As a former English teacher, I have taught all kinds of students with all kinds of levels, from absolute beginners to fluent speakers, and let me tell you right now, there is NO right way to learn a language because what works for you, may not work for someone else.
Having said that, I definitely noticed a lot of key similarities that only my TOP students with great fluency followed. And I’m here to share the little changes these students made to help you make sure your learning is at its absolute best!
I cannot tell you how many students I had who only studied English when they were in my lesson, and because of that, every class was like starting all over again, they had mostly forgotten the last lesson and were struggling with the new one!
My top students however, always told me the things they did to practice their English, from independently studying the grammar that they struggled with in class, to watching English shows, to listening to English radio. There was always something.
If you are having English classes, that’s great! But let’s be honest, English classes can only take you so far. As a teacher it was my job to speak slowly and clearly but that is nothing like how native English speakers normally talk, is it? If you really want to grow your fluency level, you have to familiarise yourself with everyday English speech and do you own kind of study.
Is there a piece of grammar you studied in class that was pretty difficult to understand? Try studying it in your own time at a pace that is comfortable to you. Are your current English classes not as effective as you had hoped? Why not try and research interesting new ways you can really build up your level.
As cool as it is to say, ‘I can speak another language!’ The fact is, for a lot of you, English is crucial for your careers and education. Many of you have exams and will require proof of your level of English for certain job roles. So, you HAVE to study it, but maybe you don’t really WANT to.
This is perfectly understandable, however, from my experience, all my top students found a way to love learning English. If you force yourself to study something and there is ZERO enjoyment there, the chances of improving at a faster rate or feeling comfortable while speaking will be very low.
There are so many ways to make learning fun! Listening to music, watching tv shows, try and be creative with your learning. Why not translate your favourite song into English, or watch the English versions of your favourite childhood fairy tales.
Yes, learning can get boring at times, but it doesn’t always have to be work!
Speaking in general can be a scary thing for some of us. Whether it is to one new person, or a group of people. On the phone, or perhaps face to face. But when you have to do it in another language, oh boy! That can often be twice as hard!
Throughout this article when I have said ‘top students’ you may have been thinking of these amazingly talented people who can somehow learn quickly and speak English like a native speaker, but that’s not necessarily what I mean.
Many of my top students struggled with grammar, their pronunciation, some even had a low vocabulary, but the thing that made them stand out from the rest was their confidence. When they had something they wanted to say, I could see it on their faces. Their eagerness to express themselves was so much stronger than the fear of saying the wrong thing.
Unfortunately, there is no set formula to become a more confident person and it is often a lifelong struggle for a lot of us. A great place to start is to understand yourself and your personality so you know what works best for you.
The biggest tip that I can give for boosting confidence is to just be yourself. Heard it all before, right? I know, the saying is old, but it truly is gold. When we stop worrying about how we think we should be and just be who we are, it makes life a lot easier and a lot less stressful.
In the beginning of all my classes I always asked my students how their week/weekend was. And it was here that I got to understand a lot about each person. The lower-level students would simply say things like, ‘I went fishing with my dad,’ or ‘I went hiking.’ Now, I’m sure they absolutely loved these activities, but they were so stuck in the mind-set that they were in a classroom, they did not seem at all interested in telling me anymore than those simple sentences.
My top students on the other hand were always eager to explain every little detail about their hobbies and excursions to the point we sometimes spent nearly all of the lesson discussing it!
If you really want to go even further with your learning, you have to get out of the idea of asking simple questions and giving simple answers. If someone asks you about something you like, do everything you can to explain what it is and why you like it. Yes, it will be harder because now you have to know so much more vocabulary, but you will also combine the joy you have of this hobby, with speaking English, and before you know it, you will feel excited to express yourself.
Think of the one thing in life you love the most. Got it? Now how can you incorporate that with learning English?
This has to be by far, the most important!
I won’t assume all of you have all day and all night to practice English. We’ve all got things to do right? Some of you have to work, study, take care of your families etc. You have a life to live, and because of that, it can be hard to make time for practicing a language.
My top students were very much the same. They all had a lot of things to worry about and English was often the least of their problems. Having said that, they all had very strict schedules that they used in their week to ensure they had a little bit of time for the things that were important to them, and they were consistent with it.
When you decide to study at random times or after a long period, don’t be surprised if it feels like your level has suddenly gotten worse. Like riding a bike, the information is still there but you have to get used to it again. If it’s impossible to practice English every day, that’s okay, but it is important to find space somewhere in your week for at least an hour of practice that you do on a regular basis.
If you don’t already, get a calendar or diary and highlight a day where you have time to practice and promise yourself you WILL do it every week. When we write things down, we give them more importance in our minds and are more likely to stick to our plans.
Some people believe that certain individuals are naturally talented at learning a language, but I don’t think that is entirely true. Just making small changes that better fit your learning style can make all the difference, and no matter what you do, have patience, believe in yourself and don’t stress!