10 Things You Can Do To Improve Your English

1. Review. I know it’s boring, but it’s absolutely essential to language learning. Don’t bother to learn new words if you aren’t going to review. It’s a waste of time if you aren’t committed to reviewing your material.

2. Listen. The more you listen, the more you’ll remember.

3. Use your new vocabulary or lose it! Concentrate on a few new words each day and try to use them in different sentences. I encourage my students to take a few extra minutes at the end of class to write a couple of sentences to help them remember the vocabulary. Use new vocabulary in conversation and writing. The more you use it, the easier it is to remember.

4. Learn how to paraphrase. Try describing a word with other words. I always give my students reasons for paraphrasing by giving them extra words to describe with. I encourage them to make notes in their textbooks by paraphrasing with synonyms and antonyms. Use sentences to describe your meaning.

5. Record something in English and repeat, repeat, repeat. Don’t just record your English class. Record a song or use an interesting podcast to challenge yourself. Keep repeating it until you can repeat it at the same speed as the native speaker. The more you repeat, the more fluent you will sound. You don’t realize how many mistakes you make until you listen to a recording of yourself.

6. Practice linking words and expressions. Use contractions and weakened forms whenever you can.

7. Read, read, read. Read something you’ll enjoy. Books, magazines and newspapers aren’t your only source for reading. English is everywhere. Learn a song or poem. Try a menu, a recipe or learn some funny jokes.

8. Read aloud. There’s no better way to practice and it will help you pick out mistakes.

9. Flashcards. They really do work! Make flashcards for eight to ten new vocabulary words once a week. Tape them to your wall and practice making a new sentence with them each day.

10. Recycle your vocabulary. Review, review, review! Don’t assume you’ve learned it after you think you’ve perfected it. Practice makes perfect.

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34 thoughts on “10 Things You Can Do To Improve Your English

  1. cfimages

    Good points. I guess they apply equally to any language not just English – I know there are a few points there that I should pay more attention to in regards to learning Chinese. At least point 2 is easy to do here (although half the time people in my city speak Taiwanese).

    Reply
  2. Carrie Post author

    Hi Craig,

    For sure. I use these techniques with my own language studies. I find paraphrasing especially useful.

    I used this title because a good portion of my readers are non-native speakers. I’ve received several emails from readers over the past month indicating that they would like to leave more comments, but they feel intimidated to do so. This post is for them.

    Reply
  3. Stevo

    Hi Carrie: Craig stole my comment.

    What helps me in improving my Chinese is translating everything I want to say, in my head, even during an English conversation, into Chinese. It keeps that knowledge fresh and in the forefront.

    Reply
  4. Mark H

    Also practise with a native speaker whenever you can. In my travels, I have been surprised how many people ask to chat for a few minutes so they “can practise their English”. Since most travellers like to meet and spend time with the locals, it seems like a fair exchange. I get to learn more about the country I am in and they get to practice their English.

    Maybe Nomadic Matt is a good target!

    Reply
  5. Krzysztof

    My problems are tenses and a couple of things which you can see when you read my comments. I’ll never speak English like a native. It will be great if people understand what I talk about. I started to comment your blog because I wanted to practise my language skill. I often analize my comments and talk to myself: “Gosh! I do stupid mistakes. What a shame.” But I try not to be discouraged. I’m glad that I have your support.
    I’m glad that I don’t have to learn Chinese. English isn’t as difficult as Chinese.

    Reply
  6. kim

    Seems like everybody here is studying a language! (Except for Matt, he mastered English already :D). I’ve just started learning some basic Japanese for an upcoming trip with the help of some audio CDs (writing is a whole other thing), the tips you provide definitely sound good to me! (though I’ll probably use roman characters for my flashcards).
    My native language is Dutch (well, the Flemish variety to be precise). It is sometimes referred to as a ‘throat disease’ by my British colleagues :). The upside is that we don’t have to much difficulty mastering foreign accents. And both English and German are close to my language, so they’re easier to learn.
    For writing, the thing that has helped me most is reading. The more you read in the language, the more you automatically recognize the correct spelling and usage of the words.
    And if I may add, Krzysztof, judging from your name I’m guessing you’re Polish? Your English is pretty good!

    Reply
  7. Krzysztof

    Thank you Kim :) I thought that English is your native language.
    Yes, that’s true I’m Polish. I’ve been learning English since 5 years. Writing isn’t as difficult as speaking for me. In first case if I don’t know something I can always use a dictionary but I’m trying to write without it. I possibly check my text at the end. Speaking is more difficult. Sometimes it’s hard to overcome a fear. My idea to solve this problem is talking to myself. It helps.

    Reply
  8. Farra

    Yes, this is a good advice!!
    After a year ago go back from Canada, I began to miss reading and writing in English, so I decided to blogging with English and buy books (now I’m reading penguin books because they’re still easy to read. I remember reading Oxford books which I really like that unavailable in my country, therefore I bought penguin ). Yesterday, I went to bookstore, I looked for other books with English, I have plans to buy them, not penguin anymore, I think. Really I miss going to public library in Canada, so I can save my account/allowance. Hiks hiks … In my country, I usually wrap with plastic cover after buying, write down when, where, how much I bought, reading, and then I keep them neatly for my nephews, or even my children someday, who knows. Hehehe.

    I’m addicted to learning and collecting English idiom. Really like playing on words for my blog. Hehehe.

    I read your blog not just for fun, but learning how you write in English because I know you’re ESL teacher. Smile.

    Reply
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  10. Carrie Post author

    Steve,
    No wonder you have so many great ideas with two voices going inside your head! :-) Seriously though, that’s an undertaking in itself. Well-done!

    Reply
  11. Carrie Post author

    Mark,

    Solid advice, although I must admit, in Taiwan, I’m starting to be more discouraging to folks who walk up to me for free English lessons. There is a time and a place, and unfortunately, most people don’t know the difference. This is a problem I deal with on a daily basis, but it also comes part and parcel with living here. I agree though, when traveling, I’m usually pretty approachable and more than willing to share some of my time in return for a culture lesson or two! :-)

    Reply
  12. Carrie Post author

    K,

    Never say never! Your English has improved tremendously over the past six months. My students would definitely disagree with you though on your comment about Chinese being more difficult than English. :-) I think they’re equally hard! It takes time, practice and patience to learn a new language.

    Your comment about finding writing easier than speaking is bang-on with what I’ve seen here in Taiwan. Public English education in Taiwan focuses on grammar, reading and writing skills. The majority of my students can rhyme off grammar rules in their sleep, but they don’t know when or how to use their tenses.

    In terms of my own language learning, I also feel that my reading and writing is better than my speaking. I’m not sure what the reasoning for this is. My Chinese seems to go in waves. More often than not, I find myself speeding through reading and writing lessons one week and then switching the next week to excel at conversational activities. Inevitably, there always comes a week or two when I’m a complete numbskull and get completely frustrated with myself for not learning quicker.

    Reply
  13. Carrie Post author

    Hi Farra,

    I’m “tickled pink” to see you back again, and I’m so happy to see that you’ve found the courage to leave comments. It’s been nice chatting with you on Facebook! Now that I know you’re interested in idioms, I’ll be sure to include some for you. You can find them enclosed in “quotation marks” and they are all for you!

    I told my Chinese teacher several months ago that I wanted him to teach me one idiom a week. I have tried to start using them in my everyday conversation, but I’m finding they can be a bit difficult to slip into normal conversation. “A penny for your thoughts.” Do you have the same problem?

    Reply
  14. Kim

    I wouldn’t say I actually *speak* all those languages :). Dutch is my first language. Belgium is a bilingual (well, officially trilingual) country so we learn French from elementary school all the way through college. I speak French but not well enough to my taste (I still keep mixing male and female forms). I also had 2 years of German (which is Belgium’s third language) in high school but the lessons stopped when we started verbs & tenses. I do understand it pretty well since it’s close to Dutch. And I probably have to thank my mom’s love of the soap “Neighbours” for my English :) she used to watch it when I was very young and I guess I picked it up there. Then I had English in high school for 5 years, in college for 3 years, and now I use it every day for work. I just started Japanese for my upcoming trip, but those are only basic sentenses so far (“Where is Shinjuku station?”, “It’s nice weather isn’t it?”).

    I’m not sure about Canada, do you learn French in school there too, or maybe only in certain parts of the country that speak French?

    Reply
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  16. Carrie Post author

    That, my dear, is a lot of language study! I should be asking you to post about your experiences with language learning. Please let me know if you’re ever interested in guest blogging for My Several Worlds!

    You’re right. In Quebec and certain parts of Ontario, French classes are compulsory. I started taking French in kindergarten and then moved into French Immersion classes in grade five. I stopped studying in grade ten and that decision remains to this day, my biggest regret. I understand French, and my reading skills are still there but my spoken French has disintegrated into a big pile of dog doo-doo.

    I also studied Spanish in university, but again, I didn’t use it and I’ve lost it.

    I’ve learned that it’s not enough just to study, you MUST use it as often as you can and make an effort to converse with others or you can watch your time, money and effort go down the drain. I’m determined not to let this happen with my Chinese.

    When my students to me they’re moving on, I always give them my email address so they can keep in contact with me and I encourage them to keep on top of their English studies.

    Reply
  17. Steven

    hi carrie,
    it’s been nice chatting with you, and i just read the article “10 things youo can do to improve your english”, i will follow the tips all the time. ……next time, i would like you to meet my wife whose name is carrie, too. ha ha

    Reply
  18. Cristina

    Hi Carrie,

    Thanks for stopping by our site and adding us to your list (!!).
    I actually found you through Google Reader. It’s been a pleasure to read it everyday.

    As you could see, we’re both Brazilians, English is our second language and we still have a lot to learn.
    These tips are great, thanks!!

    When we started the site, it was mainly in Portuguese and we weren’t sure about doing it in English too or not. I was only convinced when a Kiwi friend said “I don’t care if your English will be perfect or not, I just want to be able to read what’s happening!”.. and sometimes this same friend says that he likes our writings, even when they are not exactly how he would put the words, because it makes them more personal.

    When I saw our link in your Travel Blogs List, I took it as compliment and it’s a great incentive for me to keep writing in English. :)

    BTW, you’re on our list too, I think our friends will love your site as much as I do.

    Reply
  19. Carrie Post author

    Steven,

    It was really nice visiting with you too. I’m glad you asked me up for a visit. We think the people in our building are so nice, and now we can add you and Carrie to our growing list of awesome people in Banciao!

    I look forward to our next chat. Your English really is great, and I’m sure you’ll be able to make the most out of these tips. Don’t worry too much about your pronunciation. As I mentioned before, if your teacher didn’t give you any constructive criticism, you wouldn’t have anything to work on! :-)

    Reply
  20. Carrie Post author

    Hi Cristina,

    What a lovely message. Thank you! It was a pleasure to read your blog yesterday. What impressed me most, (other than your written command of English of course, which is superb in my opinion. ;-)) is your honesty and sense of fun and adventure. I can tell that you and Filipe have had some amazing adventures together and your excitement about your upcoming travels is shining through in everything you write.

    Reply
  21. Wangdi

    Dear Carrie,
    Thank you very much for your advised of 10 things to improve English.
    It’s incredible. Always I am online to learn English but it’s hard to improve. My English is very very poor. I wish and I would love to meet you in Taiwan if you are in Taiwan.
    Wangdi

    Reply
  22. Carrie Post author

    Hi Wangdi,

    I’m glad I could help and thanks very much for stopping by. I still live in Taiwan, but I’m going home next week to get married. I’ll be back in Taiwan in January. Where do you live?

    Reply
  23. pinky

    Learning a language is not a difficult task well all its need is practice practice and practice
    well with these three golden words u can improve ur English . yES My friends no need to frustate Read a lot .listen a lot ,speak a lot and write a lot ,the more u will do these things u will be familiar with this language .

    IF ANY NEW IDEA

    Mail me ur views

    pinks100004@yahoo.com

    Reply
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  25. October8

    Thank you very much! I’m from spain, and I’m learning english, But I considerate that I have to improve a lot…
    I didn’t know how I can improve it, but it’s so useful.
    XOXO

    Reply
  26. Jude

    Hi Carrie
    Am so much inpress about your comments but the truth is anytime i want to learn i fill very lazy and anytime i set an alarm to wake up at down to learn, the moment i take a book to read the i fall asleep. but i know my english is very bad. What should i do i realy want to inprove my english.

    Reply

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