The problem that many English learners have is that they don’t know where to start. Maybe you were taught some English in school, but it was boring, you didn’t have a chance to use it in authentic context, and you didn’t really learn anything.
Maybe you’ve decided to start learning English again and you’ve forgotten almost everything. Or maybe you’re just stuck in your learning, and don’t know what to do next.
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In most countries I’ve lived in, including the U.S., languages just aren’t taught very effectively. And honestly, no matter how good your English lessons are, a teacher alone can’t make you learn English. Eventually, if you really want to improve your English, you’re going to have to take some (or all) of the learning into your own hands.
That’s why we started RealLife English. We realized that our students didn’t have enough opportunities to practice English in their day to day life, and that most English learners don’t even realize how simple it is to do this!
So we started with some local English speaking parties, which were a huge success and are now spreading around the world. We have them once a month in various cities.
Then we started this blog. Every week we publish several articles on a variety of topics that help thousands of monthly readers change the way they learn English.
And Real Life English goes so much further than that! We have a popular Twitter that gives followers tips, jokes, quotes, and exercises several times per hour. We have a podcast, RealLife Radio where you can have fun improving your pronunciation while learning useful vocabulary and expressions, and you can check out RealLife TV where we have innovative videos.
We offer so much more than your average English teaching website!
So, want to learn with us?
Here’s where to start. What follows are the tools that we give to our students here at the RealLife English Fluency Center. We’ve compiled these tools through years of teaching and learning languages ourselves. If you read this guide and start using these tools in your everyday life, we guarantee that learning English will be more fun and easier.
Let’s get started. Here is your toolbox for learning English.
NOTE: Throughout this article there are many links to other useful texts from us. Consider bookmarking this article and coming back to it to keep improving different aspects of your English!
The RealLife Toolbox
1. Become an active communicator and develop cultural fluency
But making mistakes is nothing to worry about! It’s a natural part of the learning process, and mistakes will actually help you improve your English (think about it, the only way to improve your mistakes is by making them). The more comfortable you become with making mistakes, the more confident you’ll become and the easier that speaking English will be.
The first tool that will help you to really improve your English, no matter what level you’re at, is the survival phrases. The survival phrases are the first thing that we teach to our students whether they are beginners or they have been learning for years.
These phrases may seem obvious, but we’re surprised how few English learners actually use them! If you don’t know about these, then learn more about them and how to master them here.
2. Make English a Part of Your Life
What do we mean by this?
Studying English tends to be boring. And honestly, English isn’t something that should be considered studying. English is a means of communication–it’s meant to be heard, spoken, and enjoyed. It’s a tool to understand and connect entire peoples and cultures. Not a school subject.
So how do you stop studying English and start living it?
Simple! Do the things you already love, but do them in English!
One of the HUGE advantages that you have as an English learner is that there is so much stuff out there that you can use to have fun improving your English.
So, tool number two is Lifestyle English. This includes the four big aspects of language–reading, writing, listening, and speaking.
I’d guess that you most likely read everyday. In fact, you’re reading right now. So you might as well be reading in English, no matter what level of English you have.
If you’re a beginner, you can start with something simple, like tweets. They are a maximum of 140 characters each, so it’s a great way for you to read a small amount of simple English every day. And you can follow accounts about anything–whatever interests you.
When your English gets a little better, try reading magazines, newspapers, and blogs. Again, find something that you enjoy reading in your own language. If you don’t usually enjoy reading the news, then don’t read it in English just to improve your skills. The important part is to keep it fun!!! And don’t be afraid to challenge yourself.
Once you’re at an intermediate level, I highly recommend that you commit to reading a book. It’s easier than you might think. Just choose something that is interesting for you.
For a lot more recommendations on reading in English, remember to check out this article.
The importance of being a good writer in English will depend entirely on how you plan to use your English. If you’re a beginner, it might not be your primary focus, but it’s nice to at least be able to chat online in English.
Writing is such an important aspect of language learning because it really tests your knowledge of the language on a deeper level.
In comparison to speaking, when writing you have time to think about the best words and grammar structures to use in each situation. Speaking doesn’t let you do this as much because you are using your spontaneous knowledge and you don’t have time to think about the little things.
If improving your writing in English does interest you, then definitely have a look at this article. And I recommend using the website Lang-8 to take your writing to the next level while making friends.
Listening is something that our students tell us they have a lot of difficulties with. It’s one of the hardest parts of the language, because even if you can read English fluently, how a language is read is not how it’s spoken.
So to improve your listening you need to practice a lot. Luckily, there are SO many ways to do this: watch television shows and movies, listen to podcasts, and listen to music. You probably already do one or all of these.
Maybe you even watch American and English TV shows dubbed in your language. Some of the best English speakers I’ve met are from Scandinavia and Holland. When you ask people from those places why their English is so good, they’ll probably tell you that it’s because they’ve been watching shows in English (with subtitles in their native language) their whole life. It’s shocking for native English speakers that they even use the same slang we do!
So break the habit of watching the dubbed versions and start watching TV shows and movies in English because it will be phenomenal how fast you’ll improve. Here are 10 TV shows to get you started.
Podcasts are extremely valuable because you can listen to them anywhere. It’s a great way to pass time that you might otherwise be doing practically nothing (for example, when you’re cooking, riding the bus, in your car, waiting in the line at the store, etc.). Learn more about improving your English with podcasts here.
Music is another tool that you probably are already around all the time, but do you use it to improve your English? It’s one of our favorite language learning tools, learn why in this article.
You might think that speaking English is difficult to practice while you’re living in a country that speaks another language. And while we highly recommend traveling and studying abroad if you get the chance, we know not everybody does.
However, it’s easier than you might think to start practicing English without leaving your hometown, especially if you live in a city. Learn more about how to start speaking here.
3. Inspire Your Learning
Although using Lifestyle English is a great way to improve your English, one of the best ways to motivate yourself to keep learning is to actually meet people! It doesn’t matter if it’s other English learners like you or if it’s native speakers.
So last but not least, the third tool is USING the language.
You meet people online with whom you can practice your English using the following valuable tools:
Join a Community
Make English Speaking Friends
If you live in a big city, there are probably groups that get together and speak English, like this one. If you can start learning in a fun environment, like a party or event, and make friends to speak English with, it will really inspire you to get better and to keep learning.
Find Opportunities to Speak Every Day
Making friends online and in person to speak with is really going to change the way that you think of English. No matter what level of English you have, we recommend that you challenge yourself to speak a little bit, even just for five minutes, with someone. You can ask them the most basic questions, it doesn’t matter, what’s important is that you’re communicating.
So make a daily habit of learning English and make it fun!
Get Your Passport to the World
Going beyond just learning the language and into the upper limits of English is using it as your passport to the world. If you want to be not only an exceptional learner, but also an exceptional human being, then learn about how to become a Global Citizen. Get powerful motivation! Read why this is one of the big secrets of almost all successful language learners and other life changing reasons to learn another language.
Call to action
Now you have a lot of tools to help you revolutionize your English. I realize, it’s a lot to take in [absorb]!
You don’t have to make a big change in your life today; in fact, the important thing is to start with something small.
Your task for right now, this moment, is to grab a piece of paper and a pen. Take five to 10 minutes to clarify your objectives. Write down a few goals:
- Why do you want to improve your English?
- Where would you like your English to be one month from now? Six months? One year?
- What steps will you take, starting today (download some podcasts, create a daily writing habit, buy an English book, download a TV show, etc.)
If you are serious about improving, then it’s time to take responsibility for your learning.
I’ll repeat again, start with small changes. Add one habit at a time. If you try to make a lot of big changes all at once, it’s much more likely that you’ll fail at keeping them. So remember, little by little.
FREE E-Book: 101 Words You Will Never Learn in School