5 Ways to Improve your English
You want to improve your English? Starting by reading this blog in English is great, but I’m going to tell you about 5 great ways you can improve your English. Many international students come to study in Brisbane, Australia to become fluent in English, yet plenty find themselves struggling once they get here. Why is that? Well, look at what you are doing in your life -how much of it is in English? When you look at your phone, when you go shopping, when you watch videos on Youtube, etc. -what language are you using? Most of the time, it’s not English. Two hours of hard work studying English alone in your room might be less effective than a regular day of just casually using English. So, let’s design this day.
1. Make a goal to speak to people every day
This is important. No one is going to ask you which languages you write, or listen, or read. We judge someone’s language comprehension, mostly, by speaking.
Ask yourself what kind of goal you want. Maybe just a quick back and forth with 2-3 people every day, or maybe one really long conversation every weekend. Once you have set your goal, keep it, measure it, and try to beat your score.
A lot of students find themselves in a bubble when they get here, meaning most of their friends are from the same country, speaking to them in the same language. How do you break the bubble? There are lots of great chances to talk to people other than your friends! To start with, you can speak to anyone working at a store or restaurant where you are a customer. When you are lining up to pay for an item, think about something you can say to the cashier.
“Wow, is it always this busy here?”
“This is so cheap, I thought the price might be wrong!”
Asking questions and talking with a smile on your face can be enough to keep a nice conversation going. The same thing works with servers at a restaurant, you can ask questions or compliment the food in different ways.
There are people waiting for you to talk to them! Walk around Queen Street Mall, or King George Square, you will find someone trying to hand you a flyer. They might be telling you about an event, their church, a product, or something else -use this a free English lesson. They will speak to you and you can respond, just be inquisitive, keep asking questions.
There are lots of free conversation groups around the city, like at the Brisbane City Library. If you have time to volunteer, consider working with children or seniors, often you can find yourself having long conversations and learning some new words and expressions.
2. Immerse yourself in English
You are already immersing yourself in English by living in Brisbane, but think about other ways you can expose yourself to English. One trick that worked for me, was labeling items in my house that I usually forgot the words for. Spending a couple dollars on tape and paper and you could label your whole apartment seeing the vocabulary words daily can help improve your English.
Change the language settings on your phone if you haven’t already. Most phones have the option to change completely to English. Just write down the steps you followed to change it to English, then if you really need to change it back you can follow the same steps. Do the same for any websites you use regularly. If all your favourite websites are in your native language, consider trying out some social sites in English! Twitter is a good start, since it’s just reading little bits of information in your spare time.
Get creative! Next time you cook for yourself, try following an English recipe. If you’re starting a new video, pick an English one. Watch a movie in English while you relax in the evening and turn on English subtitles so you can switch between listening and reading.
3. Start a journal, or a blog
Make a goal to do a little bit of English writing every day. Just like setting a conversation goal, pick a target, maybe you want to write half a page in your journal, maybe you want 500 words on your blog. If you keep writing a little bit every day, you will improve your English!
If you’re writing about your experience in Brisbane this can also be a great tool to keep track of events and make a great souvenir for yourself.
“I walked to Liberty this morning, it was so much more hot today! For me, this is hot, but I saw Australians still wearing coats. For our IELTS course we focused a lot on speaking today. I think I speak more to people here than I did back in Korea! After class, I went with some classmates to South Bank, we sat on a blanket and tried to play different card games. Even after the sun went down, I was hot. We stayed for the fireworks display called RiverFire, there were more people there than I expected and I met some more international students.”
If you keep a journal or a blog for a year, you may even go back to read it for enjoyment and notice how much your English has improved.
4. Listen to talk radio
Whenever I suggest talk radio people stop smiling. Talk radio is usually considered to be quite boring, but it can be an amazing tool to improve your language skills whether you are a beginner or nearly fluent.
Firstly, talk radio can be a great to improve your English and listening comprehension, because you are listening to real native speakers who are speaking at an acceptable speed. This is great if you are driving or on the bus, just try listening to talk radio. If you’re advanced it’s a great way to learn new vocabulary words in context. If you’re just beginning, listen for words that you know. Listening and recognizing words will help you when you’re speaking, you won’t need to pause or ask native speakers to repeat themselves as often.
Secondly, you can use talk radio to reduce your accent and improve your pronunciation. A lot of English learners are quick to point out that native speakers don’t really pronounce words the way they are spelled. Like, for example, the word ‘education’ coming from an Australian English speaker might sound more like ‘E-jah-KAY-shun’. Just looking at words on paper won’t help much when you go to speak them out loud. So, when you are listening to talking radio, and you are alone, repeat the words you hear. If you hear the radio host say, “We have a caller, Janice, from Spring Hill” or anything really, repeat it!
If you want to fit in with the locals try listening to 4BC 1116 Brisbane’s premier News and talk radio station. If you want a proper British accent try listening to some of the BBC discussions. If you want to sound more like the Americans in the movies listen to National Public Radio (NPR), they have 24 hour news.
5. Get your English level assessed
It’s hard to know how to improve your English if you don’t know where you are. Getting your English level assessed by English professionals can help identify areas that need improvement. Many students are comfortable with reading, and listening, but struggle with speaking. Since they struggle with speaking, they might feel like they are bad at English in general. Once you have been assessed you can use your strong areas to help fixed your weak areas. Like if you’re great at writing but not speaking, it might help you to write some things out that you keep forgetting and then you can focus on improving your speaking skill!
How do you get assessed? If you’re in Brisbane, come to our campus (490 Edward Street, Spring Hill) where we offer mock IELTS tests. Our test is modeled after the IELTS so you can be assessed in reading, writing, listening, and speaking. If you are not yet in Brisbane, we also have a free mock test available online!