Knowledge Base: Tips on Practicing English

The following blog post is from our upcoming Knowledge Base. Knowledge Base is an online collection of CIES guide articles that answer your questions on topics ranging from taking the train and dressing in the winter to job hunting and visiting the dentist. Look forward to it! 

When learning a language, we all know that practice makes perfect and that we must be patient. Language learning does not happen overnight. The world can be your classroom—at home, school, work or just out and about around town. The problem is, people can spend 25 years in a new place and NEVER learn the language. We must develop strategies if we really want to learn well. This guide article lists some strategies you can use while learning and practicing English.

From the Knowledge Base: Tips on Practicing English

Practice Listening to English
  • Download a program or find a website that has the text of what is said.
  • Review the text one sentence at a time and get familiar with the vocabulary. Focus for now on listening to the speech.
  • Follow a sentence several times while listening until you are comfortable with its pronunciation.
  • Listen to the text in short paragraphs or chunks. Look away and try to summarize the text in your words. Record and listen to your summary for review.
  • Listen to the whole conversation or story without interruption. Summarize what you hear.
Practice Understanding English
  • Watch videos and listen to music in English. Try to listen for words or even sounds that you know.
  • Use websites for listening practice: www.elllo.orgwww.esl-lab.comwww.podcastsinenglish.com, and www.5minuteenglish.com.
  • When others in class speak, listen to what they say and build mental pictures.
  • Listen while a tutor or friend reads to you.
  • Make friends with a native English speaker and practice with them!
Practice Speaking English
  • Reading silently is not always useful: use your voice! Read aloud. Think of it as training your mouth to make the new sounds!
  • In class, if your “answer” does not come to mind repeat the question in English, or use English to say that you don’t know, or need help! Try to think in English, giving your brain time to work in the new language.
  • Speak as must as you can…but give others a chance too!
Practice English Vocabulary
  • Be creative when learning new words. For example, put post-it notes around your house to learn and identify what is in your bedroom, refrigerator, car, etc. Read the notes aloud as you walk around the house.
  • Create a thesaurus. A thesaurus is a book that groups together words with similar meanings. For example, if you looked up the word “happy” in a thesaurus, you would also finds words like “joy” and “delight”.
  • Draw an image of a new vocabulary word.
  • Create a concept map of a word with synonyms (same meaning), antonyms (opposite meaning), or related words.
  • Look up new words and their definitions in an English-only dictionary or online. Write out the definition. Add one synonym or antonym.
Practice Reading English
  • Do not read or translate word-by-word. Instead, prepare yourself in advance for a reading. Study its vocabulary and review the related questions first. Then, put aside everything and just read, as many times as needed. Do not look up vocabulary while reading.
  • Do not write in your textbook or reading. Make a separate vocabulary list for the reading.
  • Go beyond your textbook! Children’s books are illustrated and easy to read. Websites are great tools to explore your hobbies in English, and are usually easy to read.
  • Read/sing the lyrics of songs you like.
  • As your skills advance, read short stories or novels. Be sure to read for the story, not the vocabulary. Read a chapter, then if you see repetitive vocabulary, look it up and read again. Getting the main idea is the most important thing. Vocabulary will come in time.
Practice Writing English
  • English uses the Latin (also known as Roman) alphabet. Practice writing this alphabet to learn both correct writing and vocabulary!
  • Write out sentences you have practiced orally.
  • When you get corrections on an assignment, re-write the assignment.
    Correct what you got wrong, even repeating in order to make it stay in your mind.
Practice English Grammar
  • Read a short, clear, and easily understandable explanation of a grammar rule.
  • Find several examples of the rule. Check whether you fully understand the examples.
  • Create your own example of a grammar rule, drawing from real life events and conversations you’ve had.
  • Self study. You know what you need to work on, so work on it! Don’t wait for the teacher to give you homework.
Use Technology to Practice English
  • Try using your phone, tablet, or computer in English.
  • Download English apps with your phone.
  • Use the Internet to search for English websites. On websites you can play games, read newspapers, learn more about your hobbies, research subjects you are interested in, etc.
  • Watch videos and movies in English.
  • Learn the words to popular English songs and sing along!
  • Check out CBC Learning English
Immerse Yourself in English Environments
  • Visit centers and organizations that service newcomers.
  • Study daily to develop English learning habits. Focus on building your skills.
  • Don’t miss a class!
  • Study with others, such as a friend or in a group.
Final Message

Do not worry about what you cannot remember, or cannot yet understand, or cannot yet say. You are learning and improving. English will become clearer in your brain as new connections are made, but this will happen on a schedule that you cannot control. So sit back and enjoy. Just make sure you spend enough time with English. That is the greatest guarantee of success.

Many students say that they don’t have time to study outside of class. If you really want to learn, you must find the time to study outside of class, even if it is only a half an hour per day. Every little bit makes a difference.

ADAPTED FROM: http://www.studygs.net/langlearn.htm