Help your English with New Year's Resolutions
Every new year we promise ourselves that this year is OUR year. The year when we sort it out. The year when we get fit, get smart, read more, eat better and become the person we want to be. For lots of people, learning a second language is a common goal. However, this resolution usually ends up being as neglected as a dust-gathering exercise bike in February. So, here are some inspiring ideas to not only directly help you with your English skills but that you can also include with your other lifestyle changes…
Focus on meaning, not grammar
Research has shown that grammar teaching/study is an ineffective and unproductive way of learning a language. It’s a million times more useful if language learners focus on “how do I say…..” as opposed to “why is it -ing …have +participle”. Yes, to achieve a high degree of fluency, understanding grammar is important but more often than not, we are learning a language to communicate our ideas and understand others. Therefore, in your study time, prioritise comprehension and vocabulary over tenses and grammar exercises.
Find, no, MAKE time for studying English. Regularity and quality are both much more important than quantity. That is to say, five minutes a day is better than one hour on Saturday. The easiest way to do this is to make it part of your routine. Can you read the BBC news with your ColaCao in the morning? Listen to a podcast on the bus to school/work? Play video games with people from other countries? Something is always better than nothing, one man from the Czech Republic learnt English by studying every time he went to the toilet…..Whatever works for you…
One particularly useful method is to keep a diary. Learning anything is like building sandcastles, over time the new information will wash away from our minds and research has shown that people who keep a record of the daily events tend to have better memories than those who don’t. With a journal, you can write anything that matters to you and/or any new words or phrases. After a few weeks, you can look back on what you’ve done and reinforce that knowledge and prevent it from washing away.
Make it a part of your other resolutions.
Want to get fit? Look at some workout plans in English and take them to the gym.
Trying to eat healthily? Try cooking some recipes in English and see what happens (I accept no liability for any kitchen fires).
Start a new hobby! Read around the subject, find some books/podcasts on your new passion.
Trying to read more? Reading in English is a great way to start.
Want to travel more? Practise your English wherever you are, even where it’s not a national language - chances are other holiday makers will be using the lingua franca also!