Tips for Learning English at Any Level

Learning a new language is an incredible adventure. It’s full of discoveries, delights, and hours upon hours of intensive work. While there is no shortcut to achieving fluency at a conversational or academic level, there are definitely more and less effective ways to go about it. The best advice and the core of the “Communicative approach” often taught at language schools is to learn and practice in authentic, or realistic, situations.

While your teachers always work to present the practical use of new grammar and vocabulary, and to create realistic tasks that simulate real-world speech, you can do your part by getting into a real conversation! Conversation with another human being is more emotionally meaningful than practicing with an app or reading out of a lesson book, and emotional impact lodges new information deep in our memories. While a conversation partner is ideal, you can also reinforce language development by talking to yourself.

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Conversation is one example of immersion, but you can immerse yourself in new words and grammatical structures on a daily basis through repeated use. Practice your new knowledge as often as you can throughout the day -- repetition is the key to retention. In a speaking and pronunciation class, I had a student who would repeat each new sound and inflection pattern three times to herself, quietly, after I introduced it. Another type of repetition is watching and listening to the language get spoken -- in shows, movies, or popular music. Accustom yourself to the rhythms and sounds so that they sound familiar, easy, and welcoming. The goal is for all this new material to become automatic like it is in your native language so that you can speak fluently.

Last of all, relax and approach learning a new language in a playful manner like you would when building a sandcastle. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes -- you surely will! Realistic communication situations are often messy and unpredictable, and the only way forward is by trying things out. Learning itself is a process of connecting what we already know to new information, and the more connections you try to build, the stronger your knowledge will ultimately become.

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