them.
You get the idea. Pick a subject you are interested in. Use the same material for different aspects of English you want to improve.
You can use this to improve your English writing
What about writing? Can you use the same material to improve your writing? Yes! Pick a paragraph you like to imitate, then substitute the nouns and verbs. It’s all right if the meaning is not completely suitable, you are just practicing the use of natural patterns.
Reviewing what you learn
Do I need to memorize what I learn? I find that reviewing frequently is more productive. Let’s say you learn several new words from watching that travel video. You’ve observed how the word is used in a sentence. You understand the context. Copy that sentence with the new vocabulary. Tomorrow, look at that sentence. And again the day after that. Do this daily until you feel this word is no longer new to you. You know how to use it now. If you find yourself using this word in a conversation, you know you got it!
What about spoken English fluency?
One more tip. If your goal is to improve your spoken English in daily conversation, do not think about the language. Do not mentally translate from your language to English. This slows you down and affects the flow of the conversation. If your goal is fluency, then aim to express your thoughts in a way that’s easily understood by your listener. Give yourself permission to NOT speak perfect English or have perfect grammar at this moment so you can practice the skill of expressing your thoughts without translation. Your listeners want to know what you think. THAT’s the goal.
There you have it. An effective way of learning English. You will naturally learn more when you are relaxed. And you will naturally be more open to learning if it is a topic you enjoy.
Experiment with it, and let me know the results. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you find this article helpful, here is one on Advanced techniques to fine-tune your spoken English.
Estrella Chan coaches immigrants and international professionals in English fluency, interview skills, and public speaking. To schedule a session with her, please email email@example.com