Great tips to activate your English muscles
A common question that my students ask me very often is this: Teacher can I speak English fluently in 2, 3, 6, 8…X months? Honestly, there is no exact answer for that question because each student is different. Not everybody learns at the same pace because not everybody invests the same amount of time and resources to improve their English. Thus, the first step to start progressing is to reflect on our own learning experience, be realistic and make a plan accordingly.
It is obvious that if you want to get results, first you need a plan. For example, if your goal is to get in shape, a good plan plan might be going to the gym three times a week, or changing your eating habits, or walking 8,000 steps every day, or all the aforementioned options. However, it’s not enough to have a plan. It’s not enough to buy a membership at the gym or enroll into cross-fit classes or fill your fridge with healthy food. You actually need to go to the gym to activate your muscles. You need to eat the food you buy and stop eating junk food in order to change your metabolism. Although it can be painful and not pleasant at all, we all know that we need to make some sacrifices and work hard to get results.
The instructor at the gym can guide, motivate and support you. However, he/she doesn’t have control over your muscles. You are the one who has the will power to move your body. You are the one who has the temperance to stop eating junk food. You could hire the best trainer or the best dietician, but if you don’t do your part you won’t get any results. The same happens when you want to learn a new language. You could hire the best teacher, or enroll in the best school. Nonetheless, if you don’t PRACTICE you won’t get results. In other words, NO PAIN, NO GAIN.
If you are committed to start an intensive and effective training to improve your English fast here are my 5 tips:
Tip 1: Activate your English muscles
What kind of tasks can you do to train your English muscled? After a number of years teaching English, I have realized that the best way to activate your English muscles is by READING, LISTENING, SPEAKING and WRITING.
I’m sure you have heard this advice millions of times. In fact you already know that perhaps you need to improve your reading, or your listening, or your writing, or your speaking, or the fours skills. Thus, I’m going to share with you specific tips that you can apply to your English practice.
Tip 2: Don’t read boring stuff
Whether you like it or not, READING is one of the most effective ways to learn new things, including new vocabulary. If you don’t like reading in your own language it will be a big challenge for you to read texts in English. However, reading doesn’t have to be painful. Look for readings about topics of your interests. If you like sports, look for readings about sports. If you like fashion, look for readings about fashion. Reading doesn’t have to be a torture.
Tip 3: Read and listen at the same time
If you want to improve your reading along with your pronunciation and listening, you can use audio-books, podcasts or TED talks. Download the text or the script so you can read along while you listen to the audio. You can also listen to the audio and read out loud imitating the intonation and pitch of the narrator or speaker. After that, you can read out load and record your voice using your phone or computer. Then you can compare your voice to the speaker’s voice.
After you finish reading and listening the text, write down 3 to 5 questions about it. Pretend that you are the teacher and you want your students to answer those questions. Then with your own words try to answer those questions.
Tip 4: Join a reading club
If you have the chance to join a reading club then you will be practicing your reading a lot and on top of that you will have the chance to speak with other people who have the same reading interests as you.
If you don’t feel confident enough to join a reading club… yet, you can start reading alone. If you don’t know exactly what kind of books you should start with, start reading children’s books. They have cute pictures; they are easy to understand and fun.
The Heinle Reading Library: Illustrated Classic Collection has my favorite ESL reading books. The readings are adapted to different ESL levels. You can identify them by colors, green is for beginner/ pre-intermediate English learners. Red is for intermediate and purple is for advanced English learners.
You can find some of these great books on Amazon (US/Mexico/ Brazil, Spain/Germany/Australia/ Japan) and eltbooks.com (Japan) or bookfinder.com (worldwide)
Tip 5: Join a conversation course
If you want to read and talk about current issues, or topics related to science, technology, history, politics, environment, social justice and geography you might want to join a conversation course.
Conversation courses are also a great place to improve your comprehension and speaking skills in a friendly and safe environment. If you join a conversation group you will read or listen to a variety of topics and engage into meaningful discussions and debates. During each session you will learn new vocabulary and expressions in context. At the same time, you will practice how to process the information you read or listen in order to express your ideas in a coherent manner.
During my last year at university I enrolled in an English-speaking course. I thought it was going to be like typical a speaking class but to my surprise it was a super fun conversation course. I loved it, I engaged into thought provoking discussions and improved my English significantly. I highly recommend conversation courses to improve English fluency and increase your confidence.
Finally, don’t forget that “Rome wasn’t built in a day”. Be patient with your own learning process and acknowledge your progress. Today you know more than you knew yesterday and tomorrow you will know something that you don’t know today.
What English muscle do you have to train more? Share your answer in the comments below.