Many students of EFL/ESL (English as a Foreign Language/English as a Second Language) who have fairly good English skills still want to improve their English skills but they don’t know how.
There are however tried and true ways to improve your English skills. Whenever a student asks me how they can improve, I give them a few suggestions and always notice, within a few months, if they follow what I tell them their English skills improve dramatically.
So, if you too want to improve your English skills, follow these few tips and you’ll be surprised at how fast you can learn more English.
Watch Television in English – Most of my students in Thailand don’t watch any English language television. It’s not that it’s difficult to find (we have cable TV with more than 60 English channels), it’s just that they prefer to do other things.
When they do have some free time, instead of watching a show in English to improve their English listening skills and vocabulary, they’ll watch a Thai soap opera instead. I tell all my students, both children and adults, just 15 minutes every day watching a television show in English will quickly teach you new vocabulary, new slang and better listening skills.
Watch English Movies With English Soundtrack and English Subtitles – Most of my Thai students watch a lot of American and British movies. However, instead of watching them with English audio and English subtitles, they watch them with Thai audio and sometimes even Thai subtitles. Doing this causes them to miss out on an easy and fun way to improve their English.
If you watch an American movie with English audio and English subtitles your English skills will improve very quickly. When you listen to English and read English at the same time it re-enforces the English vocabulary, grammar and even slang in your brain. If you do this for only 15 minutes every day, within a month you will already notice you can understand a lot more English than before.
My best students even watch the movie in Thai first, then they watch it again with English audio and soundtrack so they can be sure they understand what’s going on. The students who do this improve their English skills very quickly. If you do the same, you can too.
Read English Books – One of my best Thai adult students reads at least one book a month in English. She usually sticks to books that are fun, about pop culture and easy to read (a teenage level is very good for many EFL/ESL students).
So books like the Gossip Girl series, Harry Potter or The Twilight Saga series are great for learning new English vocabulary. The language they use is quite simple, but they also use a lot of slang terms.
My student writes down every word or phrase she doesn’t understand while she’s reading the book then, every time I see her, she asks me what they mean and writes down the meaning in a notebook she keeps for this purpose.
In the nine months I have been teaching her, her grasp of the English language and especially slang has improved so fast it’s almost like speaking to a Westerner when I speak to her now.
So buy an English book from your local English language bookstore. If you’re not sure what books are good, ask one of the store assistants and tell them you’re looking for a book for teenagers.
Read an English Language Newspaper – If you live in a country that doesn’t speak English as its first language, it’s still possible to get English language newspapers and, in most places now, they’re pretty cheap.
Buy an English language newspaper at least once a week and read a few of the articles. I always suggest to my EFL students that they read the first page, scan the business section and then look at the lifestyles section. This will give them a quick overview of what’s going on in the world while giving them exposure to language about important national and international news, business, and pop culture.
Again, write down the vocabulary and phrases you don’t understand and either ask your teacher, look them up in a dictionary or on the internet, or ask a friend. The only way you will improve your English vocabulary is to be constantly exposed to new vocabulary. Reading an English newspaper now and again is a great way to do it.
These are just four ways to improve your English listening, speaking, reading and writing skills. There are many more.
None of these suggestions take very long, and can actually be done in just 15 minutes every day. But those 15 minutes you spend every day will go a long way to making sure your English language skills improve and your self-confidence about new vocabulary and grammar also improves.
Learning a new language isn’t easy but those who are consistent with their approach to learning will find it becomes easier every day.