One of the big questions:
Do I have to go and live in an English speaking country to properly learn the language?
The honest answer is: preferably yes.
It would be more natural, as in more spontaneous, and it would be faster.
However, and here I am as honest as before, I have met many, so many people that despite having being abroad for years, never really managed to master the language.
I also have lots of friends who learned to speak excellent English right from their home countries.
We could argue about differences in the education system but what I am saying, without judging, is that everyone has their goals and priorities.
It’s all about making the little changes that allow a fast and steady learning process. It takes time and endurance. But this you already know. You wouldn’t be here otherwise.
What I am trying to say is that there are ways to force ourselves into practicing a language.
You know what? It’s your lucky day cause I am about to give you a bullet proof list of possible practice routines.
Disclaimer, not all of them might be suitable for you. Pick and mix, do not choose only one or two, they work best if applied together, just like in a diet with nutrients variety. And, as in every healthy diet ,there are a few that are essential, they are the equivalent of your 5 a day (fruit and veg) I will write them in bold
Now, the list:
- Change the setting of your devices into English.Anything ,computer, smartphone, google, Netflix everything. First days will be chaotic, then you’ll get used to it. Never turn it back though.
- Follow English speaking pages on social media, careful not the English learning pages only, I actually would recommend following any page but those. Just follow things you like such as sports, fashion, gossips, fitness or diet or fishing or yoga , architecture or music …. You got it. Many artists post content on a daily basis.
- Leave some messages, post it notes to yourself, yes it sounds weird but it works.
If you are learning vocabulary or a new grammar structure, write it on some pieces of paper that you will scatter around your house. I am serious. Put them in the fridge, on the ceiling, on the toilet seat, anywhere but not on your computer or tv, you don’t want them to bug your day, you want them to be a nice reminder, a way to have fun with yourself.
- Switch your tv to English, most channels are available in English, trust me. Then only watch movies in English. (I will tell you more in detail in a dedicated post) Start with cartoons and comedies you are familiar with. I am serious. Watch you favourite childhood movies first. My ones are ‘who framed Roger Rabbit’, ‘The Goonies’, ‘The sword in the stone’ and ‘Forrest gump’ (yes I used to be young)
One word of advice about this. Watching movies is energy consuming for your brain so take it easy and watch only 10 or 20 minutes at a time. Possibly watch it without subtitels, you want to practice listening skills not reading, ok?
- Turn the radio on! I mean internet radio of course. Just 5 minutes in the morning while you brush your teeth or you get dressed. I am not talking about songs I mean the news or a talkshow. Do not listen to it while you eat or work, that is not really efficient in terms of learning and you can enjoy your food more.
- Listen to podcasts about things you like, then you can read the transcription later, I said later. As in everything you listen to your main focus is detecting sound. Reading while you listen it is a great exercise that can be done after the first listening, it requires time and it is good to rewire our ‘’bad’’ pronunciation patters.
- Find a language buddy, a person you can talk to. There are many websites offering tandem partners, you help them in your language they help you in theirs.
- Subscribe to newsletters of English speaking associations or companies. I can recommend tim ferries, wordsmith.org greenpeace barack Obama and you will find your favourite too.
- Contact customer care services of products you would like to buy enquiring about anything you need ( a bit of common sense…please don’t waste their time just to practice though, and don’t tell them I told you to do so)
- Read English books, start with easy readings, books you have already read, I recommend also the graded reading or simplified versions of classics. They use a limited range of words but are great works nonetheless. I managed reading Anna Karenina, I would have never read the original one, maybe I will one day.
- Keep a journal or a diary, no need to write pages and pages, just short memos trying to use different adjectives (avoid nice, big, beautiful and important)
- Read the news, online newspaper are easy to access and most of them are free or ask for a small fee.
- Only use Wikipedia in English, even for things that are related to your country.
- Consider visiting an English speaking country on your next holiday . I recommend Irland because flights and accommodation are realtively cheap, people are chatty and it is Europe so you won’t have long waiting lines at the border. Scotland is another great place to chat with friendly people. Avoid London not only because is overpriced but mostly because many other languages , including yours, are spoken.
- Plan a trip using only English speaking websites, even though you wanna visit Germany france spain or sicily, search info in English, lonely planet and many other travel guides are writtenin English first and then translated into other languages anyways
- Always switch to English when browsing, most websites have an English version.
- When visiting a museum opt for an audio guide aaaand guess what ask for it to be set to English (every museum on earth has English descriptions for the artworks. Read the English first, then if you understood nothing or if you wanna make sure you got it right, read them your language.
- Watch YouTube tutorials, if you want to know how to fix a bike, a blocked sink or play chess, do it in English.
- Play video games in English, there is often a community of gamers. You can make friends and chat.
- Join online courses or seminars (many are free),
- Yoga or meditation can be done following a guiding voice, in English obviously.
- Consider joining walking tours or guided city tours in English in every city you visit.
- If you live in a big city subscribe to meetup groups, many foreigners use this to make friends, meet and do sports or go to events together.
- Set English as the language for all your Apps, all of them.
- Go karaoke, choose a song you’ve always wanted to learn and practice singing it. My forte is ‘’I got you under my skin’’ by Sinatra.
- Download Duolingo and practice 5 minutes a day, it tends to be repetitive so I would say just 5 minutes is enough ( I am not getting paid for this, it is just a suggestion)
- Start a new routine. Take up a hobby from scratch, it has to be something new. Something you’ve always wanted to do but never had the time before. This time you make time for it and do it….do it in english. This will be your little project, something to be proud of and the reason is twofold, you’ll be proud of finding the time and working on your language learning.
- If you like watching sports tune into an English commentary, you can find anything you want from tour the France to tennis to synchronised swimming figure skating, diving …you name it (last three are my favourite sports to watch as I do not know much about them and I really enjoy listening to the commentary as they go at length explaining lots of things about techniques and how the performances are assessed)
- Watch YouTube channels such as The School of Life, After Skool, Kurzgesagt.
- Consider taking an exam. Qualifications are important. You will have a goal to keep your motivation up and as a side effect you will learn the language. It worked for me
Well, that was a long list!
Now you know how to make it happen.
Just follow my advice to see your English improve before your eyes…and ears!