Learning English is an ongoing process that doesn’t end when classes do or when you finish your course. It may even surprise you to learn that a good proportion of what you learn is learned incidentally, so, take advantage of the fact that you are currently living and studying in an English speaking country. Here are some helpful tips:
Speak English as much as possible and try to stress words appropriately. Intonation is really important and how you say something may have a totally different meaning to what you want to say, for example, ‘hello’ could be said in a friendly, sarcastic or indifferent tone.
Use your imagination and try this exercise:
Ask three different people, your friend (1), someone you don’t really know (2) and someone you don’t like (3): what time it is, or invite them out for a cup of coffee. You will probably find that you will say it a little differently each time.
Avoid speaking your own language while you are here because each time you do, you reproduce your own language’s stress and intonation patterns making it difficult to master the ones required for English. This is partially why you speak English with an accent. Mimic the sounds you hear, it’s a good way to learn. Besides, we know that you can speak your own language fluently so work on English!
Some students mistake speaking very quickly with being fluent. Speak slowly and clearly, so even if you make a mistake the listener will understand most of what you are trying to say. If you speak quickly the listener will find it difficult to understand you.
If you can’t find someone to practise speaking with, read aloud to yourself. This really helps with stress and pronunciation. Have you ever noticed that everything sounds great in your mind when you read silently, but not so great when you are asked to read aloud in class? If possible, tape yourself and listen to your pronunciation.
Listen to the radio and watch the local news. Make sure you listen for ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘when’, ‘where’, ‘how’ and ‘why’. Listening to music and learning lyrics to songs is a fun way to learn vocabulary. You can try and guess the lyrics to songs before you download the lyrics from the net.
Eavesdrop on conversations on public transport, it isn’t difficult because most people use their mobile phones and they’re quite loud. Even so, try not to make it to obvious you might upset someone.
Watch DVDs without subtitles because the idea is to improve your listening not your reading.
I hope these tips are useful so stay tuned for the next instalment.
Patty Thomas Academic Manager – GV Sunshine Coast