“What’s the best way to learn a language?”
Many students and teachers have asked this question, and the answers are as different as the people asking the question. Here I will give you several tips for learning English. They are based on my own experience in learning languages. These tips helped me when I learned a foreign language, and I hope that they will help you as you work on improving your English.
- Want to learn.First of all, you must want to learn. If you are not interested in learning English, no class will help you, no book will help you, and no hints will make it easier. If you are not interested, you will find reasons to avoid studying, and whenever you do study, it will be very difficult. So you have to be honest with yourself. Ask yourself, “Do I really want to learn English?” If you can’t answer “yes” to this question, it is better for you to set English aside until you’re ready and willing to learn.
- Identify your motivation.Next, you need to identify your motivation. Ask yourself, “Why do I want to learn English? Why do I want to improve my English?” Some people want to learn English to get a better job, or to be considered for a promotion. Other people may need to learn English to attend university or school. Still other people may want to learn English so they can enjoy life in America more, by being able to understand movies and TV, and make friends with their American neighbors. Each person is different, so their motivations will be different also. If you have identified your motivation, it will be easier for you to learn English, because it will help to encourage you as you learn English.
- Set goals.Once you have identified your motivation, you can set some goals for learning English. Having goals will help you to remember what areas you want to work on, and it will help you to see your progress.
Ask yourself, “What are my goals? What areas would I like to improve?” Pronunciation? Listening comprehension? Would you like to increase your vocabulary? Do you want to know what to say when you go to the bank, the doctor, shopping? Think about what your goals are, and review once in a while to see that you are making progress toward your goals.
- Practice, practice, practice.After you have set your goals, you have a better idea of what you need to practice. Just like the athlete whose goal is the Olympics must train daily, you as a language learner must practice language every day to make progress toward your goal. We say, “Practice makes perfect.” This means the more you practice something, the better you become at it, and the fewer mistakes you will make.
Specific ways to practice:
- Speak to Americans as much as possible.
- Write, write, write – letters, email, notes, etc.
- Make phone calls to practice your English
- Expose yourself to English as much as possible.The more you expose yourself to English, the more you get used to it and the more familiar it becomes to you. You will start to recognize what sounds right and what sounds wrong. You will also start to understand why certain words or phrases are used instead of others, and you will start to use them in your own conversations and writing. English will start to become a habit, and little by little you will find it easier to use English.
Specific ways to increase exposure to English:
- Watch TV and movies.
- Listen to the radio.
- Read as much as possible.
- Enlarge your vocabulary.Having a large vocabulary is basic to learning any language, and it is especially true in English. Reading is a very good way to learn new words. So is doing puzzles or playing different kinds of word games.
- Have fun.Having fun increases your ability to remember, so the more you enjoy yourself as you learn English, the easier it will be to remember. Play games and puzzles. Even simple ones, like ones written for children, provide good experience and practice for English. Comic books and newspaper comic strips are also a good way to have fun, and the pictures make it easier to understand than stories.
- Cultivate friendships with Americans.If you make friends with some Americans, you will find that they can be a very valuable help in your learning English. Having American friends means that you will find yourself in situations where you have no choice but to speak English. Yet since they are your friends, you will be doing things you enjoy together with them. So these situations will probably have little or no stress. Friendships with Americans also means that you’ll have someone whom you can ask questions regarding language, culture, the suburbs, and so on.
- Make regular study a habit.Regular study is a key to success in learning a language. It is easier to study a little each day instead of trying to study several hours only one day a week. Also, studying a little each day makes it easier to review what you’ve learned and remember new things.
- Acknowledge the progress you’ve made.
Finally, it is important to recognize that you will improve as you study English. Sometimes when you set your goals, they seem very difficult. Progress comes little by little, so it’s hard to see if you have grown in your language skills. Think about where you are at today, and where you were last week or last month. Maybe it doesn’t seem like you have come very far. But if you stop and think about where you were six months ago, or even a year ago, then you see that you have made progress. You have improved your English, and that is a reason to celebrate your accomplishment. It gives you hope that as you continue to study and work hard at improving your English, you will reach your goal sooner or later!