When it comes to learning a language, you can only do so much in class. At some point, we all need to look beyond the classroom walls if we’re to put our abilities to the test and hone those hard-earned skills. Luckily, the age we live in has no shortage of options for the motivated learner.
Here are 10 ways to improve your English outside of class:
- Watch TV series and films in English
TV and film are great ways to practice listening skills because the visual element helps to make the context clear. However, if you’re watching something in order to improve your English, be methodical. Watch once without subtitles and then once again with them (in English). Rewatch difficult scenes over and over until you’ve really grasped what’s being said. If you’re watching a DVD, remember that these days many have an audio description option for the sight-impaired. This additional element makes for great extra practice.
- Find a language exchange partner
One-to-one exchanges are a great way to practice your language skills in a relaxed setting – over a coffee, say, or even a beer. The key to a successful exchange is to find someone who has a similar level in your language as you do in English, otherwise the temptation is to drift into the stronger of the two. Be strict with one another as well: half the exchange in your language, half in English, or alternating languages every time you meet.
- Join a language club
A great way to meet new people and hone those conversation skills is to join a language club, where like-minded people gather to improve their English either by getting together to chat or by taking part in an activity – walking in the countryside, for example, or visiting local galleries. Many of them are joined by native speakers looking to make friends in a laidback atmosphere. Sites like meetup.com are ideal for finding out what’s going on in your area.
4. Play games in English
There are tonnes of sites where you can study and practice English with quizzes and games online. Whether you want to increase your vocabulary or improve your grammar, there’s certain to be a game out there for you. And you don’t need to be a child to enjoy them!
- Read, read, read
One of the best ways to improve your English outside of class is simply to read as much as possible. Make sure you read a variety of texts in order to familiarise yourself with different styles of English: everything from magazine articles to novels, newspaper reports to webpages. These days, with tablets and reading apps at our disposal, it’s easy to download a dictionary so that you can just click on a word that you don’t understand, making reading in English faster and more enjoyable.
- Use the internet in English
Need to look something up on Wikipedia for work or study? Why not look it up in English (or even Simple English)? Been following a particular news story, and already know the background to it? Why not read an article about it in English? Want to know the weather forecast? Need a recipe for dinner? Curious about last night’s game? All these things can be done online in English. Plus, there’s no end of great sites for learning online.
- Listen to songs in English
Whatever your taste in music, listening to the lyrics is a great way to improve not only your listening skills but your pronunciation as well, especially when it comes to word stress and intonation. Sites like lyricstraining.com are great for practicing at home. Make sure you sing along!
- Join an online discussion forum
Want to discuss Game of Thrones, talk about London Fashion Week, or chat about the Champions League with fellow footie fans? Whatever you’re into, there’s bound to be an online discussion forum dedicated to it. Why not sign up and get chatting online in English? It may not be spoken communication, but it’s quick, it’s interactive, and it’s real.
- Change your language settings
If you use Facebook or Twitter, or any other social networking site, why not set the language to English? That way you’ll be practicing every single time you log on. You can do the same with your mobile phone as well.
Of course, of all the ways to improve your English outside of class, there’s no substitute for actually immersing yourself in the language in the places where it is spoken. Nevertheless, you still have to make yourself use the language once there. As well as the inevitable interactions in hotels, restaurants and shops, why not go on a guided tour in English or find a local language exchange group? Most big cities have various social events for those who want to practice their language skills and make new friends.
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