The Best Ways To Learn

The Best Ways To Learn

So, I’ve been thinking again, about all the different methods people use for learning English (or any foreign language, like me learning Czech) and how a lot of people struggle to find the right system or style of learning that suits them the best. Video is my preferred way (sign up for my new course here), but why is that? What about the alternatives?



I know you’ve tried textbooks, and while they can work for some people, they also bore the pants off other people. If you’re one of those people, read on.

Pages are only two dimensional, so that means at the most two learning styles; words and pictures. They also take so long to work through, especially when you don’t have someone to explain to you the bits you don’t understand. However, learning at least some basic grammar from a book is a great way to start.  So what else can you do to complement learning from a book?

Native Speakers

One to one sessions with a native speaker are a good way to practise what you already know and they are an opportunity to ask your English teacher questions. However, it’s very easy to go with the flow and keep talking without listening. I have found that many of my clients love to speak and talking-womenlove to have deep conversations about all sorts of things from travelling to family life, from sports to spirituality. Often, it seems like people will tell me things in English they would never tell others in Czech. My point is, that although face to face, one to one English lessons with a native speaker are a great way to practise, you are probably not learning as much as you would like. They do, however, bring you confidence and should excite and inspire you.

Group Sessions

So what about group sessions and courses? These provide a superb opportunity to learn a lot, quickly, if you can keep up with the group speed that is. On the other hand, maybe you get bored waiting for the slow ones in the group when you want to move on to the next bit. You can also practise talking with others if you have the confidence to speak in front of the group and it’s a great way to meet others who share your passion for learning.

Going Abroadtelephone-box-red

Holidaying and studying in a foreign country (or even living and working abroad) is thought of as the best way to make quick improvements.  As you can immerse yourself in the language, you are forced to speak. This is probably the most expensive way to learn but you will make the quickest improvement in your understanding and maybe have the most fun!  Since I moved to the Czech Republic my level of comprehension has increased and I have found that I am able to remember new words much easier than when I was learning Czech in the U. K.  While I’m recommending it, I understand that for many people it might not be a realistic possibility.

Audio Books etc

I’ll end with what I believe to be two of the worst ideas. Firstly, listening to audio CDs, MP3s or podcasts WHILST DRIVING! You should be concentrating on your driving not trying to remember new words and phrases, let alone complex grammar rules. Stick to the music, that can be English language songs at least.  Car driver girl.pngAudio is also only one learning style.

Secondly, and I admit I am also sometimes guilty of using this method, is a reliance on Google Translate or other online dictionaries. These, in my humble opinion, should be kept for the odd word or phrase you don’t understand, not used to translate entire emails, PDFs, articles, web pages, reports or seminar notes etc. Try to work out as much as you can first, because trusting yourself will build your confidence. Then and only then, go back to fill in the gaps using an online translator or old fashioned paper dictionary (remember those?).


Ideally, you might use a combination of these methods. If you have the time (to attend a group, see someone for 1-1 lessons, study at home from a book, listen to audio (safely!) and take a yearly trip to study or practise in a native English speaking country) then you would be covering a number of learning styles giving yourself the best chance to improve quickly and remember what you learn. Studying something everyday is key.

Next week I’ll talk about my favourite way of learning; video. You can sign up now for my free mini course to learn about your most common mistakes. Fill in the form below or click here and I’ll add you to the ‘Better Your English Now’ video mini course list.


Muj Špatný Češtinu

Muj Špatný Češtinu

Pamatujete že ja jsem Anglický rodilý mluvčím?  Tak že, tadz mám problěm protože dneska musím napsát vaše blog v Čestině. Asi, ne, určitě, poynáte že muj řada slovu je jako Anglickz.

Ahhh… musím vzpnout 4esk7 kl8visnice kvůli muj y a z je správný.

Pokračuju… Zkouším napsát bez používajici slovník i překládač tak uvidíme jestli umíte mi rozumět. A, proč udělám Český blog kdzž vždycky psám v Angličtině?  Odpovězda je ukázat že nemusíte být perfektní být rozumění.

Jestli vaše gol je být rozumění je to duležitý jenom že máte důvěra zkoušit ynova a znova (Sakra!)  Mnohu Český lidi vubec říct ani nic protože “to není perfekt”, “to není dobrý”. Slište mě! ear-clip-art-McLLy6RXiNe bude lepšit bez zkoušení. Nevadí jak špatně vás Angličký jazýk, většinu rodilý mluvčí vy pomoc s trpělivostem.

Dneska ten blog bude krátký protože pro mě napsát na počitač trvalo mi hodně dlouhá. Měl jsem nějáký knihy se učit Česky ale pro mě nefungovat. Ja vím že dělám hodně chyby. Máte nějaký jiný nápady pro mě? Doufám že ano. Dolu mužete mi pomoc v commentsu. Dík. 🙂

Přes přístí dva týdnu budu napsát o vaše nejběžnější chyby a jak je opravit. Těšte se na videa mini kurz Zdarma.

Dolu řeknete mi co myslíte co je nejběžnější chyby.

Čau for now.

P.S. Mužete mi  sledovat kliknutím na FOLLOW.


How to Remember and Recall Your New Words.

Three weeks ago I asked you about your learning styles. You can read that post here if you missed it. Last week I recommended four websites to you, three of which will help you to expand your vocabulary. This week I am going to let you in on (Phrasal Verbs explained at the end) a couple of secrets for remembering those new words that you have been learning.

left_right_brainWhen I started learning Czech I just couldn’t remember new words unless I used them very often. Living in Cambridge in the UK I didn’t have that much opportunity other than with my girlfriend and a couple of her friends. Our brief conversations, if you can call them that, were merely pleasantries, Dobry Den, Ahoj, Jak se máš etc.

I did find a very helpful application called BYKI which uses flashcards and sound to assist in your learning, English one side, Czech the other with a picture if it was a noun. I soon started to show off how many new words I thought I had learned. My first words were as a child would learn, colours and animals. I was particularly good at birds, go on, test me! Sokol, orel, labut I have recently found out that this type of application is called a “Spaced Repetition System” and is quite effective. However, I soon learnt all the words in the programme (there weren’t so many for the Czech language). My motivation to learn stopped and I learnt almost nothing new until we decided to move here. Check out Anki, my new favourite flashcard software.

Listen, Lisen, Listen

ear-clip-art-McLLy6RXiSince I moved to the Czech Republic I have found it increasingly easy to remember new words as I am surrounded by the language and hear it constantly. This repetition of hearing sounds has clearly helped my understanding of the language but as I said last week I still learn very passively. You, on the other hand, probably live in the Czech Republic so you don’t have that luxury. What you need to do is listen to English songs, watch films, tv channels and series in English. Of course you are learning and practising regularly from books, reading and in conversation with me or your other English teacher (aren’t you?) so a good system for memorizing your new vocabulary is a must.

Use Your Memory

Many years ago I read a book called ‘Use Your Memory’ from the author Tony Buzan. You may know of him because he invented Mind Maps, the system of drawing brain like pictures to aid memory recall. His book has many fantastic ideas with memory techniques from 2000 years ago like the Roman Room to modern inventions like his Mind Maps. One of my favourites is to make a visual story from the words in your imagination. This works fine for remembering a list of words in your own language however it needs some adjusting to work for foreign languages, in your case English. Enter ‘Mnemonics‘. (Pronounced – nemoniks)

lightbulbMnemonics are memory techniques to help you remember large pieces of information. There are many types of mnemonics including, rhymes and songs to remember things but my favourite style of mnemonic is the image mnemonic (number 7 in the list if you follow this link). You invent a colourful, exciting image, or better still video, in your mind using the two words you need to attach together. For example if you want to learn the English word for ‘konvice’ which is ‘kettle’, you could think up an image in your mind of a konvice v Barceloně. Barcelona is in Catalonia which in both English and Czech (Katálonie) sounds similar enough to kettle for you to remember.

When I was learning the months of the year in Czech I used mnemonics to remember some of the months with great success. Some words were a little difficult to imagine so I used another technique of word association. If your images are clear enough in your mind it might only take a few seconds per word to fix in your brain. It’s also great fun and very creative. The simple idea behind it is that you are attaching the new word to something your brain already remembers. Buzan calls these ‘hooks’ on which you can ‘hang’ your new words to remember. Here’s how I learnt the months of the year in Czech.months

  • January = Leden – Sound like the English word lead (olovo)
  • February = Únor – Uno is one but this is the second month.
  • March = Březen – Brrrrrrr (the sound we make to mean it cold) I imagined a Buddhist Zen monk sitting in the snow shivering.
  • April = Duben – my associated word was ‘doobie’ (adults can look that one up)
  • May = Květen – I already knew flowers in Czech and in May there are flowers right?!
  • June = Červen – Because I knew ‘red’ it was simple, and May’s flowers in my image were red which led me straight to June.
  • July = Červenec – Just add th ‘ec’
  • August = Srpen – Sounds like serpent ( a mythical snake-like creature) at my birthday party (the 20th!)
  • September = Září – The Russian Tsar going back to school.
  • October = Říjen – I had a Nazi officer interrogating me saying ‘Zee end is near’
  • November = Listopad – I already knew the Czech words for leaf and fall so it was simple. I also thought about making my Christmas list.
  • December = Prosinec – Robert Prosinečki (ex Croation international footballer) standing next to a Christmas tree.

What Now? Leave a comment.

Of course, if your English vocabulary is already pretty large you could try using English words to make the associations, it really doesn’t matter whether the hook word is English or Czech as you long as it just that, a hook. If this is you, have a look at this great mnemonic dictionary for some ideas of how to remember new words.

Have fun with this and leave me one example in the comments below of a mnemonic or word association you use.


Phrasal Verbs Used

  • Let you in on – to allow someone to know or share (something secret or confidential).
  • Show off – make a deliberate or pretentious display of one’s abilities or accomplishments.
  • Found out – to get information about something because you want to know more about it, or to ​learn a fact or piece of information for the first ​time
  • Think up – to devise or contrive by thinking
  • look that one up – to search for something in a book or online

How Are You Learning English?

Originally posted by Richard, Sep 23 2015 10:10AM

What Techniques Do You Use For Learning English?

Are you a textbook only person or do you like to practice conversation too? booksAre you one of those people who writes Czech words down one side of the paper then folds it over and writes the English on the other side? (just like my dad – yes he’s learning Czech!) Do you go to evening classes? Are you listening to CDs? Is watching films your favourite way to listen to English or are you more of a song person?

Learning Styles

Each person learns differently in their own way. There are many theories telling us of ‘Learning Styles’, that is that we all learn in a variety of different ways. It’s said that we are usually more dominant in one learning style than another. Here’s an example:

Neil Fleming’s VARK model suggests that there are four discernible ways in which we learn.

Visual learningGetBetterGradesNow-Dot-Com-Learning-Styles-274x300

Auditory learning

Read/write learning

Kinesthetic learning

Fleming said that Visual learners prefer to see something more than just words in order to assist their learning. Aids such as graphs, diagrams, symbols, and pictures for example). Auditory learners by listening to lectures, discussions and audio recordings, etc.). Kinesthetic (or tactile) learners like to learn with real first hand experience that is to actually BE moving, touching, and doing things. (exploring, experiments and physical activity etc.).

More Styles

In recent years this theory has been developed and according to the Institue of Learning Styles Research the list now contains seven different learning styles: Print, Visual, Haptic, Intereactive, Kinesthetic, Aural and Olfactory. You can find out more here:

It’s true also that there are scientists out there who claim that these learning styles don’t exist. However whether you believe it or not surely covering all bases and using as many different techniques as you can (to aid your learning) can only be a good thing. If nothing else it keeps you interested and enthusiastic.

Share Your Styles

So share with me your prefered ways of learning English, I’d love to know what has and hasn’t worked for you. Tell us by leaving a comment below. Sign up for my weekly English Tips email here.