“Tell me, and I forget. Teach me, and I remember. Involve me, and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin
If you’ve found an English teacher you love, that’s fantastic! A great English course with a qualified instructor will give you essential skills and guidance.
But – and this is a big “but” – your teacher can’t always be there, and they can’t force you to practice. They (hopefully) aren’t sitting in your house, constantly reminding you to do some review.
To increase your chances of fluency, you need to build on the skills your teacher is providing by making English part of your daily life.
The following list is full of practical exercises that will help you learn English in a useful and enjoyable way!
The best exercises to learn English
To get the most from your reading practice, choose real-life materials – we’re not talking textbooks, here!
1. Read authentic texts. Whether you choose English blogs, news articles, recipes, or celebrity interviews, it’s all excellent practice. Words are all around you – read whatever you can find!
2. Use graded readers. If you’d like to read a book, try a graded reader. These books are categorised by level, so you can easily find an appropriate one. You’ll feel great when you finish your first English book!
If you’ve ever written essays in an English class, you might think you’ve got writing covered. Academic writing skills are valuable, but you should try some other activities to work on your day-to-day written language.
3. Keep a journal. Write in a journal regularly to describe recent events, your plans or your thoughts and feelings. Writing about a personal topic makes practice more interesting.
4. Blog. Why not start an English blog? You can write about whatever interests you, as long as it’s in English!
5. Write to a penpal. If you’d like a partner, get a penpal to email or instant message. It’s okay if you don’t know anyone personally – just search on a penpal website to find members from all over the world.
Have you ever tried talking to yourself? It might not lead to the most interesting conversations, but it’s a sure-fire way to improve your pronunciation (and confidence).
6. Look in a mirror. Watching yourself in a mirror as you speak will allow you to check and fix your mouth position.
7. Record yourself. Making a recording of your voice will let you hear how you sound when you speak aloud (compared to how you sound in your head). You can then adjust and try again.
8. Speak into an app like Google. When you say a word or phrase into a search app (set in English), it will immediately tell you what it thinks you said. If it doesn’t understand certain words, you’ll know what to correct.
When it comes down to it, the best way to learn authentic speaking skills 1is to talk to other people!
9. Meet up with a friend. If you’re able to get together with someone for a coffee or a walk, enjoyable conversations can happen naturally.
10. Plan video meet-ups. It’s not always possible to meet in person (thanks, COVID-19). A great alternative is to find a buddy (an English-speaking friend or another student from your online language class, for example) for regular video chats.
English listening practice is fun because there’s something for everyone!
11. Listen to podcasts. With podcasts on nearly every topic, you’re sure to find something you’ll enjoy. Podcasts are also usually recorded in a quiet studio, so the dialogue is clear. You can often find the show’s transcript (a written document showing what the podcasters said), so you can read along as you listen.
12. Watch videos and movies. Movies and YouTube videos are fantastic tools. Different from podcasts, a movie scene often has a lot of noise and distractions. This can be useful, especially for higher-level learners: you’re forced to focus on the actors’ words despite all the activity around them (much like real life). You can also use subtitles on movies or online videos to help you through a difficult part or to check your understanding.
13. Listen to music. You can almost always find the words to a song online. As you listen, follow along by reading the lyrics, or guess the words and check to see if you were right.
Many learners try to memorise as much vocabulary as possible – including words they’ll probably never use. It’s much more useful to learn vocabulary in context (in real situations).
14. Make labels. Putting sticky-note labels on items around your home will get that vocab to stick in your head! Seeing those English words around you all the time will also signal to your brain to think in English.
15. Keep a notebook. As you go through your day, note new vocabulary words you come across: ones you like, don’t understand or want to learn more about. This is better than studying random lists of vocabulary because these are words you’ve actually read or heard in real life (so you know they’re useful).
16. Go on social media. It doesn’t get more authentic than this! Follow English-speaking users on a platform like Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. Social media will give you a crash course in English slang, abbreviations and more!
Keep it up
Check out Lingoda to start improving your English today! Just remember that learning doesn’t stop when class ends. Add some of the exercises we’ve discussed, and you’ll be well on your way to reaching your English goals!