As Mike Mayor, the Director of Global Scale of English within Pearson English, suggests: all learners have different backgrounds and goals. There are therefore personalised things you can be doing to optimise your learning outside of the classroom on your journey on what Mike describes as the ‘personalised path to proficiency’. With that in mind, here are five simple everyday things you can be doing to make sure you’re constantly fine-tuning your English in the four skills areas…
1. Start an English language social media account
Bearing in mind there are over 2 billion people on social media, the chances are you are too. We’re also guessing that it’s in your native language, right? Why not set up a Twitter account in English as a way of practicing your written English? It could be beneficial in a number of ways: the 140 character limit will help you refine what you’re trying to communicate, resulting in shorter, snappier sentences. Meanwhile, you’ll also be able to express your opinions and interests in another language.
You could also make social media an extension of the classroom by setting up a Facebook group for you and your fellow students, in which you discuss your challenges and progress, while also organising study sessions (all in English, of course!)
2. Write a blog in English
If you’re looking to articulate yourself in longer form, you could start a blog. You might want to make it about the rollercoaster ride that is your English learning journey or, alternatively, you might want to combine it with your interests, whether that’s reading, films, fashion, travel or whatever it might be. Set yourself a goal of one 500-word blog a week and ask your friends and fellow students to read it and provide you with feedback. You may want to your blog from your Twitter account.
If you’d like to practice your spoken skills as well we your written ones, you could create a YouTube channel and start video blogging (vlogging) to discuss whatever topic is on your mind.
3. Watch English language films (without subtitles!)
We’ve previously discussed the ways in which watching films can help learners improve their English. But while we’d previously suggested keeping the English subtitles on to allow you to simultaneously see and hear the words to improve your understanding; if you want to push yourself you’re going to have to turn those subtitles OFF.
Try watching an English language film with other learners (minus the subtitles) and afterwards ask each other questions about the film’s plot, its characters and your favourite bits of dialogue. If you’ve started a blog, why not try reviewing the film on it?
4. Ask LOTS of questions
If you’re learning English in a country where it’s the first language, throwing yourself in at the deep end every now and then might be beneficial. Take a break from your studies and go for a walk. Pick a nearby destination and, without using a map (or a phone), ask someone for directions to that place and see if you can get there based on their instructions. Alternatively, go for lunch somewhere and ask some questions about items on the venue or ask for some recommendations. Again, if you’ve got a blog, why not review some of the places you’re visiting to practice/showcase your English, as well as to offer a unique perspective.
5. Stay in touch
As John H.A.L. de Jong tells us, ‘we must create the need to use the language and opportunities to practice – emulating the way first language acquisition happens’. So while a chat to family back home is a comforting experience; if possible, try and keep in regular contact with a native English speak – whether by phone or email – to discuss what you (and they) have been doing. Not only will this help with your reading and written skills (if you’re doing this via email/online chat) and speaking and listening skills (if you’re doing it via phone/Skype), but a native speaker will be able to correct you on any mistakes you make – as well as introducing you to vocabulary and turns of might not have experienced in your studies.
What’s your favourite way to practice the English you’ve learned? Tell us via Twitter and LinkedIn.