What is necessary to learn English well?
Changing your life
Learning English requires action. You may know all the learning tips, but if you don’t start doing things, you will achieve nothing. The fact is, if you want to learn to speak English well, you must change your life. Here are some examples of things you will have to do:
* read a book in English for an hour every day, analyzing the grammar in sentences and looking up words in an English dictionary
* listen to an audiobook or other recording in English, stopping it frequently, trying to understand what is being said, and trying to imitate the speaker’s pronunciation
* spend 30 minutes in the afternoon practicing the pronunciation of the English “r” sound
* carefully write an e-mail message in English, using a dictionary or a Web search every 20 seconds to make sure every word is correct, and taking 5 minutes to write one sentence
* think about an English sentence you’ve read, wondering if it could say “a” instead of “the” in the sentence, and trying to find similar sentences on the Web to find out the answer
* walk down the street and build simple English sentences in your head (talking to yourself in English about the things you see around you)
What kind of person would do all these crazy things? Only one kind. The kind of person who enjoys doing them. If you want to learn to speak English well, you’re going to have to become that person. Have you ever heard of anyone who became successful by doing something he hated?
The problem with learning and teaching English as a foreign language is that all English learners want to speak English well; however, most learners don’t want to spend time on learning English on their own. (Which is probably why they sign up for English classes and hope their teacher will force knowledge into their heads.)
This lack of motivation means that learners basically don’t spend their own time on learning English, and if they do, they don’t do it regularly. For example, a typical learner might study English phrasal verbs for 12 hours before an English exam. However, he will not read a book in English for 30 minutes every day. He just doesn’t feel that learning English is pleasant enough, so he will only do it if he has to. The problem is that a huge one-time effort gives you nothing, while small, everyday activities will give you a lot.
One of the reasons why people don’t want to spend their time on learning English is that they associate learning English with unpleasant things. When they think “learning English”, they think about boring English classes, boring exercises and boring homework. Even if they know they need English in their career, that might not be very motivating if the job itself is boring! In their minds, learning English is something they have to do, not something they want to do.
Typical learner vs. motivated learner
Paula is a typical learner of English with a generally low level of motivation. She has occasional moments of high motivation — like the day before her English test or that time when she couldn’t communicate with a foreign customer who called her at work. These kind of situations make her think “I’ve got to do something about my English!”. However, they happen very rarely — less than once a month. So even if she studies quite intensively (e.g. for two whole days before an exam), the results are poor, because she forgets 90% of the things she learned within a month. This is no surprise: The way human memory works, you need to review things all the time; otherwise you just forget them.
Now let’s look at a different English learner: Judy. Judy reads a special novel for English learners (written in simplified English) almost every day for 30 minutes. She bought an English-English dictionary and uses it to look up English words whenever she doesn’t understand a sentence in her book. It was hard to study regularly at the beginning: Reading books and using a dictionary were not “normal activities” for her. And every English sentence was a challenge.
But now, after only two weeks, she can read much faster. While reading, she often sees words that she has learned in the past two weeks. When she recognizes such a word, she doesn’t have to look it up in a dictionary and she knows she has made good progress. Judy feels she has learned a lot of English recently, and she is eager to learn more. Every day, she looks forward to reading her book. The book gives her the chance to use what she has learned (enjoy her progress) and to learn even more. Because she reads regularly, she forgets little and her vocabulary keeps growing.
Judy is on the right track. She will soon be able to read English-language newspapers and other resources written for native speakers.
What to do?
If you are like Paula and don’t feel like reading in English in your free time, focusing your attention on English sentences, or practicing the pronunciation of the “r” sound, you will have to do something about it. There are many techniques to help you with motivation, but the best one is probably to do something fun.
If you can use your English to watch a funny video on the Internet, read an article about your favorite band, or communicate with smart people on a discussion forum, you will begin to think of English as your key to fun. When you think “English”, you will no longer think about boring classes, difficult grammar rules or lists of words to memorize — you will think about a funny TV show, your favorite band and people you like. In your mind, English will no longer be another boring subject at school — it will be the way to have fun every day.
improving your motivation for learning English
In this article, we share our techniques for improving your motivation for learning English as a foreign language. We used them all the time when we were learning English and we still use them when we need to boost our motivation in areas other than English.
Imagine yourself in the future
Imagine you can talk to native speakers just like you talk in your first language. Imagine other people wanting to speak English as well as you do. Imagine the possibility of writing e-mail to people from all over the world.
It is helpful to read an article about the advantages of knowing English well. There are two such articles on Antimoon: Why learn English and English makes you feel good.
You should know that it is possible to learn English really well. Just look at other people who have done it.
Remember that you are already good
You already know some English (you’re reading an article in English right now). That’s a big success! Now it’s time for more successes. Time to start using powerful methods of effective learning. Time to gain an impressive knowledge of English.
Remember there is a lot that you don’t know
You are good, but your English probably isn’t perfect. You probably can’t understand English-language TV, read books in English, talk to native speakers easily, write letters without mistakes, etc.
You should never think your English is perfect. Even if you are the best student in your class, always try to find your weak areas and work on them. When you’ve learned to speak English well, your problems will be quite small: punctuation, rarely used grammar structures, rare words, understanding “street language”. Right now, your problems are probably more basic: mistakes in pronunciation, small vocabulary, grammar problems with the present perfect tense and conditional structures.
Use English whenever you can
Probably the most important way to improve your motivation is to use English.
Using English is fun. It is simply very enjoyable to use your English to read a good book, understand a song, watch an interesting movie, get an answer to a computer problem, exchange e-mails with a native speaker, etc. The more you use English, the more you will want to use it.
This is great, because using English is learning English. When you’re reading an interesting article or watching an exciting movie, you are using your English, but you are also learning new words and phrases. When you’re writing a message on an English-language discussion forum, you are using your English, but you are also practicing your writing.
But using English can also improve your general attitude to English and increase your motivation to study English in other ways. For example, if you see that your knowledge of English pronunciation helps you understand a movie or speak more clearly, you will be motivated to study pronunciation even more. If you see that checking your sentences in a search engine lets you write error-free e-mail messages, you will want to keep doing that. If you memorize some words with SuperMemo and later you come across them in a movie or an article, you will want to add even more things to SuperMemo.
Talk to people about English
This is a very simple method, but it is very effective. Here’s how it works:
You usually talk about things which interest you. But the opposite is true, too. If you start talking about a boring subject, you will begin to get interested in it.
Imagine you are studying a subject that you hate. You are bored and tired, but you have to pass the test tomorrow. If there are people near you, you have two options: you can tell everybody how much you are suffering or you can tell those people about the things you’ve learned. If you choose the first option, you will only feel worse.
If you choose the second option, and start a conversation on the “boring” subject, you will begin to look at it in a totally different way. Suddenly it will become a subject worth talking about — therefore, an interesting subject.
How can you begin such a conversation? If you’re studying English, you can surprise another person by talking to him/her in English. Say (in English): Hi, I’m studying English and I hate it. Or you can say (in your first language): Hey, I’ve learned 50 English words today. Do you know what’s the English word for …? If there are no people near you, you can telephone or send an e-mail message to your friend.
What will your friends say? Probably they won’t be very interested, but it doesn’t matter! The important thing is this: After talking about English, you will study it with more passion. Try it.
Find a friend who is learning English
If you can find a friend who is learning English and is on a similar level of skill, you will be in an excellent situation:
* you will have someone to talk about English with. These conversations will increase your interest in English, as explained in the previous section.
* learning English will be easier, because you will be able to discuss your problems with your friend.
* you will study English more, because you will want to be better than your friend. 🙂
You should meet your friend regularly. Ideally, he/she should live near you, or go to the same school as you. If you absolutely can’t find anybody willing to learn English with you, you can try to find somebody by e-mail. This is a worse solution: your conversations will probably be less frequent, and it is difficult to compete with someone who you don’t know well.
Spend some money on learning English
If you spend your money on something, you will want to use it. For example, if you buy an expensive tennis racket, you will probably go out and play tennis every day.
This rule is also true for learning English. If you want to increase your desire to learn English, buy a new dictionary, an interesting English-language book, English-language cable TV, etc. The idea is simple: You paid for it, so you will want to use it, and you will improve your English.
There is a problem with this method. It only works for a short time. You usually lose your desire to learn English after a few days. To keep learning, you would have to buy something every week!
However, this method is helpful, because it gives you an impulse to start learning. For example, if you buy a dictionary of phrasal verbs, you will probably learn some words from it. Then you should try to use them. For example, write an e-mail message with these words. This will increase your motivation (as explained before), and you will learn more.