How to learn English for free or almost for free
Just a month ago, many of us gave ourselves a New Year promise to “finally learn English.” But vague goals without a plan of action usually remain unattainable, and if you do not take up the language right now, next year you will have to write down exactly the same promise in a notebook. Knowing how difficult independent lessons are sometimes given, ForumDaily decided to draw up a plan for you to pull up English, which does not require serious financial investments.
But first you need to figure out what does “learn English” mean to you? Why do you need the coveted “fluency in language”? How will you know that you have reached the right level? In what situations will you use English? For one person it will be a successful interview in English, for another - understanding the stories of a tour guide on a trip, for a third - high scores on IELTS or TOEFL exams, for a fourth - the ability to read fresh professional literature or take English-language online courses, and for a fifth - the ability to tell the English-speaking audience of social networks about your business.
After you have found your own answer to this question, you need to understand which of the 4 basic skills are key for you - listening, reading, speaking, writing?
If you are at least a little fluent in the language, then you probably know what causes you the greatest difficulty. Write all 4 skills in a column in descending order of priority.
For example, if your goal is to enjoy TV shows and films without translation or dubbing, your main skill is listening comprehension, followed by reading (for example, for subtitling at first), then speaking (for example, to discuss a film with English-speaking friends) and a letter (to do the same on the forum or in social networks). At interviews, your task is to speak fluently and beautifully, as well as understand spoken language, without asking the interlocutor what he actually said. And if English is needed to communicate with foreign colleagues or clients by e-mail, written speech comes to the fore.
Base: Grammar and Vocabulary
Regardless of what skills you have identified as key, you will have to work a lot on grammar and vocabulary - passive and active. This is something that you have to pay attention to every day. For the most disciplined and diligent, there are Raymond Murphy's time-tested textbooks - English Grammar in Use and English Vocabulary in Use.
Anyone who can force himself to systematically study the rules, read texts and perform exercises for several months is guaranteed to lay a solid foundation for the practice of English - of course, provided that he selects an option appropriate to the level of training: an “advanced” student will not receive any benefit from an Intermediate level textbook, and a beginner will lose faith in himself when faced with tasks of this level.
If you skimmed the previous paragraph with your eyes with the thought “well, no, I will not sit over the textbook, let's have another way”, there is good news for you. Modern technologies make it possible to study more comfortably - with video and audio materials, with automatic checking of assignments instead of “keys” to exercises at the end of the book, with the opportunity to address a difficult question to the teacher.
Online School ABA English, which received the 2015 Reimagine Education Award for Best Educational App is an example of such a program. After registering on the site or in the application, the student gets access to 6 of 144 mini-films - for the first lesson for each level, as well as all 144 grammar lessons - these materials will always be available.
A total of ABA English 6 levels: Beginners, Lower Intermediate, Intermediate, Upper Intermediate, Advanced, Business. They correspond to the A1-C1 levels in the Common European Reference Framework (CEFR) classification. At the end of each level the student expects a test, and after passing the test, you can download the official certificate.
The paid version adds tests, tutor support, and listen-record-compare exercises. Subscribers of the free version are constantly offered discounts on the paid version - for a month, three, six months or a year, so it makes sense to first register on the site, find lessons of the required level and make sure that this method of submitting material works for you, and then take advantage of the special offer.
Separately, it is worth talking about the main tool for expanding vocabulary - the dictionary. Electronic dictionaries, with all the convenience of their use, make our brain lazy.
If in order to view the translation of a new word, you need to take a thick volume from the table, open it to the desired letter and drag your finger along the lines for a long time, looking for the desired article, the brain will try to remember the word from the first or second time, just not to repeat everything again.
If it is enough to open Multitran, type a word on the keyboard and press “search”, the brain will not waste energy on memorization. So a paper dictionary is needed - if you use it at least 20% of the time, words and expressions will more firmly settle in your memory. And everyone whose level is higher than the initial one should replace the usual English-Russian dictionary with an English encyclopedic dictionary - an additional step to decipher the explanation of a new word will stimulate memory even better.
Listening to English is not an easy task for beginners, especially given the variety of accents in today's English-speaking world. Most often, to develop listening skills, it is recommended to watch British or American films and TV shows, combining business with pleasure. Firstly, the “picture” creates context that helps to understand what is said, and secondly, in most streaming services, be it Netflix or Amazon, it is possible to turn on subtitles.
The bad news is that the effectiveness of this method is severely limited: you can end up unprepared for simple everyday situations by passively reviewing 3 of the Game of Thrones season, 2 of the House of Cards season and 5 of the Theory of the Big Bang theory.
The unpleasant truth is that materials should not be chosen according to tastes, but in accordance with goals. If you are going to attend a master class in English, you should search YouTube for recordings of similar topics (at the same time, your vocabulary will improve); if you want to understand jokes in sitcoms, stand-up comedians speak, and if you have to study in English, Coursera and iTunes University will come in handy, where you can find thousands of lectures of various levels on all sorts of topics.
It is not very difficult to practice spoken language while in an English-speaking country, especially if it is the United States. Americans love short, non-binding conversations with strangers. Talking about the weather at the bus stop, discussing magazine covers at the supermarket checkout, a sweet conversation with the owner of a cute dog - all this does not require much effort and will perfectly “loosen the tongue” for those who do not believe in themselves. You yourself will not notice how the level of difficulty of conversations will gradually increase.
Those who study English without being in an English-speaking environment have a harder time. In order to come to an English-speaking club or take part in a mitap, it is necessary to at least overcome the inherent constraint of beginners, and in the case of spoken clubs also lay out a tangible amount. In theory, services like Chatroulette are good, allowing you to speak in English with a random interlocutor, but in practice the chances of meaningful conversation are scanty.
An unexpected, but surprisingly convenient place for language practice - voice chats in video games. The flow of the game does not allow the conversation to end, and the motivation to understand a teammate is very high. The disadvantages include a limited vocabulary and an abundance of slang, understandable only to regulars of voice chats.
And, of course, no one canceled the ancient recommendation to read aloud. An important component of English colloquial speech is its rhythm, and a person who has learned to hear and reproduce this rhythm will be less likely to make mistakes with articles and accents. Repeat phrases for video bloggers and radio presenters, sing along to your favorite songs while driving, read traffic lights aloud and comment on your actions. There is, of course, the risk of feeling stupid, but this is better than sitting silently for another year with a serious face, but still not making progress in learning English.
Reading more is almost the first piece of advice people hear when they want to improve or learn English. He is often paired with a recommendation to write out unfamiliar words and try to use them throughout the day. Sounds good, but it’s actually quite difficult to get the word “malaria rate” and “let me take you to the next dance” into place. To answer the question “what to read?” You need to go back to your personal goal of learning English.
What are you going to read when you know English? Recipes? News and sharp political columns? Manuals for programmers? Lives of American presidents? All? Start reading it now, as if you already know English, and it does not matter that it takes half an hour to analyze a paragraph with a dictionary.
The complexity of the readable texts should be selected according to the following principle: 20% at the limit, 80% without voltage. This means that every day you read one article, one page, or at least one paragraph of text that is given to you with difficulty and makes you look into the dictionary.
Complicated material should make 20% of the volume of your reading per day, that is, after one difficult paragraph, you can read the 4 paragraph of light entertainment content, whether it is a joke list on Buzzfeed or a children's book about the adventures of a talking cat.
In written English, you can improve all your life: not every native speaker is able to correctly and coherently formulate thoughts in writing, let alone talk about English learners. Therefore, here your personal goal is important as nowhere else: you need to carefully study the scope of written English.
You can learn how to write standard working emails in 1-2 of the day with knowledge of English at the level of Beginner or Pre-Intermidiate: the correspondence is based on standard formulas.
Student essays have a clear structure, there are lists of useful expressions for written works. The language of news stories has a distinctive syntax. Whatever your goal, find the samples. Write out useful expressions and grammatical structures, use them in your own sentences.
It is useful to keep a diary in English, chat on forums and social networks. This not only makes you carefully recheck your own remarks, but also subconsciously absorb the language from the interlocutor's answers: we read the words addressed to us more carefully than the abstract texts.
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