If you did not already know, I’m not just a writer, but also a certified ESL teacher (I completed my Certificate in English Language Teaching for Adults via the University of Cambridge’s program at the International Training Institute in Istanbul, Turkey).
There are a million websites, apps, and books which offer tips on accelerating your language learning, but here are a few ideas you may not find anywhere else!
These tips were previously posted on my old “Mad English Lab” blog, but I wanted to share them here, too. Some of these ideas are not directly related to studying English, but instead they help prepare your mind to be more receptive to learning…
Writing in a journal, every day
Write at least 500 words each day, and make sure to include some words you have to look up in a dictionary. No, this isn’t some groundbreaking new idea, but it is so important to increasing your English skills that I want to include it in my list.
Here’s a quick link to help you begin your journal!
No, really! You don’t have to sit in a yoga pose, but have a coffee or tea and just sit and do nothing.
Let your mind wander and be calm… It will help you not relax, to get your thoughts in order, and to allow your mind to be more receptive to study. You can’t study when you are stressed or distracted.
Easy one, right? We all walk every day. So go put on your walking shoes and get outside, go for a long walk and get some exercise…and some mental clarity!
Walking is great for thinking…just make sure to make a note of any great ideas you come up with. You can type them into your phone notepad.
Listen to music
Make a playlist of songs which inspire you to be creative. Of course, try to include as many English songs as possible! This will give you a double impact of not only stirring up your creative juices, but also getting in some listening practice…
Sing along with music
If you can, it is even better to not just listen to songs, but sing along. Find English songs which you can read the lyrics to, in an app or on a video… Just find a way to read the lyrics as you listen, and then try to sing along (when nobody is looking…unless you have a better voice than I do!).
In my opinion, this is one of the very best exercises you can do to improve your English. You get exposed to a lot of expressions, and some non-standard patterns of speech. Songs also help you memorize vocabulary, without even trying…
Lists are easy and fun to write, and they make you think! Write a list in English of what you would do if you could do ANYTHING you wanted!
That’s just one idea, but I have found that it is best to do lists that get you engaged, and the best way to be engaged is to write about yourself, your likes and dislikes, your dreams, goals, and plans…
Think about your bad study habits
We all have bad habits, but sometimes we don’t think about them. If you want to break them, you need to clearly define your bad study habits.
Do you like to procrastinate when you should be studying? Or do you like to study English but only by watching TV, and not reading books or writing? That’s a bad habit; you have to include reading and writing as part of your study plan. Find your weak areas; find your bad habits and change them!
Do something you always wanted to do!
Part of the concept of this list is to get your motivated for success. Going out and doing something you’ve always wanted, but have never done is one way to prove to yourself that you have the ability to obtain your goals.
If you can do one thing, you can do another. So if you always wanted to learn to swim, for example, then go to the pool and hop in with a qualified instructor who can help you learn the basics. It doesn’t take long. And if you can do that, you can learn English, too!
Read a non-fiction English book
Time to go to the book store or library! If you want to learn a language, reading helps a great deal! I highly recommend reading fiction, because it includes lots of dialogue. But if you only read fiction, your academic English will suffer. So if you MUST read a non-fiction book, why not learn something useful while reading it? That’s why I suggest reading something about self-improvement. Invest in yourself! Try books on personal leadership, business, marketing, technology…any subject that you can learn and grow from.
Visit a museum
Reading non-fiction books is very useful, but I like to get out and DO stuff, too. So why not try a local museum, or if you have to go out of town, take a little road trip! It doesn’t matter what kind of museum, and it doesn’t even matter if it is English or not. Just getting out and learning new things helps the mind grow. See an art exhibit, visit a history museum, go to a planetarium…anything where you can see something new and feel inspired!
Ask everyone a question
I truly believe that asking people questions is a fantastic way to learn. You should not only ask people who are successful, but also people who might not be considered “successful,” because we can learn something from everyone we meet. Even if the thing that the person tells you sounds ridiculous, you can at least learn not to ask that person any more questions! But most likely, you can discover a new way of looking at a problem, or thinking about a situation. You’ll never know–until you ask.
Hang out with the most successful people you know…and with those who are not “successful”
If you have time, don’t just ask questions to people, but try to spend quality time with new people, especially people who are well-connected, who own a business or know “everyone in town.” These are people you can learn from, and who can help to mentor you and possibly introduce you to a larger social circle. That doesn’t mean you should only focus on climbing the social ladder; I personally care nothing about social status. But it never hurts to have friends in high places.
That said, I believe everyone should spend quality time with average folks, with regular 9-to-5 working class people. If we weren’t born with a silver spoon in our mouths, then we should never forget our blue collar roots. If we were born in a wealthy family (I wasn’t!!), then we should try and get in touch with the working class heroes who are doing most of the labor to run the world.
Every person is important and valuable. Every person has something different to teach us.
That is why we must make a habit of spending time with a wide range of persons, and not just those friends we already know within our own social networks.
Lots of people say they love to “people watch.” But I don’t just mean sitting on a bench and silently judging everyone who passes by. I only mean, make it a (non-creepy) habit of observing the actions and behaviors of those around you. They always say, “lead by example”…but what if you are surrounded by people who are leading by example, but you’ve got your head stuck in your smartphone? Look up, look around, and observe your peers. You never know what you’ll see!
Travel and learn about new cultures
Of course, we are here at Mad English Lab to focus on learning and improving our English skills. But we respect and try to understand other, non-English-speaking cultures. The best way to do this, if possible, is to travel the world and live among the locals, not as a tourist but as someone who wants to learn and get embedded into the culture. Don’t be shy.
If you have a chance to travel, do it…and when you are in that new place, get out of your room and interact with people as much as possible. You don’t want to go home and have no stories to tell!
That’s probably enough ideas for learning English faster…but don’t worry, once you practice all of these and start to incorporate them into your life, we will give you another post full of suggestions!
Realize that your thoughts might begin to change…but others around you won’t be changing.
Don’t try to lecture your friends about all your new ideas and habits, etc. They probably won’t be interested, or might even resent you a little. Maybe not, and I don’t mean to keep everything inside. It is important to learn and then share what we learn. But the main thing is, just try not to annoy your friends.
Understand, as you grow and change, you may need to eventually make a new set of friends…that’s normal and healthy. People change…some for the better, some for the worse. But most folks don’t stay static forever.