There are few things more frustrating than feeling like you haven’t made much progress while trying to learn English. You’ve done everything you could – signed up for spoken English courses online, made long new vocabulary lists, diligently studied from many different grammar textbooks, used our tips to practise your listening and comprehension skills, tried to speak as much as you can in English – everything! And yet, you still feel uncomfortable and nervous around more fluent English speakers. It can be disappointing sometimes, yes.
But here’s the good news: you are not alone. There are millions of language learners just like you all around the world who are also trying their best to learn a language that is not their first language. So a good first step would be to congratulate yourself for taking the initiative and committing to this difficult, often painful, but highly rewarding language-learning journey.
Also, here’s some more good news: you won’t feel under-confident forever! Here are some tips that will encourage you to keep going.
1. Acknowledge That It’s Difficult But That’s Okay
Learning a new language takes time and patience. It is important to acknowledge and accept that although it is difficult now, it will definitely get easier with time and some effort. A positive and realistic outlook is 90% of the battle won.
2. Use Your First Language to Your Advantage
You no doubt already speak at least one (if not more!) languages fluently. While learning the fundamentals of the English language, go ahead and use your first language to understand the difference or similarities between it and English. Doing so will make the learning process much more interesting.
- in English, a sentence is most often structured like this:
Subject – Verb – Object
Alia kicks the football.
Here, Alia is the subject, kicks is the verb and the football is the object
Are sentences in your first language structured the same way?
In Hindi or Bengali, sentences are structured in the Subject – Object – Verb order which is also the case in other Asian languages like Nepali and Korean!
- You can make lists of words in your first language and then learn the corresponding words in English.
- Another fun way to learn is to take the lyrics of your favourite song and try and translate them into English.
3. Weave Your English-learning Process into Your Real Life
One of the best ways to progress quickly with a new language is by immersing yourself in it. Talk in it, listen to it, read books and articles in it, listen to music, write in it. Walk around your house and describe the different objects in it. Have imaginary conversations with yourself if there’s no one else around to talk to. Practise thinking in English so you get used to forming sentences and building vocabulary comfortably.
For instance, talk about yourself and the different things about you in full sentences.
- My name is Bora. I am twenty-six years old. I am a student. I’m from India. I am tall and healthy.
Or, if you’re studying a particular grammar topic, spend the day trying to incorporate what you have learned into your life. Make sentences about things that are actually happening or that you notice around you.
- This is a chair. The cushion is on the sofa. (articles, prepositions)
- Her dog is sleeping near the door. (pronouns, present continuous, prepositions)
4. Step Outside Your Comfort Zone
Although it might be a little scary and uncomfortable at first, be open to speaking to other people in English, to making mistakes and learning from them. The main difference between you and a native speaker is that, over time, they have developed a feel for the language which allows them to communicate easily and confidently. The more you practise and learn, the easier it will be for you to develop this feel too.
5. Listen and Communicate!
One of the best ways to learn a new language quickly and correctly is to find a language-learning partner. Ideally your partner should be fluent in English and wanting to learn your first language! Help each other by setting up specific times in the day to talk and listen to each other speaking in the desired language. By listening and communicating with someone who is a fluent English speaker regularly, you will gain that much needed confidence to speak with others in public too.
6. Develop a Reading Habit
Although books in English are often written in a more formal way than the English used in daily conversation, they are a fantastic way to absorb the language, learn grammatical structures, acquire new vocabulary and improve your own writing. Books also transport us to new worlds and introduce us to new ways of thinking, so developing a reading habit is highly recommended.
7. Set Achievable Goals
Once of the main reasons why many English language learners give up is because they try to achieve too much in too short a period of time and get overwhelmed. Set small, achievable goals that can be easily accomplished.
Some examples of achievable goals are:
- spend 45 minutes learning a new grammar topic
- do 20 minutes of vocabulary review every day
- listen to a conversation in English for 30 minutes
- write an entry in my daily journal in English
Remember to keep your goals specific, measurable (you can test yourself to record your progress at regular intervals), achievable, realistic and time-bound (set a deadline for each goal).
8. Have Fun
It doesn’t matter if you don’t understand everything you read, hear or learn immediately. It is important to enjoy the experience of learning English, so don’t compare yourself to anyone else and definitely never let anyone discourage you.
Here at Burlington English we are your biggest cheerleaders. Take our online spoken English course and develop a goal-driven plan to improve your English skills steadily with our expert teachers who will support you at every step of the way.