Ten ways to boost your English language skills
Learning a language is more than sitting in a classroom and trying to absorb all the information from the teacher. It also requires extra effort of you. Doing some additional work is important if you really want to boost your language skills.
I’ve been studying English for ten years now, and here are some of the things I do that have helped me a lot. Have a look at these ten ways to boost your English language skills and perhaps they can help you too:
1. DISCOVER YOUR PERSONAL LEARNING STYLE
We are all different and it is the differences that make the world so diverse and complete. Since every individual is unique, the way each person learns is also unique. We all have different learning styles and it is important that you know which one is yours. Knowing the way you learn best will make you understand yourself better and enjoy your learning experiences. This is the first step towards boosting your language skills.
2. HAVE A PERSONAL JOURNAL
The extent to which you can write down your daily thoughts and ideas and what happens to you in another language is a great indicator of how fluent you are. Writing in a journal not only tells you how well you can express yourself, but also the extent of your vocabulary and second language knowledge. If you notice that you do not have enough vocabulary to express an idea, that’s when the learning starts. Use dictionaries and Google to help you with that. The more you search for new words and expressions, the more your vocabulary will expand. Write everyday, if you can, even if it is just a sentence or a paragraph; but make sure you write! Also, the more you write about different subjects, the better.
3. HAVE AN OBSERVATIONAL JOURNAL
Besides having your personal journal, you should try writing in an Observational Journal as well. In this journal you can only write about what you see, being as descriptive as possible. To make it a fun activity, it is preferable that you go to places you enjoy and, once there, try to describe everything you see. This is another way to expand your vocabulary and enhance your writing skills.
4. CREATE YOUR OWN DICTIONARY
If you are a visual learner, and can only remember things best when you write them, I think a personalised dictionary could work very well for you. Have a separate notepad with you and write down the unknown words you come across. Under each word, jot down its meaning, as well as a sentence created by you showing that you know how to use it accurately. If you have a native friend to take a look at it and check that it is all right, that would be perfect.
5. READ DIFFERENT GENRES
Regardless of the subject, reading is a very beneficial activity. This mental stimulation will boost your memory, your analytical thinking and your writing skills. It will also expand your vocabulary. The way reading helps you to express yourself better in your first language is no different with your second one. Studies have shown that reading in a second language can potentially enhance your reading, writing, listening and speaking skills. Read as much – and in as many genres – as you can.
6. LISTEN TO A VARIETY OF THINGS
For me, listening to a second language can give me almost the same benefit as reading it. They all help you to expand your vocabulary, enhance your knowledge of grammar, speak properly and so forth. But there is a slight difference between them; Listening will show you, loud and clear, how the words are pronounced. This is the key to making yourself understood when you speak. Listening to a variety of things is also important for boosting your English language skills. News, radio, movies, songs, cooking programmes, sports… They will all help you.
7. STUDY GRAMMAR
Many people think that studying grammar is boring. I was the first one to say that in my classroom when I was younger, but now I understand its importance. To communicate and understand things effectively, a good knowledge of the workings of the language is necessary. Also, not everything that is commonly heard in our daily lives is 100% grammatically accurate. There-fore, some grammatical rules will help us understand why we should say this instead of that.
8. SPEAK AS MUCH AS YOU CAN
Verbal expression can be an obstacle to many non-native speakers when they don’t have good pronunciation, or when they can’t organise their ideas and express what it is in their heads clearly. To avoid shame and embarrassment, people tend to keep themselves in their comfort zones and don’t say much. However, the more you speak, the more your speech organs (like lips, teeth, palate, etc) will get used to the physical mechanics of making the sounds of English, thus helping you to pronounce them precisely as time goes by. It is all a matter of practice and patience. Do not wait for a native speaker to be around you to start training. You can begin today. Start by talking to yourself in front of the mirror; later you can be part of a conversation group with non- native speakers. You can also practise by repeating the words that are hard for you to re-produce, or even tongue twisters. (Try classics like Red leather, yellow leather or She sells sea shells on the sea shore to start with.)
The fact of the matter is that you will only learn how to speak by speaking. So, as there is no way to get away from that truth, speak in another language as much as you can
9. TRAVEL ABROAD
Language is also culture, and many aspects of it you will only understand if you spend some time in the country where the target language is spoken. Being immersed in a foreign language also leads to more significant and effective learning, since you can experience it with all your senses: you see, you touch, you listen, you smell, you taste and, of course, you speak!
10. SURROUND YOURSELF WITH THE TARGET LANGUAGE
Perhaps you are on a tight budget, and traveling abroad can’t be on your list right now. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t be immersed in a second language. You can surround yourself with the target language by doing many things. Here are just a few things that I recommend:
1. Label objects that you have in your house.
2. Change the language of your social media and electronic devices.
3. Stop watching TV, movies, and Netflix in your mother tongue.
4. Host a foreign student.
And you? What do you do to improve your language skills? Please, share with us. We would love to hear from you!
Debora SilvaLearning English