There is a wise proverb in English that goes like this, ‘You get out of life what you put into it’. What this means is that the more effort you put into any activity, the happier you will be doing this and the greater your rewards will be. This sentence also applies to learning, and yes, that includes learning English!
If you ask most students what ‘learning English’ means, they will reply that it means going to an English school in a class where a teacher teaches them something and then gives them homework. But as you will see shortly, your role as a student plays the biggest and most important part in helping you to improve your English skills.
Ready to learn English
To really understand what we mean, we need to talk about the difference between ‘teaching’ and ‘learning’. This may seem obvious but take a minute to think about this carefully. Your teacher stands in front of your class and teaches a grammar point, but are you sure you have learned it? How many times has a teacher taught you the present perfect and yet here you are months or years later making the same mistakes?
‘Learning’ finally happens when you have fully understood an idea or a grammar point and most importantly, can use this correctly. But learning only takes place when you are ready to learn what the teacher is teaching you!
Wow! Isn’t that something to think about?
Basically, our brains can only hold so much new information. For example, your teacher may teach you 10 new words, but you may only remember and use 2. You have therefore only learned 2 new words. While your teacher may be teaching you regularly, learning can feel like a slow process.
Improving your English
So, is there anything you can do to learn faster? Many students think that completing homework regularly is the answer and yes, this is a very good start. So, let us ask you a question. What does an effective learner do that is different? One answer might be that they attend class every day and arrive on time! They understand that missing the first 10 minutes can mean missing important information which impacts their understanding of the lesson. Another answer might be that effective learners take clear notes and organise them so they are easy to find again to review regularly. Another answer might be that an effective student only looks at their mobile phone when the teacher tells them to for learning purposes. These basic suggestions will definitely help your English improve steadily.
Engaging with English
But what if you want to improve quickly? Studies show that learning improves most when a student fully engages with the language around them. At EC we have seen it happen many times! There are amazing students who arrive in our schools as beginners and leave 6 months later with an upper-intermediate level of English! So what exactly do they do that helps them learn English so quickly? We asked them and here are their answers!
These students recommend really engaging with English and having fun with it. Tell us more! To learn new vocabulary, they put interesting pictures of these words around their homes to constantly remind them. Many students experimented with talking to themselves in English as they did their daily tasks for e.g. ‘Now I am drinking a coffee and eating some toast. Next, I will pack my bag and go for a walk to the park’. These students reported that doing this helped them to start thinking in English, one of the biggest steps to improving! Talking to yourself also helps you identify which words you don’t know and need to look up and learn for next time. These amazing students found websites, books, magazines or TV shows they enjoyed and started reading or watching in English. Perhaps, the most impressive step they took was to avoid hanging out with people from their own countries. Instead, they joined clubs and looked for friends from other countries so they were forced to use English to communicate.
These students understand that although they might not have high levels of English at the beginning, they bring their own knowledge of the world and life experiences with them. They, like you, have opinions, ideas and hopes that they want to share with others. The only thing that stops them is their lack of English and so they make the decision to learn the language and start communicating!
You too can improve quickly if you make the decision to regularly access the language and find methods of learning that work best for you. Remember, a teacher cannot make you learn! Learning is your responsibility and something only you have control over. Keep in mind the wise proverb, ‘you get out of life what you put into it’. Your English will only improve if you are willing to put in the extra work. Remember though, you can have a lot of fun doing it!