Top Tips for English Language Learners

Guest's picture is a blog for those studying English as a foreign language, providing useful resources, guidance and support. Here they give some top tips for students wanting to improve their English. 

"Over the years I've taught many, many students English. Some students, though, reach their goal of fluency much faster than others. How? Read on to learn some of the studying techniques that these students used and hopefully you'll find them useful!

1) Practice, Practice, Practice

 If someone you know reads a whole book about how to drive a car, does it mean they can then drive? Probably not! Clearly reading books is useful, but practice really is the key to language learning success. It's important to realise that while language can be studied from a theoretical approach, it is a practical skill. Practical = Practice!! 

2) Your Language vs English

Spend time familiarizing yourself with the linguistic differences between your language and English. This can help prevent common mistakes made by your first language influencing your English. There is a good book available on line that identifies common mistakes made by learners depending on the influence of their mother tongue. It talks about common grammatical mistakes, pronunciation issues, alongside false friends and collocation. You could also compare translations of your language to English and vice versa to develop your understanding of differences between languages. You can download the online version of the book the bottom of this article.

3) Remembering Vocabulary

 Have you learnt some new words and then a few days later you've completely forgotten them? Well, you're not alone! Learning vocabulary is a process. 

  1. See the word in context. Look at how it is used in a sentence- does it go with another word? Is it used with a preposition? 
  2. Understand the meaning of the word, it's worth consulting various sources such as dictionaries and English speaking friends. 
  3. Record the word in a notebook. 

See these examples for good and bad vocabulary notes:

Example of a Bad Note : 

To borrow (emprestar) (this just translates the word into the students first language)

Good Note Example:

To borrow something from someone (verb) - to take and use (something that belongs to someone else) with the intention of returning it.
Pronunciation: /ˈbɒr.əʊ/
Opposite: To lend something to someone
Example: Jake borrowed £20 from Julie so he could do some shopping. He promised to return it the following day.

So have you learnt the word now? NOPE!! This is just the beginning; you now need to practise using this word at least five times before it stays in your long term memory. I would advise using flashcards to increase your ability to memorise new vocabulary.

Keep practising!

4) Listen to English

When activating listening skills, focus on what you do understand rather than what you don't. It's very common for students to listen to English and then feel disappointed and frustrated when they don't understand something. This is perfectly normal, even native English speakers struggle with accents and regional varieties of English. Enjoy listening to English, and praise yourself on what you do understand. This will increase your confidence and of course your listening skills.

5) Word Partnerships

Do you ever do mistakes in English? Well, if you thought that sentence was correct then you probably need some help with collocation! Collocation is used to express common word partnerships. So, in English, we don't ‘do' mistakes, we ‘make' them. Why? Well, it's just about word partnerships and what sounds right to our ears. Developing your understanding of English collocation is essential at all levels of language learning, from beginners to advanced. In my experience, students who are aware of collocation generally reach a much higher level of fluency than those who are not.

6) Vary your Reading Materials

Different types of material contain different sets of vocabulary. While it's great to read a newspaper every day, do try to include other reading materials such as magazines, blogs and books. Again, like with listening, don't worry about the words you don't know, just read the article from start to finish. After reading, think about what you understood. You might then want to go back to certain parts of the reading that you found difficult to understand and check the meanings of new vocabulary. It's only advisable to learn around 7 -10 words for each reading you do, any more than that and it will be difficult to remember them all.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it's okay to make mistakes! Students shouldn't always strive for perfection as it slows down their fluency rather than make it better. Learn from any mistakes you make and remember not to make them the next time."

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