Five Ways to Improve your English Fast!

2010 December 4
by Jane

Active Listening

If you want to improve your English skills fast, you need to always be open to listening to English. It is great to take a class or sit home at night and study your textbook but there are opportunities all day, every day for you to learn English if you practice active listening.

What is Active Listening?

Remember the difference between “hear and “listen”? Hearing is passive, sounds and words flow in and out of your ears and sometimes you pay attention and sometimes you don’t. But, listening is an action – you are paying attention to the sounds and words that you hear.

How do I do it?

New York City is full of opportunities for active listening for students of English – the bus, the subway, Starbucks, delis, the park, standing on line at the movie theater, even just walking down the street – you will be able to listen to many, many different conversations IF you keep your mind and your ears open! You’ll be amazed how many different words from your textbook and classes you’ll be able to hear in a real-life context and listening this way will help you remember those words.

Keep a Vocabulary Book

I have been teaching English for over ten years and this is the first piece of advice I give my students when they come to New York – keep a vocabulary book. It is one of the most useful ways to study and remember English words.

What is a Vocabulary Book?

A vocabulary book is a small notebook that you carry everywhere with you. It doesn’t matter if you’re running out of your apartment to get a cup of coffee or spending the day at the office, take the book!

How do I use it?

Each time you hear a word or phrase that you don’t understand or that you know and would like to remember, write it down in the vocabulary book. Try to write it down as soon after hearing the word as possible so that you don’t forget. When you have time, look up the words you don’t know in a dictionary, or, if you’re not sure of the spelling, ask your English teacher.

Once you are clear on the meanings of the words/phrases review them each day for about 5-10 minutes, that’s all. Don’t go crazy and spend hours trying to learn them, just spend a small amount of time each day, maybe before you go to bed. If you take private lessons ask your teacher to test you on the words, or test yourself. Make the list ten words at a time and once you know those ten words, move onto to the next ten. It’s a fast and easy way to improve your English vocabulary!

Take a Class

This may seem obvious but some people still think that they can just move to another country and “absorb” the language. That is not true, especially if you have limited experience in the language and don’t know many people. In New York City there are so many people living here from different cultures and countries that it is very difficult for a non-native English speaker to understand who is speaking English correctly and who is not. SO, my advice is, when you first arrive, take an English class for the first six months, if you have time, take an intensive English course. That way you can build your vocabulary and grammar quickly and get valuable speaking and listening practice under the guidance of a professional teacher.

Go to a Meet-Up!

Once you’re feeling a little more confident about your English and want to try it out with other native speakers, just go the meet up website http://www.meetup.com/ and type in the kind of thing you’re interested in and your location, you’ll be surprised how many meet-ups there are in your area, particularly if you’re in New York City. I can’t guarantee that you’ll like the meet up or the people you meet, but there are so many to choose from that you can keep trying different ones until you find something that feels comfortable to you. It’s a great way to socialize, practice your English and make friends with people who have similar interests. Try it!

Speak!

Don’t be shy – take the opportunity to speak any time that you can: ask the bus driver a question, order a Starbucks coffee like an American and ask for eight different things in it, you know, whipped cream, liquid sugar, non-fat, decaf, extra foam, talk to the doorman of your building or the concierge at the hotel, ask your waiter lots of questions about the food the next time you’re in a restaurant, talk to your colleagues at work about their weekend or kids, have a friendly conversation with the guy who is making your sandwich in the deli or chat with the old lady who is on line next to you – older people always have time to chat J

It doesn’t matter who you speak to or for how long, or even if they understand everything that you’re saying, but you have to practice speaking as much and as often as possible so that you get a “feel” for the English language in everyday life.



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