Start Living English
Welcome to Lesson 2 of the How to Make English a Part of Your Life mini-course!
This lesson is all about the resources that you need to really start living English.
One of the excuses that I hear the most from my students is that they don’t have time to study English every day.
However, the great thing is that you can start learning English every single day without really changing much in your daily routine, and without any extra time. It’s just finding HOW to start taking advantage of the convenient moments in our day.
This lesson will tell you exactly how to find more fun ways to make English a part of your life without spending a bunch of extra time studying.
This is the longest lesson of the mini-course (13 minutes), but it’s jam packed (really full) of great advice, resources, and tools that are going to help you revolutionize the way you learn English!
As always, first watch the video, then check the transcript for complete understanding. Let’s go!
Hey this is Ethan from RealLife English, and I want to welcome you to lesson two of Make English a part of Your Life.
Education is not the filling of a cup, but the lighting of a fire –William Butler Yeats
Today we’re going to be talking all about the resources that will help you stop studying and make English an enjoyable part of your life, which is the fastest way to success.
Let’s get started.
I’m going to tell you about some tools you can use to improve your listening.
So, do you ever do any of the following?
- Take the bus, walk, or drive places?
- Go to the grocery store?
- Cook or clean?
- Walk your dog?
- Exercise at the gym or go running?
- Wait in line?
These are all times when you’re not actively focusing on anything, but could be listening to something.
This is where Podcasts come in.
Podcasts are free, downloadable audio programs, containing new and interesting information about anything you can imagine. They are created by specialists in their fields, in addition to entertainers, journalists, and even big media outlets. A podcast is like a radio program, but you can download it from anywhere in the world. There are millions of programs to choose from, which you subscribe to, put on your MP3 player, and listen to wherever you want, whenever you want.
With Podcasts, YOU are in complete control of your learning experience.
So imagine using these to revolutionize your English learning! You can take frustrating times of the day like when you’re stuck in traffic or waiting in a long line at the supermarket, and make them into a productive learning experience.
So how do you choose from all of these podcasts available?
Well, to start, at RealLife we have our own popular podcast that makes learning the everyday English used by native speakers simpler and more entertaining. We’ll teach you expressions, slang, pronunciation, jokes, and more!
There are many other podcasts around especially for English learners, but we also implore you to challenge yourself by listening to a podcast made for native speakers about whatever interests you be it biking, entrepreneurship, self development, meditation… the list goes on and on.
If you want to learn more, remember to check out all of the articles we have on the RealLife English website on using podcasts to improve your English.
At the RealLife English Fluency Center, we recommend to all of our students that they check out the website and mobile application TuneIn.
TuneIn allows you to listen to practically any radio station from anywhere in the world. You can search by city, so, for example, if it’s your dream to travel to Sydney, Australia, you can start listening to what the locals listen to in Sydney, and accustom yourself to how natives really speak English there.
Keep in mind, it doesn’t matter if you don’t understand everything. It’s not even important that you pay attention. By passively listening to radio and podcasts, your brain will naturally become accustomed to the subtle sounds, rhythm, and intonation of English, and gradually your comprehension will improve; it’s incredible!
The great thing about watching something is that you don’t have to understand 100 percent of what’s being said to still comprehend what’s happening. Just from the characters’ actions and body language, you’ll be able to understand 40 to 50 percent of what’s happening.
Think about it. Without knowing what someone is saying you can at least tell their emotion, what they are doing (for example, working, cooking, or exercising), and how they feel towards another person.
This means that once you can understand about 60 percent of what’s being said, you’re ready to watch without any assistance from subtitles!
Watching something is a great way to learn new vocabulary, slang, and expression, to naturally improve you’re knowledge of the structure of the language, and overall, to get a better feeling of how natives really speak.
TV shows are probably the top thing that we recommend English learners start watching. This is because they are generally pretty short (most are just 20 minutes per episode), they are easy to get hooked on [addicted to], and many people watch them every day anyway.
One of the best things you can do for your English is to challenge yourself and stop watching the dubbed version or with subtitles in your native language, and to at least start watching the show with subtitles in English. If you can eventually stop doing that, it’s even better.
If you start watching just one episode per day of a great TV show (Friends is a great place to start), I guarantee that your English comprehension will noticeably improve in just 2 to 3 weeks.
Although TV programs are infinitely easier for us busy learners to fit into our schedule, watching a movie once in a while is also a fantastic way to improve your English.
By watching the original version, you’ll be able to appreciate a great movie so much more. You’ll feel the emotion of the actors, the connections between characters, or understand the jokes that just don’t translate right.
When watching movies, take the same approach as with TV shows: start by watching with English subtitles, and once you feel you can understand about 60 percent, take them off.
YouTube and Ted Talks
YouTube and Ted Talks are great because you can find short videos (less than 20 minutes) on all sorts of topics. So there is bound to be something that interests you.
As you probably know, on YouTube you can find tons of videos made especially for English learners, like RealLifeTV, Rachel’s English, Collo Learn, English Anyone, and many more, as well as millions of videos made for native speakers.
Ted Talks are ideas worth spreading made by the most innovative people around. They are on tons of topics, but what they all have in common is that they’re inspirational and they open up your mind to new concepts.
If you want to learn more about using YouTube and Ted Talks to learn English, we have several articles on our website that will help you get started. They’re linked in the transcript below.
What do you enjoy reading in your native language?
Well, read that in English!
If you have the habit of waking up in the morning and checking your Twitter or reading the news, you can substitute both of these for more exposure to English. Follow more Twitter accounts that tweet in English. Or download an application from an English publication like the New York Times, Huffington Post, BBC, or the Economist. You could also consider setting one of their websites as the homepage on your Internet browser.
If you prefer reading magazines, you can surely find one in English that covers your interests.
However, the best option is definitely committing to reading a book. This is because, like a TV show, it is easy to get hooked and continue practicing over a large length of time. And it’s easier than you might think. You probably won’t understand every sentence. But you will understand every paragraph, or at least every chapter. All it takes is finding a good book that’s at your level.
I recommend that you read with a pencil, and underline anything that you don’t understand. Then, when you finish a chapter, come back and look up the words or phrases that you didn’t understand. This way, you can enjoy the flow of the story without getting distracted every few seconds.
Make your phone, tablet, and computer useful!
There are tons of websites and applications out there that will help you facilitate the learning process and take advantage of convenient moments in your day to improve your English.
I highly recommend to anyone who has a smart phone to first download three types of applications:
- An English dictionary (dictionary.com is great)
- A dictionary from your language to English (WordReference is one of the best)
- Google translate
If you are fairly proficient in English, it’s a good idea to get out of the habit of translating, and to start looking up definitions in a regular English dictionary. This will help train your brain to not rely on translating from your native language to English. Translating usually leads to very unnatural sounding speech.
If you still don’t understand a word when you look up the definition in English then of course it’s fine to look up a translation. Having a dictionary to your native language can help you do this instantly. I recommend WordReference because it gives you the context of the word and examples, so you can find exactly the translation that you need.
Google Translate is also not to be ignored, because you can listen to pronunciation of the word, which is crucial in English because you can’t usually tell from the spelling.
Anki is a Spaced Repetition System (SRS). What exactly is THAT?
The website Fluent in 3 months has a great description:
“SRS is a presentation method that gives you the information before you would forget it and makes sure that it stays constantly fresh in your mind. So, you might see a word a few minutes after the first time, then a few days later, then a few weeks later etc. always at the time you need to see it most to make sure it is constantly fresh in your mind.
It’s a more complex version of the flashcard system where you have a word on one side of a card and its translation on the other. You look at the word, test yourself to see if you know it and turn over the card to see the translation. You couldn’t get more low-tech than that even if you tried, but SRS uses 21st century technology to make this possible while considering the time dimension.”
So why do I love Anki for studying languages?
You can use Anki on your computer, smartphone, or tablet. I find it most useful on my phone. Anytime I learn a new word or expression, I automatically put it Anki, so that I can study it later. Everytime that I have more than 20 cards to study, Anki reminds me.
So if you have 5 minutes to spare while waiting for a friend, on the metro, or in line at the supermarket, instead of getting bored or frustrated, you can study English!
In addition, Anki allows you to add audio and pictures to take your studying to the next level. And you can download decks that other people have already made. To learn more about using Anki to improve your memorization of English, remember to click the link in the transcript below.
Memrise and Quizlet
There are two more flashcard websites and applications, but each is unique from Anki in its own way.
Memrise uses pictures, wordplay, and different activities to help you study vocabulary and expressions. You can use a premade course or make your own.
Quizlet uses different type of games to make learning more interactive and fun.
Of the three, Anki is my favorite because of its simplicity, it’s reminder feature, and because you can use it offline, so you can study anywhere. However, I recommend that you try all of them and decide for yourself.
I’m going to recommend three: Duolingo, Babbel, and Busuu.
Babbel and Busuu have both free and paid sections. They use different learning strategies, but I would recommend that any beginning student who wants to build his or her vocabulary on specific topics try them.
Duolingo is by far the best of the three. Whether you’ve been studying English for a while, or you’re a beginner, it has courses that will help you in virtually all areas of the language: reading, writing, vocabulary, pronunciation, and grammar. And the best part is, it’s completely free!
So if you’re looking for a structured English course, you might want to sign up for Duolingo online or on your smartphone
To wrap up [conclude] this section, the fastest, most natural, and most fun way to achieve fluency is by surrounding yourself as much as possible with the language.
So get immersed. You now have a variety of resources to help you listen, watch, and read–all of which you can use at home or on-the-go, by putting your smart phone to use.
Obviously, to really take advantage of these resources, you’re going to need to actually use English to communicate, which we’ll talk all about in Part VI of the course, so stick around!