One of the biggest problems with the modern internet is that people often assume bigger is better. I’m here to argue that when learning how to improve your English language learning, quality is more important than quantity.
If I were to Google a question “How do I improve my English speaking?” and I see in the search results, “100 ways to help you speak English” and then another “10 ways to help you speak English” you will probably click on the 100, because the Internet has taught you that 100 is better than 10.
Bigger is better right? However, 100 short, obvious, or worse incorrect tips on improving your English speaking is of less use to you than 10 good ideas that you haven’t heard or thought of that add real value to your learning.
It’s a real problem for people who believe in quality to rise above the noise of the internet where a list of 10,000 English phrases is better than a list of 5,000 English phrases. Missing the point that actually what’s really needed is a list of phrases that is
just long enough to help you say what you need to say in everyday English conversation.
It is very tempting for someone who wants their blog article to rank well in google to just create a very long list of tips, not because they are valuable, but because they are 10 more tips than the next biggest list on the Internet.
Do you want to improve your English conversation skills even more?
Adept English is about quality. When we offer a list of ideas or tips, we provide a list that is just the right number of tips because we know the tips will add value to you as an English language learner and we have experience and data to back that up. As we learn new things, we may add to our list, but at no point are we going to create a long list just because bigger is better.
Subtitles Google Stitcher
Hi there and welcome to this podcast from Adept English. If you know about Adept English, then welcome back to another podcast – there are quite a lot of you now! And if you’ve not found us before, then welcome to you too, if this is your first podcast. We are here to help you practise your understanding of spoken English – and you can find us on TuneIn, iTunes, Stitcher, Podbean, Blubrry, SoundCloud, GooglePlay, Spotify. We’re all over the place!
Well, one of the questions that people ask most frequently is
How to Improve my English?. If you look online, there are lots of websites which attempt to answer this question – and they give you very general advice. And sometimes the advice is in the form of ‘How to Improve my English? 50 Tips to Improve Your English’ or ‘100 Things You Can Do to Improve your English’. Well, it’s a bit like when you search and find ‘168 words and phrases for thin’. Like I’ve discussed previously - it’s not that helpful when you’re learning a language – you don’t need 168 words and phrases for thin. And you probably don’t need a 100 or 50 tips for learning English.
Sometimes fewer, better quality ideas are what you need instead! Sometimes you just need it to be less complicated. So how about today we answer that question ‘How to Improve my English?’ by talking about ‘Seven Things You Can Do To Improve Your English’? Seven really good, important pieces of advice. And all of them going with our ‘Learn by Listening’ method and focusing on your ability to actually have a conversation in English! Here we go.
1) Once you’ve progressed beyond basic English – so that’s a reasonable vocabulary, knowledge of the main grammar, nouns, adjectives, adverbs and modal verbs, say. Once you know these things, focus on listening and then on speaking, rather than on reading and writing. It’s unusual to do it this way round if you’re on a college, or a language course. You tend to learn much more reading and writing on a language course – and less time is devoted to listening and speaking, usually because you’ve got exams to pass. But you don’t become fluent in a language, by focusing on reading and writing. And it’s also not the natural way to learn language. When you were a baby, you didn’t learn to read and write your language first before you spoke it.
No, you learned first to understand it, then a bit later you began to speak. This is the way that your brain wants to learn – just go with that, it’s easier! Sometimes people like to know the spelling of a new word, so they can fix it in their minds. But go with practising hearing it as well, rather than just reading or writing it. Even if you do have to pass written exams, learning fluency by listening makes it much easier – and the reading and writing will become easier too. So once you can understand basic English, then listening and understanding should be your focus. Even speaking comes a bit later, once your understanding is better.
2) Use the ‘Listen and Learn’ method to take you away from translation. Translating it may be a good exercise in school or college, as a test, but it shouldn’t be your main way of learning. Not if you want to become fluent in speaking. You have to ‘feel the language’. You need to understand it in English, grow an English part of your brain – and not keep going back between your language and English. If I say to you ‘green grass’ - that needs to automatically put into your head a picture of some green grass – without you even thinking, without you even visiting the words for ‘green grass’ in your own language. This ‘English area of your brain’, it grows each time you listen to spoken English. So think of your dictionary and translating – or Google Translate even - as a ‘last resort’. It’s the thing you turn to if nothing else has worked.
3) So you listen to an Adept English podcast, and you understand my spoken English fairly well. But then you try to understand an English language film – and oh dear – that’s too hard to understand. So you’re disappointed perhaps with how little of the spoken English you understand in the film. Adept English is easier, because you’ve listened before, you’re used to my voice perhaps, my accent and I give an explanation of any of the more difficult words. So it’s good to grow your confidence in English, in this way, with just one speaker. And it’s fine to be at this level. TV and films are harder to understand - your English just needs to be ‘at a higher level’ before you can do that. There are lots of reasons for this – accents are often there in television or films, slang, context, mumbling, background music. ‘To mumble’, M-U-M-B-L-E means ‘to not speak clearly’ - and that happens all the time in films.
So it’s fine if you know the language, but if it’s not your first language and you’re practising, it does make it difficult. So LISTEN TO ENGLISH AT THE RIGHT LEVEL. This means you need to understand 70%-80% on first listen – that’s a good indicator that you’ve got the level right. You wouldn’t give your child a reading book which was too difficult, where they only understood 10% or 40%! You’d give them books which just challenged them a little. So ensure the level of English that you’re listening to is right for you – and soon enough, you will move on to harder things.
Just a word here about Adept English material. We do two podcasts a week – a long one on a Monday and a shorter one on a Thursday. If you find the Monday podcast too difficult, why not try listening just to the shorter Thursday podcasts instead until your level improves? You can download podcasts on our website, of course – there are over 260 of them now! Wow! Also we have courses, which you can buy at adeptenglish.com. And again, there are two levels – the 500 Most Common Words Course is easier and Course One: Activate Your Listening is at a higher level.
OK, back to our list of ‘How To Improve my English – 7 Essential Tips.
4) When you’re confident you can understand Adept English material, then keep listening to us, because we’re always covering new subjects and it’s good practice. Even when you’re English is advanced level – you’ll still be learning. But eventually you will want to expand your listening. You’ll want to watch films, TV programmes and the news maybe, in English. Of course, these are all harder to understand than a podcast. So one good way to do this is to watch a series, which perhaps is familiar to you, which you’ve watched in your own language, so that you know the characters, you know the story.
Then watch the same thing in English, with English subtitles to help you. ‘Subtitles’ are the written words at the bottom of the screen – which you can display and they match the speaking. You can then try covering the subtitles up some of the time, but they will be there to help you if you get stuck. Sometimes it’s easier to start with a series because you know the story, but the speaking must be clear too. Another way of doing it, would be to watch the news in English with subtitles. The speaking usually is clear here. But with the news, it might be an idea to record it, so you get chance to watch again, so that you get that opportunity to repeat your listening. So subtitles are useful – they help you step up to the next level.
5) (In the Seven Essential Tips) So you’ve done a lot of listening to Adept English – and you’ve moved on to listening to the television and radio and your understanding is much, much better. If you haven’t done it already, you need to start to speak to people in English. You need to practise conversation.
So if you know people who speak English or who’re learning English – then practise with them. Do an hour a week, where you practise your English together. Go to a restaurant and eat a meal in English. You could do that at home as well. Make it an English speaking meal. You could do it with friends or family members.
6) (In Seven Essential Tips for Improving Your English) So number 6 is exactly the same as number 5, except that if you don’t have anyone to practise your English with, then you can find someone online to do that with. Probably they’ll be in a different country. Websites like Conversation Exchange and there are many others, they’ll help get you in touch with either English speakers, who want to learn your language, or other people learning English just like you.
It’s quite fun meeting people online and having half an hour or even an hour of conversation each week. It’s interesting to hear about other peoples’ lives this way. And you’ll have a whole hour of making conversation, in a real social situation. That’s much better practice, much more opportunity to speak than you will have in a language class. And...
A photograph of a man holding a baby you cannot tell the gender of the baby. Used to help explain English grammar she, he and they.
7) Learning through context is important all the way through learning your English. Part of the reason why the podcasts are helpful, is that you’re learning new vocabulary but in a context, it’s got an association or a story attached to it. Once you start to have conversations and speak English with other people, or even better, you travel to English speaking countries, you’ll remember new vocabulary because you’ll remember the context where you first heard it.
This is so much easier for your brain, than learning a list of vocabulary as your homework, in isolation! And this doesn’t just work for new nouns. It works for grammar works too – it’s just we’re perhaps just a little bit less aware of that happening. But using language in context, makes it much more relevant. Learning a language shouldn’t be an intellectual exercise – it should be a social one! This is how your Brain wants to learn – it’s much more fun and it’s much easier.
So just to summarise the Seven Things You Can Do To Improve Your English:-
- DO MAINLY LISTENING
- STOP TRANSLATING
- LISTEN TO ENGLISH AT THE RIGHT LEVEL
- USE SUBTITLES to help you go up a level
- FIND A LANGUAGE PARTNER
- FIND AN ONLINE LANGUAGE PARTNER – nothing wrong with doing both!
- Always LEARN THROUGH CONTEXT
OK, I hope you find that useful. There’s some really good advice there. Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye. *