My name is Daniele and I am the Marketing Manager at TextRanch. Many times I’ve been asked these questions: “How can I improve my English? How did you learn English?”.
I am not a native English speaker, and I am actually Italian. Even my Italian friends often ask me “How come you speak so well? Did you learn it at school?”.
Well, let me explain how I have learned English and let’s see if my experience can be useful for you, too!
First of all, yes, I learned English at school. I was lucky enough to have good teachers and brilliant English professors who never spoke to us in Italian. Everything, every single conversation, lesson, every word was in English.
But that’s not all.
I come from the first generation that could have a personal computer. And everything in it was in English. So, you simply had to learn it, or at least try. I am speaking about software and video games, in particular.
So, that said, let’s see what I did to really learn and improve my English.
Think in English every time you are alone
Yes, this sounds strange and sometimes you feel stupid when you do this, but trust me, that’s the most effective way to keep learning English.
What does it mean?
Literally, every time you are alone, try to think in English. Whether you are in the shower thinking about life or in your bed trying to fall asleep, force your brain to use English as the main language for your self conversations.
Sometimes you will not know a word to express something and that’s normal. In this case, try to express that word using other words. For example, let’s pretend that you do not know the word “apple”. Fine. Express that as “the fruit that can be red, yellow or green, roundish, which led Newton to formulate the law of gravity”. Then, pick up a dictionary (or use Google Translate – however, trust me, using a dictionary will improve your memory) and check the English translation for that word. You’ll see, you’ll remember it!
Listen to songs in English and learn the lyrics
It’s so simple, but so effective.
- Take some time to select a few songs that you like, in English (British or American).
- Find the lyrics on Google
- Read the lyrics without listening to the music, then try to translate them. Do not cheat! Don’t use Google Translate, use a dictionary instead and translate the song to your own language. Remember: practice is the key to success; if you use Google Translate, you will have the translation but you will not learn HOW to translate.
- Does the translation sound good? Feel free to use Google Translate to check at this point, since you’ve already translated it yourself.
- Now it’s time to listen to the song. Keep the lyrics in front of you and try to follow them as the song plays. You can repeat this step multiple times, ideally at least once a day.
- The more you listen to the song, the more you will remember the lyrics by heart. At one point you will no longer need to have the lyrics in front of you since you will have all the words memorized.
This exercise sounds easy and repetitive but it is extremely effective for a series of reasons:
1. Songs are made to be remembered and are typically very repetitive.
2. Many times, songs contain common informal phrases and words that you would never learn in books.
3. If you pick songs from an artist you like, it will be even easier and you will actually enjoy it.
4. If you like going to concerts, you will be the one in the crowd who knows all the songs by heart!
On a personal note: I did that with many songs by The Beatles. I still know by heart all the lyrics to “I Want to Hold your Hand” and “Help!“. If you don’t know where to start, just try those two songs. If you’re not a big fan of The Beatles -shame on you! :D- you can pick something from bands and artists such as:
Or well, your favorite artist or band!
Configure the language of your phone and social media to English
This is a simple thing to do that many friends are scared of.
The most common objection is “I will never understand anything, then”.
Well, not true! You will have a new language displayed on something that you already know how to use. There’s nothing new. The settings page will always be there, the “Like”, “Comment” and “Share” buttons will always be there, too, just in English instead of your native language.
You will get used to it, day by day, and without even realizing it, you will be storing new words in your brain and they will come up when you need them during your conversations.
Read English articles on the Internet.
Yes, it’s this simple.
Read blog articles, Wikipedia pages and the news exclusively in English. Do not use Google Translate. Just try to read and understand.
It can happen that you do not understand one word: look it up in the dictionary and keep reading.
- If you’re a sports fan, check out the news of your team in English on Sky Sports
- Instead, If you are into curiosities, check out this website: BigThink.
- If you just want to read some news: BBC
Yes, there are many other things that you could do and I will probably write another blog post about them.
But, remember: PRACTICING is the only way to learn English, and practice includes Reading and Listening first, then Writing and Speaking. Once you handle with confidence the first two items, you can easily switch to writing and speaking without fear of making mistakes.
Even if you make mistakes, don’t worry. That’s part of the learning process.
Finally, if you have other ideas or questions, just comment below and I will be glad to reply to everyone!
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