How to quickly improve your English: tips from professionals on what is really important in the language and what you can 'score' on
Proficiency in English is a skill that everyone needs in our time. And with the start of a full-scale war, it became even more relevant for Ukrainians, because someone had to move abroad, and someone had to look for remote work in foreign companies. How to learn a language informs HM.
The founder of The EngL project and English mentor Olga Zharova shared tips on how to quickly master the language.
Setting goals and pumping motivation
English is not an end in itself, but just a tool to help achieve a specific goal. Therefore, first of all, you need to give yourself an honest answer to the question, do you really want to know English or do you need to know it?
Goals are best achieved by people who are intrinsically motivated and not subject to external pressures. If you are forced by conditions, and not by inner desire, this is a direct path to burnout and a quick exit from the race. Therefore, find your goal and turn the desire to achieve it into motivation for learning the language.
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Think about what format of the learning process will give you pleasure, and try to organize it exactly the way you feel comfortable. Otherwise, there will be no result. Determine point A, the level you start at, and point B, the level you want to reach. English proficiency levels can be described as follows:
- A1 - you are an absolute beginner and do not know anything;
- A2 - you can speak at least a little English;
- B1 - you confidently communicate on everyday topics;
- B2 - you confidently communicate both on professional topics and on everyday topics with complex vocabulary;
- C1 - you do not experience any restrictions in communication.
Basically, English is needed to work or live in another country, and for this you need to know the language at least at the B1 level. The bad news is that it takes an average of 1,5 to 3 years to go from beginner to advanced. But now the majority of Ukrainians are in a situation where speech is needed here and now, they do not even have six months to learn the language, not to mention three. Therefore, think about why you need speech and in what specific situations you will use it. And only then make a plan on how to quickly bring your knowledge and skills to the level that is needed to meet your goal.
Think about the purpose and scope of English, and not about the ways of mastering it. While you are thinking about which book or program to choose, you are concentrating on the language itself, and not on your goal, which means you are standing still.
Life hacks to learn English quickly
First of all, it is worth mastering the basic grammar:
- the verb “to be” in three simple tenses;
- singular and plural nouns, how to add -s/-es correctly;
- present simple;
- order of words in a sentence;
- Past Simple + how to add ed correctly;
- basic irregular verbs;
- Future Simple;
- Present Perfect (optional).
This knowledge will be enough for simple communication. First you need to work out a minimum in order to be able to convey your opinion, then study more complex tenses and structures.
How to learn grammar? No way. It must not be learned, but understood. Approximately 95-98% of English is very logical. Almost all grammar rules can come up with logical explanations if you focus on understanding them, and not just memorizing them.
For example, comparing the Past Simple and Present Perfect tenses, which are used to denote the past tense, one can draw an analogy about two brothers. Past Simple is older and smarter, learns it first, and always remembers what happened: my parents got married in 1991, I went to work yesterday, etc. Present Perfect is the younger brother, he still cannot remember everything, so he talks about events that happened in the past without a clear definition of the time frame. Like this example, for each rule, you can invent your own logical chains in order to remember the information.
Case study of words
Prepare yourself for those cases in which you will need English: an interview, getting to know your neighbors, talking about yourself, going to the store, etc. You should not learn all the words in a row on different topics, and then try to somehow stuff these words into your life situations. Do the opposite - learn only those words that you need for real communication.
For example, you are applying for a Canadian visa and you know the approximate list of interview questions. Learn the right vocabulary and prepare specific answers in English to these questions. Thus, you also psychologically prepare for an important conversation.
Confidence in using English does not depend on the size of your vocabulary, but on understanding that you know what to say in any given situation.
How to memorize words?
Any learning is about creating a cognitive connection between new and old information that is already in your brain. If you link new knowledge to what you already know, it will stick in your memory longer.
Consider this technique using the example of the word fruitful - productive. You already know that fruit is fruit, and fruit is healthy, they have a lot of vitamins, so if we want to be healthy and productive, we must eat fruit. Therefore, productive is full of fruit. The associative technique works with both vocabulary and grammar. At first it will be difficult to come up with associations, but later on you will learn to do it automatically.
How to turn passive vocabulary into active?
Most of us hope that as soon as we learn some information, we will immediately be able to use it in life. And usually in theory you know all tenses, but use one or two, also with complex synonyms for words. The problem is that when you learn new information, it ends up in passive knowledge that needs to be used to turn it into active knowledge. Therefore, between learning and active use, the stage of forced use of words and constructions must pass.
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You can write sentences with new words and phrases, or record voice messages for yourself and then listen to them. It is important to use the speech apparatus, because in the head the information has one form, and after passing through the mouth, it is decoded and changed. And in order for you to speak in practice as well as you imagine, you need to pronounce everything.
11 reasons why we don't speak English:
- Lack of knowledge. When you really do not know the essence of the English language, words, structures, and therefore cannot speak it.
- Assessment of knowledge. When you underestimate your knowledge and skills. It has to do with your overall self-esteem. Only a teacher can objectively evaluate your knowledge.
- Lack of skills. When you know everything in theory, but do not know how to use knowledge in practice. It is necessary to translate passive knowledge into active knowledge.
- Translation. When you try to translate every sentence from your native language verbatim. This cannot be done, there are not always direct correspondences of words, and the logic of constructing sentences in different languages is different. You need to learn how to operate with the knowledge you have, and not try to literally convey everything.
- Syndrome of the "great man". When you cannot admit to yourself that you do not know something or do not understand something. In the study of any material, one should descend to the position of a first-grader: be open to new knowledge and not be shy about making mistakes.
- Imposter Syndrome. When everything works out for you, but your self-doubt does not allow you to communicate freely.
- Excellence Syndrome. If you think that if not perfect, then nothing is better. Understand that no one speaks perfect English, and most native speakers make mistakes too. We don’t always speak perfectly even in our native language, why do you demand from yourself to speak perfectly in English?
- Shame. When you are afraid of being ridiculed and you are driven by the fear of judgment and social evaluation. This is a basic ancient fear, it is irrational, so it needs to be discovered and overcome.
- Negative previous experience. When you were criticized, they said that you did not have the ability to learn languages or you had weak teachers who explained boringly. In this case, too, you need to think rationally and give yourself a second chance with a different teacher or approach.
- Prejudice. These are the things that you have convinced yourself of in order to protect yourself from disappointment. For example, “I already learned English once, it is difficult for me” or “to speak English, you have to learn the language for a long time.” Dig into yourself, find the causes of these prejudices and overcome them.
- The language barrier. The opinion that there is a language barrier is also a disappearing psychological prejudice as soon as you open your mouth.
Analyze yourself on these 11 points, understand what is preventing you and start fighting these reasons.
How to upgrade spiking
Everyone is most afraid to speak, but in fact everything is very simple. To pump up the peaking, you need to speak. Don't expect to learn a lot of words, grammar rules, listen to music and watch movies to magically speak English. No, speech can only be pumped through practice.
At least talk to yourself, record audio messages for yourself, tell how your day went. With the help of this practice, you will see exactly what vocabulary is missing in your vocabulary. Also, platforms for speaking, speaking clubs, where you can communicate with native speakers, are very helpful.
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