English Learning Tips

Forget Studying: 4 Ways to Better English with (Almost) Zero Effort

Forget Studying - 4 Ways to Get Better English with (Almost) Zero Effort

Let me ask you a question:

What are your plans for the summer (or if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, read “July/August”)?

It’s a simple enough question, but I want you to think about the answer for a few seconds.

Done that?

Good — so now let me ask you another question:

Do any of your plans include some kind of English studying?

Remember — study doesn’t have to look like this:

Sleeping girl with book covering face

It can look like this:

Smiling woman with computer

…this:

Smiling woman with old-fashioned radio

…or this:

Smiling woman holding a book

…or even this:

Singing boy with microphone

Studying English doesn’t have to be boring. You can learn a lot from just doing things you enjoy. Just do them in English.

So here are some ideas to add a bit of English study into your summer (or winter).

1. Enjoy reading this summer — There’s no reason you should get bored!

Smiling woman holding a book

How many times have you picked up an English book saying, “Yes — I’m going to read the hell out of this book! Then my English will be much more awesome! Then I’ll read ANOTHER book! Hahahaha!”?

Laughing man holding a book

You might have said something like that, right?

But then you read, like, 20 pages and give up.

This is soooooo common with language learners. (I’ve done this so many times.)

But the problem isn’t you. It’s the book you’re reading.

Back in February, I identified 4 reasons why you’re not finishing your books in English.

So what should you read?

Find something that:

  • isn’t too difficult;
  • isn’t boring;
  • has a lot of images — like a comic book (yes, really!);
  • has lots of small pieces of information, not one long story.

 

Wanna have a look at some examples? Check out the post here.

2. Get some British people to have a chat in your living room

Old-fashioned radio, tea, biscuits and flowers

Some English learners have a problem, and maybe you have it, too.

You’re learning English but you don’t spend any time in an English-speaking country.

That makes things more difficult.

So you need to bridge the gap between where you are and where all those English speakers are.

Here’s one way to do that.

Back in April, I wrote a post about how you can use the BBC’s The Listening Project to study and learn new English words and phrases that British people really use.

If you really want to study hard, then check out this post and follow the instructions!

But if you want to have a more relaxing summer, you can still use this very, very, very useful resource.

Just go to the The Listening Project and play 2 or 3 of these short conversations a day.

Have these people speaking in your living room a few times a day.

IMPORTANT: You don’t have to understand what they’re talking about. Just having them talking in the background will help you get a feeling for how the language works in an everyday context.

The reason I recommend this is because it’s very, very natural English and it isn’t scripted like in a film or a TV show.

Just two people chatting.

3. Get your creative writing skills flowing

Smiling woman with computer

I know, I know. You hate writing.

But that’s because you haven’t written in English for FUN yet!

Terry Pratchett once said that writing was the best fun anyone could possibly have by themselves.

And he should know. He wrote a lot… I mean… A LOT:

Terry Pratchett Books

RIP Sir Terry Pratchett.” by rawdonfox is licensed under CC BY 2.0

So if you don’t enjoy writing, it’s probably because you haven’t had the chance to enjoy writing. (Does that make sense?)

The important thing about writing is that you shouldn’t feel any pressure. You should be able to write what you want and as much or as little as you want.

Also, pictures help.

Storybird is a website for creative writing. If you don’t feel inspired to write anything, go there.

The beauty of this site is that you start with images (that you choose from their gallery) and then you write your story based on the images that you’ve chosen.

They have fantastic image sets to choose from, all with a different mood and “vibe.” Oh, and this is all free to use.

Creative writing with Storybird
(By the way, these guys aren’t paying me or anything — I just think this site’s great.)

Here’s what you can do to enjoy writing:

  1. Go to storybird.com and sign up. — (Yeah, I know signing up is a pain — but this one’s worth it!)
  2. Go straight to “Create.” — There’s a lot of stuff on this site. But to work on your writing, you just need the “Create” part.
  3. Choose some wonderful art! — There’s a lot of art here, so just go ahead and choose something pretty (or weird, if you’re more like me!).
  4. Click on “Use this art.” — This will give you a choice between “Longform book,” “Picture book” or “Poem.” This is up to you. Just click!
  5. Start writing! — You can choose the pictures for each page of the book. This way, you can let the site help you with your story.

 

Remember — the story doesn’t have to be anything special. No one’s going to see it. It’s just for you. So enjoy it!

4. Get into a band! (and sing their songs)

Get into a new band: boy singing

I mentioned in a very, very early Clark and Miller post that singing along to music works wonders.

It improves your speaking, listening, reading, writing, vocabulary skills AND your confidence1.

And it’s fun!

What’s more, isn’t summer the best time to get into new music?

Back in April, I wrote about some great English-speaking (English-singing?) bands to help you enjoy learning English.

Why are they so good to learn English from?

  • The songs are repetitive, so you can hear the same grammar, vocab, phrases, etc. again and again.
  • They’re easy to understand, so you can sing along more easily.
  • They tell great stories.
  • There’s some link to culture or humour. Language is closely related to culture and I think humour is a big window into a culture.
  • There’s use of idiomatic language. Idioms and phrasal verbs are not always easy to learn. But much easier to learn with music, right?
  • The songs “stick” in your head. So you keep singing them. Forever.

 

You can check the bands I recommended in that post here.

But if you don’t really like any of them, then I suggest checking out Music-Map.

If you want to find new music, this is a great place. It’s really simple:

  1. Go to Music-Map.
  2. Write in the name of a band you like.
  3. Check out all the bands that appear.

 

I’ve discovered so much excellent new music through this site.


So that’s it! In order to give yourself that final bit of motivation, tell me, in the comments, which one of these tips you plan to use.

1. Medina, L. S. (2002). Using Music to Enhance Second Language Acquisition: From Theory to Practice, in J. Lalas & S. Lee, Language, Literacy,and Academic Development for English Language Learners. Pearson Educational Publishing.

2 thoughts on “Forget Studying: 4 Ways to Better English with (Almost) Zero Effort

  1. Hy, Clark I (almost)never feel inspired to write and I am going to try it with storybird.com. I let you know my updates.Thank you for your pieces of advice

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.