Here are some speaking, vocabulary, grammar and reading tips for you to improve your English anytime.
Learning Tips for Adults
Four tips to make learning new words a daily habit
A fluent English speaker should have an extensive knowledge of the English vocabulary. You can skip grammar but you can’t skip the building blocks of language: words. But let’s be realistic: you can’t memorise the English dictionary in a day!
We have come up with tips to master the English language that will only take you about thirty minutes or less to do:
STUDY FOR TEN TO TWENTY MINUTES
Set a realistic target daily and stick to it. Start with one word a day, and gradually increase it to two to five words a day. Ask yourself, what is the maximum amount of time that I can devote to learning the language? Can I stick to my target if I allot twenty minutes every day? What’s important is that you make it a habit to learn English daily. And remember, fifteen minutes a day will bring better results than half an hour once a week or so.
GET A VOCABULARY NOTEBOOK
Keep all the things you’ve learned in one place. When we say vocabulary notebook, we don’t simply mean it as a notebook—if you prefer to use an app on your smartphone, feel free to do so. The important thing is that you develop a system of recording new words you’ve learned, since this allows you to go through the words and review them once in a couple of weeks.
NEVER LEARN A WORD IN ISOLATION
The best way to build a vocabulary is to use the words you have learned in its proper context. When you’re building your English vocabulary, learn the prepositions that go with these expressions.
For example: the word ‘get away with’ is different from ‘get away from’. The first form means ‘to avoid something or to escape’ (I want to get away from our house) while the second form means ‘escape blame, punishment or undesirable consequences for an act that is wrong or mistaken’ (He thinks he can get away with cheating).
WRITE THREE OR FOUR OF YOUR OWN EXAMPLES
Use it or lose it. Writing it down is not enough. It takes practise for a learner to get used to the word, so make sure you put your new vocabulary to good use.
If you’re enrolled in an English course, try to check with your teacher the sentences that you’ve written. Ask them for additional resources that you can use to further your English studies.
Your guide to your first vocabulary notebook
When you meet new words, you have to make an effort to remember them. Whether you heard it first in the news or at the back of a milk carton, you have to try to record it, write it down somewhere. But how do you retain the words you learn? Is it possible to remember all the words you have met over time?
Expanding your vocabulary is a ‘must’ to succeed in any English exam, but to do this requires an enormous amount of time and practise. To do this easier, you have to treat vocabulary-building systematically.
Read our guide on how to make your first vocabulary notebook.
1. AN ACTUAL NOTEBOOK
If you like the idea of taking down notes with pen and paper, a dedicated notebook is a good option since it keeps everything in one place. A notebook with alphabetical or color-coded tabs can do the trick, as long as you have a system to organise your entries to make sure it’s easily searchable: is it by date and time, or do you put nouns ahead of the verbs?
Notecards are portable vocabulary notebooks: you can easily put them in your pockets! Dedicate each notecard to a single word and definition, shuffle a deck or two every day and memorise each word during commutes. You can easily jot down new words when you see one with blank notecards in hand. However, that can also be a disadvantage since you can easily lose them, so make sure you store them in one place.
3. STICKY NOTES
Just like notecards, sticky notes can be used as portable vocabulary notebooks. These work as reminders to stick to any kind of surface, may it be on your desk or your own vocabulary notebook.
4. A VIRTUAL NOTEBOOK
If you want to access your vocabulary notebook anywhere you are, go digital. You can create a blog dedicated to daily new words, or download a note-taking app for your notes and scribbles. You can even draw a sketch or take a picture of the page or website where you found the new word!
If you’re indifferent to using both paper and digital apps, you can even combine these methods and see what works for you. Make sure that your vocabulary notebook matches your learning strategies: are you a visual learner who learns best through sketches and photos? Do you find it easier to remember the things you write down on paper?
Remember: There is no single recipe to do this. We encourage you to do the methods you think will fit your learning strategy best. Try to make it a habit to write down words every day!
The book every English learner should have
When you come across a word that you’re not familiar with, chances are that you’ll search for a dictionary to find the meaning. It can be a word you haven’t encountered yet (‘mellifluous’ or ‘ascertain’), or a word like ‘heart’ that is used differently, as in this sentence:
‘HE FOUND HIMSELF RIGHT IN THE HEART OF THE CITY.’
In the dictionary, the word ‘heart’ refers to several things: it may refer to the muscular organ that pumps the blood through the circulatory system (‘his heart stopped beating for a minute’); it may also refer to the mood or feeling (‘they had a change of heart’).
But when you look further down the page, you will notice that the word ‘heart’ has a lot more entries: phrases like ‘by heart’; ‘heart of stone’; ‘have the heart to do something’, etc. How would you know the right meaning of a word?
For learners of English, it’s important to know not just the meaning of the word, but what it means when used in a specific context. When not used in a sentence, a word does not have a definite meaning: ‘heart’ can simply mean many things!
Although some words are easier to get to know because they carry roughly the same meaning in most contexts, words like ‘heart’ have several different meanings.
But not all dictionaries are comprehensive enough for non-native speakers; only a good dictionary that is appropriate to your level of English can guide you through the language.
An up-to-date learner’s dictionary offers more explanation about all the essential things: how the language works in context, the etymology of the word—that is, the source of the word and its real meaning—and how to pronounce the word. Simply put, a learner’s dictionary puts the word in context and shows you how to use it.
It’s good to look up the definition, but don’t stop there. A learner’s dictionary gives you all sorts of useful expressions and phrases based on that word: medical phrases like ‘heart condition’ and ‘heart transplant’; idioms like ‘it breaks my heart’ and lots more. It helps build your vocabulary as it tells you the difference between the physical ‘heart’, for example, and the word ‘heart’ when used in emotional expressions.
Bit by bit, you will come to recognise these new words and phrases. With the right practise and environment, it will soon become part of your day-to-day language.