25 Ways to Be a More Successful English-Learner
If you are reading this article, learning English once and for all1 is important to you. You have already spent years learning the language and have made substantial progress. However, you are also probably frustrated with your progress and feel that by this stage2 you should have achieved a greater proficiency. This article uses methodology and real classroom experience to offer you 25 things you can do to be a more successful English learner.
1. Write down five reasons for learning English. You might want to conceptualize – them as five things you will be able to do when you are fluent in English.
2. Write down five things you really love about some aspect of one of the English- speaking countries. This doesn’t mean you have to like US-UK foreign policy3; it may be an element of counter-culture, music, art or a hobby. Focus on those aspects of English-speaking cultures that you like.
3. Set yourself short-, medium- and long- term goals4 in your language learning. Reward yourself5 when you achieve them, analyze why if you don’t.
4. Consider taking exams if you need a concrete goal. Find out6 about what each involves and tests for before starting a course.
5. US research suggests that the average student takes six months of full-time study (8-12 hours/day) to achieve professional proficiency between European languages. If you study less than one hour a day continuously, you’ll take over five years. If you interrupt your study for any significant period of time, your knowledge of English will not stand still8 but9 will deteriorate.
6. Negotiate your learning with the people you live with. Commitment7 to English will involve spending a certain amount10 of time a week listening and watching in English (CDs, radio, DVDs and TV). Ideally, try to convince the person or people you live with to share11 the learning experience. If you can’t, agree on a time when you can listen to or watch English without being interrupted by complaints12.
7. Don’t be a stop-start student. Breaks in your language learning can be immensely damaging to your progress. For instance13, a two-to-three-month summer break with no practice can cancel out much of what you have learned over the previous nine months.
8. Concentrate on what you find most difficult, not what you find easiest in English.
9. Try to do something — anything! — in English every day.
10. Try to listen to some English at least every other day14.
11. If you work, take advantage of learning opportunities provided by your employer.
12. Treat the commitment7 to a language course like any other major purchase16. Compare academies for pre and course contents17; examine the course books used and ask to attend the class you would be put into before committing and paying.
13. Don’t commit to a class until you are sure that the teacher is right for you. This will be a question both of teaching ability and personal chemistry18. A good teacher will listen and encourage19. S/he will correct mistakes but not every error you make.
14. Remember that paying the large amounts20 of money that an English course costs does not guarantee your success, it only gives you the opportunity to succeed by making language resources21 available to you. You still have to make the major effort. The teacher and the academy can help you to do this but ultimately22 it’s your effort.
15. If your group takes five (or even ten) minutes to get going23, arrive punctually and use this wasted time to ask questions that have come up24 in your homework and other activities. You should find your teacher more receptive than if you try to stop him/her after the class has finished, when s/he probably has to be elsewhere. An experienced teacher will even incorporate the points you have brought up25 into the class. Remember, a teacher will teach a neutral/standard course unless you say what it is you specifically want to learn. Obviously, you have to take the interests of other students into account26 — you can’t expect to focus solely on your interests — but you should at least mention them.
16. Ask your teacher to explain differences in customs between your culture and the English-speaking culture s/he comes from or knows. Ascertain27 what is considered especially impolite. Your teacher will be reluctant28 to criticize your behavior29 and/or English even when it would seem ridiculous or rude30 in an English-speaking country, so you should be on the lookout for31 reactions of surprise (your teacher raising his/her eyebrows32 or smiling). Quiz him/her to discover what provoked the reaction. Remember, part of learning a language is finding out social and cultural norms that are outside the scope33 of grammar books.
17. Help your teacher to get conversation going. Propose topics34, ask questions. Remember that speaking and being corrected is the one thing that classes offer that you can’t get from studying alone. However, the most dedicated teacher will fall back on35 activities such as explaining grammar if she or he is faced with36 a group who refuse to speak.
18. Reward yourself5 every time you go to class (e.g. buy yourself a drink), punish yourself every time you skip37 class (e.g. do an extra chore38 at home).
19. After you have been in class for some time and have developed a certain rapport39 with the other learners, exchange phone numbers. Don’t try to do this in the first week of class because the other learners may find it intimidating to give their phone number to someone they don’t know. Agree on rules about using the phone (e.g. times); to begin with you might want to limit contact to SMS messaging. Having a contact in the class means that you can, for instance13, find out about homework from a class you missed; otherwise40 a missed class can affect your ability to participate in the next lesson. Once a rapport39 has been established it can also be comforting to have someone with whom you can talk over what you each find difficult in the class.
20. If you have children or a younger brother or sister, do their homework with them (not for them).
21. Experts suggest that every hour of classroom work should be complemented with around two hours of study. This should include exercises, writing, reading, listening and if possible conversation.
22. If you miss a significant number of classes, do little or no homework and usually arrive five to ten minutes late for class you cannot blame your teacher for your sluggish” progress.
Beyond43 the Classroom
23. Research shows that learners who only study a language in a classroom have difficulty using the language to communicate even though they know a great deal44 about it. Incorporate English into your everyday life.
24. The usefulness of a standard language class decreases as the learner’s level rises. Once you have reached an upper- intermediate or advanced level, you are likely to45 benefit more dollar for dollar from a stay in an English-speaking country than from studying in a classroom. Don’t go abroad to study a course similar to one you could study at home. Why not treat yourself46 to a course for native speakers of English relating to something you are really interested in (literature, art, ornithology… football!!!)? The important thing is to integrate into a natural English-speaking context that interests you — and avoid those who speak your own language!
25. Try to enjoy the learning experience.
Go back to your lists from 1. and 2. to motivate yourself if necessary.
1 once and for all – conclusively, in a definitive way
2 stage – point
3 foreign policy – strategy in international relations
4 goal – objective
5 to reward oneself –give oneself sth. special
6 to find out (find-found-found) – discover
7 commitment – dedication
8 to stand still (stand-stood-stood) – stay in the same place
9 but – (in this context) by contrast it
10 amount –quantity
11 to share sth. – confront sth. jointly/together
12 complaint –protest, criticism
13 for instance – for example
14 every other day –every second day, every two days
15 to attend –(false friend) go to
16 purchase – act of buying sth.
17 course contents – what the course includes
18 personal chemistry – rapport. ability of two people to like each other
19 to encourage – stimulate
20 large amount –significant quantity
21 language resources – teachers, textbooks, language laboratories, computer programs, etc.
22 ultimately – (false friend) in the final analysis
23 to get going (get-got-got) – start properly/in earnest
24 to come up (come-came-come) – appear. emerge
25 to bring sth. up (bring-brought-brought) – (in this context) mention
26 to take sth. into account (take-took-taken) — take sth. into consideration
27 to ascertain — find out. discover
28 reluctant — reticent, unwilling
29 behaviour (UK English) — behavior (US English), conduct
30 rude — (false _friend) discourteous, impolite
31 to be on the lookout for — be vigilant for
32 to raise one’s eyebrows — elevate one’s eyebrows, adopt a facial expression of surprise
33 scope — sphere, gamut
34 topic — (false friend) question, theme
35 to fall back on (fall-fell-fallen) — resort to, turn to, use sth. because it requires less effort
36 to be faced with — confront, have
37 to skip sth. — not go to sth.
38 chore — piece of housework, act of cleaning sth.
40 otherwise — if not
41 to blame s.o. — hold sth. Responsible
42 sluggish — unsatisfactorily slow
43 beyond —outside, further than
44 a great deal —a lot
45 you are likely to — you will probably
46 to treat oneself — give oneself sth. special