How to Improve Your English Speaking Part 2 – A Deeper Look

How to Improve Your English Speaking Part 2 – A Deeper Look

This is an updated version of my Almost Everything You Need to Learn English post from 2017.

Speak better English

Today I am going to tell you what have I learnt (or learned) about the best ways to learn English (or any foreign language). For the last five and a half years I have been living in the Czech Republic, helping Czechs and Slovaks to learn English. Mainly, I have focussed on spoken English because my clients want to improve their speaking and there is no better way to do that than to simply speak. Or is there?

Here is a vocabulary list of the words in bold and their English definitions

During these last six years I have learnt a huge amount about how to teach and how we learn. It is my intention, over the next few weeks, to tell you just what I have learnt and to go in depth into each of the ideas. Today I will give you an overview of what to look forward to in the coming weeks and it is my hope that you can use this information to create some kind of personal plan for learning. First things first, have you read my introduction to Speaking Better English? Great, so now let’s take a look at the main areas I want to focus on…

Motivation

Motivation to Learn English

Before you even start to learn English, you need to have motivation, a reason for learning. This could be as simple as wanting to take a holiday in a foreign country, where you know English will be indespensible, or it could be because you want a new job and English is a prerequisite for getting the position. If you have a solid reason for learning it can help motivate you to learn. If you are studying English because your boss told you to, I recommend you find some real motivation to spur you on and give you a reason to learn English. To continue reading more about how to motivate yourself, click here. (Will be posted Oct 25th)

Goals

Having difficult but attainable goals will also spur you on. Long term goals are good but you also need more short and medium term goals, which, when you achieve them, will give you a boost and show you that you are making progress. I suggest even making goals for each learning session and gamifying the tasks you have. Then there’s the Pomadoro technique. You can read more about that and other goal setting ideas here.

English habitsHabits

Decide to have good habits. That is a choice you must make; to practise regularly and frequently. You simply must make time and prioritize your English. It doesn’t have to be THE most important thing in your life but it must have a prominent place.

 

Repetition and Review

I know, this is one of the 150 year old schooling methods that I mentioned earlier but it does have it place within an ultimate learning method. There are two reasons why it has remained the mainstay of the mainstream school and that is primarily through laziness/conservativeness of the school system in general but secondly because it does work as a way of fixing information in your memory. A future blog post will go into more detail on the pros and cons of how you can utilize this technique.

 

Confidence

Build your confidence right from the start. There are numerous ways you can do this, even if you are a really shy person or someone who is ashamed of their level of English. One quick tip for you today is to make a list of all the words you can find that are the same or similar in Czech and English. You immediately then have a ‘go to’ vocabulary. Start using these words as often as possible to send your brain the message that these words are OK!  You can meet with a native speaker, read books and watch video/tv/films; label everything in your home or office; Take risks and get out of your comfort zone. Take a holiday in a native speaking country and use what you know.

Make Mistakes

I am always telling people to STOP APOLOGIZING when they make a mistake. This is a terrible learned habit from your childhood when you were chastised for you errors by your parents and teachers. You were only trying to answer a question or do some task and because you got it wrong they shouted, scolded, punished, restricted and withheld. It is difficult to overcome these feelings but it is possible. Visualization is the key, more on that later. Basically, be able to laugh at yourself when you make mistakes. Make mistakes your friend. RELAX, it’s OK, but DO LEARN FROM THEM. I also have a video course to help Czechs and Slovaks to correct some of the most common mistakes you make when speaking English.

Grammar (Oh no!)

Don’t learn English grammar in the traditional way (unless you’re a polyglot and find it easy), use my Faster Grammar For Speaking method . I will explain more about this is a later post but essentially  it is a mixed tense way of learning that focusses firstly on the grammar you need to speak about yourself. This is a system I have been developing for some time and I hope will be a massive help to anyone who considers themself a false beginner. For those of you who are struggling with the Present Perfect tense here is a little freebie for you. Just click on the book image and I’ll send you the Easy Guide to the Present Perfect ASAP.

Jak se nejlépe naučit anglicky?
Easy Guide to the Present Perfect FREE ebook

Visualization

Without doubt, the biggest elephant in the room that the education system, the world over, is ignoring. Visualization is the best way to remember vocabulary, full stop (or period if you want to speak American English)

Learning Styles

I have written and spoken many times on the subject of learning styles and thankfully it is something that is creeping into education systems. Use as many learning styles as possible and finding your most prominent learning style will increse you learning effectiveness. I will write more on this later but for now you can check out this older post of mine which will give you a basic understanding of what learning styles are for the uninitiated.

Listen

Unfortunately, I find this to be the one area most neglected  by Czech and Slovak English learners. You should try to listen to native speakers as much as possible. Radio, tv, films, podcasts, music, documentaries and real people. If you are lucky enough to live in Prague you have an unending supply of native speakers. Teachers of course, but also on the streets, in the pubs, restaurants, shops and cafes. Get out there and listen.

Immediate Action

When a word randomly comes into your mind, immediately (or as quickly as possible) find out its meaning, write it down and visualize it. Start using your new words in your writing and in conversation frequently to fix them in your vocabulary.

Ask for Help

When you don’t understand something, write it down and ask your English teacher/helper to explain it. If you have no-one, find someone or at least try to find some advice on You Tube.

Learn English language online with a personal native teacher! Register to italki now.

 

Get Creative with Your Notes

Write down anything interesting you find in English, new nouns, verbs, phrases, grammar rules, idioms, expressions or just interesting facts in English. But don’t stop at just writing in the usual boring (school taught) note-taking way. Get creative with your notes. Fill the page with your own drawings, cartooning the vocabulary and using different font styles, shapes and sizes.

Copy What You Hear

Imitate what you hear. Copy the speaker instead of just pronouncing words as you read them. If you really want to have something like a native speaker’s accent you need to copy what you hear. Don’t just say things the way it’s written or the way you learned it, listen to how a native speaker says it. Be consistent with your pronunciation though and choose a particular accent rather than mixing and matching because this will lead to misunderstandings for sure. There exists an idea of a generic or sterotypical British and American accent when there really is no such thing. Both countries have a multitude of different accents. If you are interested, I posted about British accents on my facebook page here.

Next week I will expand upon motivation to learn English and try to help you find yours and give you actionable steps to find it.

Do you have a plan for learning? A method? A system? Tell me how you learn English in the comments below.

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Jak se nejlépe naučit anglicky?

Jak se nejlépe naučit anglicky?

Today I am going to tell you what have I learnt (or learned) about the best ways to learn English (Jak se nejlépe naučit anglicky). For the last five and a half years I have been living in the Czech Republic, helping Czechs and Slovaks to learn English. Mainly, I have focussed on spoken English because my clients want to improve their speaking and there is no better way to do that than to simply speak. Or is there?

Here is a vocabulary list of the words in bold and their English definitions

During these last five years I have learnt a huge amount about how to teach and how we learn. It is my intention, over the next few weeks, to tell you just what I have learnt and to go in depth into each of the ideas. Today I will give you an overview of what to look forward to in the coming weeks and it is my hope that you can use this information to create some kind of personal plan for learning. First things first…

Motivation

Before you even start to learn English, you need to have motivation, a reason for learning. This could be as simple as wanting to take a holiday in a foreign country, where you know English will be indespensible, or it could be because you want a new job and English is a prerequisite for getting the position. If you have a solid reason for learning it can help motivate you to learn. If you are studying English because your boss told you to, I recommend you find some real motivation to spur you on and give you a reason to learn English. Click here for more on motivation.

Goals

Having difficult but attainable goals will also spur you on. Long term goals are good but you also need more short and medium term goals, which, when you achieve them, will give you a boost and show you that you are making progress. I suggest even making goals for each learning session and gamifying the tasks you have. To read about my favourite method for setting goals click here.

good_bad_habits_largeHabits

Decide to have good habits. That is a choice you must make; to practise regularly and frequently. You simply must make time and prioritize your English. It doesn’t have to be THE most important thing in your life but it must have a prominent place. Read more here about how to create great habits and replace bad ones.

Repetition and Review

I know, this is one of the 150 year old schooling methods that I mentioned earlier but it does have it place within an ultimate learning method. There are two reasons why it has remained the mainstay of the mainstream school and that is primarily through laziness/conservativeness of the school system in general but secondly because it does work as a way of fixing information in your memory. A future blog post will go into more detail on the pros and cons of how you can utilize this technique.

 

Confidence

Build your confidence right from the start. There are numerous ways you can do this, even if you are a really shy person or someone who is ashamed of their level of English. One quick tip for you today is to make a list of all the words you can find that are the same or similar in Czech and English. You immediately then have a ‘go to’ vocabulary. Start using these words as often as possible to send your brain the message that these words are OK!  You can meet with a native speaker, read books and watch video/tv/films; label everything in your home or office; Take risks and get out of your comfort zone. Take a holiday in a native speaking country and use what you know. More about gaining confidence here.

Make Mistakes

I am always telling people to STOP APOLOGIZING when they make a mistake. This is a terrible learned habit from your childhood when you were chastised for you errors by your parents and teachers. You were only trying to answer a question or do some task and because you got it wrong they shouted, scolded, punished, restricted and withheld. It is difficult to overcome these feelings but it is possible. Visualization is the key, more on that later. Basically, be able to laugh at yourself when you make mistakes. Make mistakes your friend. RELAX, it’s OK, but DO LEARN FROM THEM. I also have a video course to help Czechs and Slovaks to correct some of the most common mistakes you make when speaking English. This article is a good place to go to read abou mistakes mine included!)

Grammar (Oh no!)image-.jpg

Don’t learn English grammar in the traditional way (unless you’re a polyglot and find it easy), use my Faster Grammar For Speaking method . I will explain more about this is a later post but essentially  it is a mixed tense way of learning that focusses firstly on the grammar you need to speak about yourself. This is a system I have been developing for some time and I hope will be a massive help to anyone who considers themself a false beginner. If you are struggling with the dreaded present perfect tense, click on the picture to get my Easy Guide to the Present Perfect free ebook.

Visualization

Without doubt, the biggest elephant in the room that the education system, the world over, is ignoring. Visualization is the best way to remember vocabulary, full stop (or period if you want to speak American English)

Learning Styles

I have written and spoken many times on the subject of learning styles and thankfully it is something that is creeping into education systems. Use as many learning styles as possible and finding your most prominent learning style will increse you learning effectiveness. I will write more on this later but for now you can check out this older post of mine which will give you a basic understanding of what learning styles are for the uninitiated.

Listen

Unfortunately, I find this to be the one area most neglected  by Czech and Slovak English learners. You should try to listen to native speakers as much as possible. Radio, tv, films, podcasts, music, documentaries and real people. If you are lucky enough to live in Prague you have an unending supply of native speakers. Teachers of course, but also on the streets, in the pubs, restaurants, shops and cafes. Get out there and listen.

Immediate Action

When a word randomly comes into your mind, immediately (or as quickly as possible) find out its meaning, write it down and visualize it. Start using your new words in your writing and in conversation frequently to fix them in your vocabulary.

Ask for Help

When you don’t understand something, write it down and ask your English teacher/helper to explain it. If you have no-one, find someone or at least try to find some advice on You Tube.

Learn English language online with a personal native teacher! Register to italki now.

 

Get Creative with Your Notes

Write down anything interesting you find in English, new nouns, verbs, phrases, grammar rules, idioms, expressions or just interesting facts in English. But don’t stop at just writing in the usual boring (school taught) note-taking way. Get creative with your notes. Fill the page with your own drawings, cartooning the vocabulary and using different font styles, shapes and sizes. Look at Mike Rohde’s Sketchnotes site for a beautiful way to take notes.

Copy What You Hear

Imitate what you hear. Copy the speaker instead of just pronouncing words as you read them. If you really want to have something like a native speaker’s accent you need to copy what you hear. Don’t just say things the way it’s written or the way you learned it, listen to how a native speaker says it. Be consistent with your pronunciation though and choose a particular accent rather than mixing and matching because this will lead to misunderstandings for sure. There exists an idea of a generic or sterotypical British and American accent when there really is no such thing. Both countries have a multitude of different accents. If you are interested, I posted about British accents on my facebook page here.

Now go to this article to learn about motivation to learn English.

Do you have a plan for learning? A method? A system? Tell me how you learn English in the comments below.

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.

Richard.

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