How Can You Learn English Yourself?

learn_EnglishYou know, we were taught English so poorly at my linguistic university“, complained angrily one of my students who decided to take face-to-face lessons to learn English and fill her knowledge gaps.

I smiled and told her that one of the essential skills to gain in the university is self-learning. Why else should the undergraduates read tutorials, search the internet, work in libraries and write diploma papers? Students will never succeed in their studies unless they realise that they bear 80% of responsibility for their knowledge, whilst professors and methods contribute 20% only.

It is true that you can learn English in a more efficient way if you employ a qualified teacher. However, it is a person who is actually learning. No professor will be able to learn a language instead of you, no matter how much you pay them. Private lessons are only the tip of the iceberg, whereas there is a huge “underwater part” when a student learns new vocabulary, does exercises, listens to BBC, watches presentations, reads English books.

We are living in a fascinating time when people have so many opportunities to learn due to the internet, free resources, online tutorials, TED, Open Culture and Coursera. Just think that twenty years ago the only way to study English in the USSR was to learn old textbooks written by non-native speakers!

Let’s see what you can do yourself to learn English in case you can’t afford the luxury of paying a tutor or visiting English courses.

1) Develop your listening skills

You will be amazed at the extent your listening skills influence your communication in English. The more you listen,  the better you understand English in real life because communication involves both speaking and listening. Now you have a huge choice of online materials for listening practice: BBC podcasts, Randal Lab, TED, Coursera online courses, etc. Read the article Five Great Activities to Develop your Listening Skills to find out more tips.

2) Read in English

Some polyglots managed to learn several languages just using the reading method. While reading, you will see new words in collocations and remember the meaning of the most frequently used words. People who make reading their daily habit advance faster than those who are not fond of reading. You can read books, magazines and website articles every day trying to concentrate on keywords and grasp the whole meaning. Read the article Reading English Books: Five Reasons to Benefit to get more information.

3) Learn new vocabulary

Actually, no matter if you study alone or with a teacher, you will need to develop your vocabulary. It is the opinion of numerous teachers that the best way to do so is to learn collocations from your textbooks, books, web articles, movies or presentations. Just jot them down with translation and study regularly, trying to create your own examples using the pronoun I. Try to learn from three to twenty five new phrases daily, just imagine that it would be from 1000 to 9000 new words in one year only!  Read the article Seven Powerful Techniques to Build up Vocabulary to get more ideas how you can expand your vocabulary yourself.

4) Revise grammar

That’s rather simple. You can just buy a couple of grammar textbooks, preferably, those published in the UK and start reading, doing exercises, checking yourself using answer key and then analysing your mistakes. Just after two or three textbooks you will be able to consolidate your knowledge.

5) Improve your pronunciation

If you feel that you do not pronounce sounds correctly, find a pronunciation course, e.g., Sound Right and try to repeat sentence by sentence, using the Pause button. Another solution is to take advantage of BBC podcasts and repeat after the presenters. 10-15 minutes of pronunciation practice per day for the period of two or three months is usually enough to adjust your vocal apparatus.

6) Watch movies in English

Any person can find captivating movies or TV series and watch them with subtitles. Though it may seem a bit difficult at first, just after five or seven movies your ability to grasp the meaning and understand the speech will strengthen sufficiently.

7) Talk to your friends

In case you have friends who would also like to develop their English, you could communicate in English. Also, sometimes people try to find speaking partners by Skype just to practice. There are also English native speakers eager to learn your language, and you could arrange exchange sessions with them.

You can change activities every day, so as not to get bored. If you try to practice these seven activities regularly and systematically, this approach will definitely yield results in some time.