You have a pile of English grammar books that you don’t read (and you feel bad about that!).
You’ve tried taking traditional English classes, but they were too much effort or too boring, so you quit.
You’ve checked online and tried some of the English study techniques out there, but there are just so many, and you feel that you don’t make fast progress.
It can be difficult to stay motivated when learning a language, especially when you don’t have so much time. How can you use your limited time in the best way and see your English improve quickly?
Here are 8 English study techniques the best teachers recommend.
If you use these 8 tips, you will see great progress and lose those negative feelings.
1. Listen to English that you don’t understand
As a native speaker, how did I learn English?
When I was a baby, everyone around me spoke English all the time. I didn’t understand a thing!
It’s how you learned your first language, right?
According to studies1, adult learners can benefit from this, too.
Think about being at a party. Everyone’s speaking at the same time, and you can only hear a wall of noise. You don’t understand everything, but your brain is actually processing meaning from all this.
Do the same with your English — overload your brain with it and learn English faster and more naturally.
Check out our post on “background listening” for a great way to do this.
2. But also read and listen to English that’s easy to understand
So we saw that overloading your brain with English can help you learn a lot.
But, as adults, we need to be able to understand, too.
If we understand 80% of what we listen to or read, our brains can “fix” the other 20% and learn from it.
There are lots of ways to get this kind of practice. You can buy a graded reader at your level, and a good teacher can get that 80% spot when they speak to you.
3. Focus on your mistakes
Making mistakes is natural.
More than that, we can’t learn without making mistakes. But how can we learn from those mistakes?
You need a language partner or teacher to help you here. A good teacher can find your mistakes but will not directly correct you. Instead, he or she will “push” you to the right answer.
According to studies1, this is the most effective way of using our mistakes to learn better.
4. Pyjamas and tea can help you learn
Stress is not the learner’s friend!
We know that speaking is important for learning, but it’s also important to feel comfortable.
Where do you practice speaking English? Who are you with? The answers to these two questions are important.
Practising in a pleasant café or at home in your slippers with someone you feel comfortable will help you improve your English much quicker.
5. Hack your brain to learn new words
Wang Fen can read off the order of a deck of cards in just 24.22 seconds. Gunthar Karsten can recall 3,570 digits with only 30 minutes to prepare.
There are people out there with incredible memories. But they weren’t born like that: they use memory techniques.
One technique that we found very useful for learning languages is “memory hooking”.
You’ll find many examples of this technique in my book, 102 Little Drawings That Will Help You Remember English Rules FOREVER (Probably).
6. Read comics (Yes, really!)
Comic books are a fantastic way to learn for a few reasons.
1. You can see the action.
When you’re reading a comic book, you can see what’s happening. This way you can guess a lot of meaning, and you can stay motivated to keep reading.
2. It’s writing … but it’s speaking, too.
Comics are great because you work on your reading skills, but at the same time, you can see how people speak. (Most comic books are just lots of conversations.)
3. It’s fun!
Almost everyone enjoys comic books. If you enjoy what you’re doing, you learn better.
Comic books like Tintin and Asterix are especially good because they have great stories that adults can enjoy as well as children.
7. Record yourself
When we speak in a foreign language, we focus on getting the correct grammar and the right words. This means that we might forget about our pronunciation — and make mistakes.
How can we fix this?
Record yourself speaking English. It might feel terrible hearing yourself, but you’ll be able to find pronunciation mistakes — mistakes that you didn’t realise you were making before.
8. Sing your heart out
Do you want better English grammar, vocabulary, writing, reading, listening, speaking AND confidence?
Of course you do!
Singing is a great way to improve your English. It’s not only fun — studies2 show that regular singing can really make a difference.
Need some extra help learning the words? Here’s a site to help you.
In a previous post, I show you how to make it a part of your daily routine.
1. Richards, J. C. & Rodgers, T. S. (2008). Principles of CLT and TBL in K. Brandl (Ed.), Communicative language teaching in action: Putting principles to work. Instock: Washington.
2. 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.