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7 Tips to Improve Your English Quickly

Your English will not improve quickly without a plan. Here are 7 steps you can take to set up a system that improves your English faster and more effectively.

Be Consistent

Don't try to change your English by studying for 100 hours in a week. You will probably get tired and bored of English and quit. Taking a class is a great option but trying to study so much on your own might lead to a loss of motivation.

Instead, study 30 minutes every day for six days a week and do it....forever! I know it might seem like a lot, but "studying" could be just getting some exposure to English for 20-30 minutes a day. Have some options available to read, hear, write or speak English each day, including a resource that you can use when you are too busy to do any English in detail.

For example, maybe there is an English radio station you can put on while you are cooking for 30 minutes, or a podcast that you can listen to while you are exercising, or maybe a news page so that you can read one or two news articles every day on public transportation. On the writing/speaking side, perhaps you can write a diary or make a verbal recording of your day through your phone to get some daily practice.

What to do: set up some quick and easy resources that are ready when you need them. Set your homepage to an English news website, have some YouTube channels set as favorites or a podcast in your Spotify list so that you can access them quickly. The more convenient it is to get it started, the more likely you will continue to do it every day.

Pay Attention

When I say "pay attention", I don't mean just pay attention during English class. I mean that you should pay attention to any English you are exposed to. If you are listening to native speakers, are they saying the same phrases that you say? When you read something that you know is grammatically correct, does it look like your writing? Why or why not?

Some English learners make the mistake of just consuming English passively by reading or listening only to understand the message without paying attention to the language that is used in the message. Just to be clear, it is good sometimes to relax and focus on understanding the message, but other times you need to examine the language being used and identify your own mistakes.

As an example, I'm always surprised at the number of English learners who say things like "thanks God" even though native English speakers never say it (we say "Thank God", never "Thanks God"). The person making this mistake has probably heard and seen the correct expression "Thank God" hundreds of times but never noticed that it's not "thanks God" like they say it themselves, and this happens because they were not paying attention to the language.

Another example would be the large number of people who say "I am agree" and "are you agree?" even though this is grammatically incorrect and native speakers never say it. The correct form is "I agree" and "do you agree?" I'm not saying this to be critical but only to mention that these mistakes could be quickly corrected by looking at what native speakers are saying when they say "I agree" and "do you agree?" instead of translating through their own language.

What to do: spend 5-10 minutes every day looking at subtitles of dialogue or reading a text and pay attention to the language that is being used. Find something that is said or written differently than you say or write yourself and start correcting your own mistakes.

Be Curious

When you are reading or listening to English, be curious about the language that you are seeing or hearing. If you see a word or a phrase that you don't know, check the meaning in an English dictionary (see next part). Think about how you can use this word or phrase yourself. If you make a mistake and your teacher corrects it, ask your teacher for help understanding why it was changed.

Students who ask questions like "why is this verb in present continuous tense and not present simple tense?" or "why does it say 'on the beach' and not 'in the beach'?" show that they are curious, and their English learning brain is activated, which is a key sign that they will learn quickly and remember.

What to do: if you have a teacher, ask more questions. If you don't have a teacher, do more research. Have resources available to make it as quick and easy as possible for you to get a definition, to see the word in a sentence, or to hear the pronunciation of a word. These steps can usually be done through an online dictionary website.

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Use an English Dictionary

People often want quick and easy answers when learning a language, but unfortunately, language is too complex. When learning basic English at the beginner level, words like "tree", "car", and "book" are easily translatable because it is clear and obvious how to use these words. In this case, using a translation tool from your language to English can work well.

The problem is when you learn more nuanced language at an advanced level, a simple translation from one word in English to one word in your language will not be enough. Sometimes a word might have a more negative meaning in English but can be used more positively in another language or the word is used in certain contexts but not in others. Translators usually do not identify these differences but an English dictionary will often give you a better sense of how the word is used and not just the meaning.

An English dictionary is like the rulebook for the game of English. It's the only way to know you are playing the game correctly. If you want to learn to play volleyball correctly, you should read the rulebook of volleyball and not learn it through the rulebook of tennis. Therefore, use an English dictionary first as a source of information.

A quick example would be the word "actually" which is often used incorrectly from translation. If you look in the Cambridge English dictionary, it will tell you the definition is "in fact" or "really". It is not related to time, which is a common mistake that comes from translation.

What to do: find an English dictionary website that gives you what you want. Some options are

Write It Down

Always have a notebook that you can use to make notes about mistakes that you discover, new language that you learn, or things that you need to remember. You will probably not remember these things by just hearing or seeing them. I have noticed that students who take notes of their mistakes are far less likely to repeat the mistake, whereas students who just say "oh, okay" without writing anything down tend to repeat that mistake again and again.

Writing something down can activate your memory and it also gives you something to review each day. As you collect notes, you can easily find the information you need when you want to avoid repeating a mistake or when you want to use a new word. These are the things that can fundamentally change your English.

What to do: have a notebook that you only use for the purpose of English notes and organize it into sections for easy reference, such as "new vocabulary", "new grammar", and "mistakes to avoid".

Say What You Read (and What You Write)

If you want to get faster at using English, say aloud everything that you read. If you are reading something from a blog, news article, textbook, or any other source, it's very likely grammatically perfect because it has been published. Therefore, if you start saying what you are reading, you will be speaking perfectly correct English and it will help your brain become familiar with patterns in English.

For example, a lot of students have trouble remembering to say "he/she has" instead of the mistake "he/she have". If you start reading published English, you will repeatedly be saying "he has" and "she has" so you will develop this from memory and repetition ("he/she have" will never be published because it's grammatically incorrect).

What to do: find a resource of English that reflects the type of English you want to use. For example, don't use an economics report if you want to improve your everyday English, but it's a great source to use if you want to work in the field of economics and build the language for that field.

Review Review Review

I've always believed that 50%of learning and understanding something for the long term comes from review. It's common that when my class learns new vocabulary or grammar, they will understand it around 50% on the first day that they learn it, and then through a review activity in class the next day, they understand 90-100% of it. The same can be true for studying on your own. Don't look at something just once and then move on to the next thing - you should look back at what you learned yesterday, last week, or even last month sometimes to keep it fresh in your mind and to push it deeper into your long term memory.

What to do: set up a routine where every day you review for 15-20 minutes what you learned yesterday, every Sunday you review for 30-60 minutes what you learned that week, and on the last weekend of the month, you review 1-2 hours what you learned that past month. You'll discover that you remember more and that you are getting a better and better understanding of English.


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