Vocabulary in this text
- the norm (phrase) – something that is typical or standard
- tangible (adjective) – clear and definite or real.
- lyrics (noun) – the words of a song
- plot (noun) – the main events of a story
- incorporate (verb) – include
- commute (noun) – the journey between one’s home and workplace
- on a roll (idiom) – to be making great progress or experiencing a period of success
We all know what it’s like to start something new; a new diet, guitar lessons, learning a language. We have the best of intentions at the beginning, but soon fall out of the habit and eventually give up completely.
So how can you make sure you stick to your resolutions and achieve your goals?
Science tells us that small, easy to maintain actions, repeated for a few weeks will train our brains to see this as the norm. Once your brain accepts this new habit as normal, you won’t have to make such an effort each day. Soon enough, you’ll be reaching for the salad rather than the cake. You’ll want to pick up your guitar after a long day at work because you find it soothing, and you’ll find yourself thinking in English without even trying.
Over the last ten years, I have discussed this situation with hundreds of students and I have experienced it myself while learning my second and third languages. That’s why I have compiled this list of the top 5 steps that I recommend to my students. These are steps that you can take TODAY to begin creating those small, manageable habits which will soon turn into tangible progress and a wonderful feeling of achievement.
Try to practise every single day, even if it’s just for 15 minutes.
There’s a reason that this is one of the most common pieces of advice for language learners: it works! The human brain is very much like our muscles in that it functions much better with short, frequent activity. You may have been told by your personal trainer that High Intensity Interval Training is very effective for building muscle and burning calories. Equally, having distraction-free, concentrated English practice for short periods once or twice a day will make sure you absorb and retain the language more effectively than if you study for an hour, once per week.
So how do you build this habit into your already busy schedule?
Find things that you would enjoy in your own language, but switch them to English.
Do you love to listen to music in your native language? Try switching to English music and read the lyrics while you listen. Do you enjoy watching films and TV series? Try to watch with English subtitles, but be aware that these are sometimes incorrect. Better yet, watch that TV show completely in English. You might not understand every word, but you will be training your ears to pick out the sounds of English and you will soon get used to the most common accents. Many students prefer to watch films they have seen before in their native language as it’s easier to guess the meaning of words from their context when you know the plot already.
Personally, I am mad about podcasts. I often recommend that students find a podcast about a hobby or passion of theirs. A large percentage of podcasts are in English, so it’s a fun and interesting way to incorporate English into your daily routine. Listen to it on your commute, at the gym, while you’re washing up the dishes after dinner or when you’re having a bath.
If you have any favourite podcasts, TV shows or movies, please share your recommendations in the comments below.
Make sure you record your new vocabulary in one place.
Many students tell me that they find themselves learning the same words or phrases again and again. My first question is: How do you record your new vocabulary? In my experience, the students who don’t record their vocabulary are the ones that find they are having to relearn the same words and phrases many times. The students who record their new vocabulary all in one place know where to look when they need to find the right word and review regularly.
However, there’s no single method for recording vocabulary. It really depends on your preferred way to learn, and how likely you are to have it with you at any time.
- Paper flashcards are great for learners who like to write things down
- Electronic flashcards are great for learners who do everything on their smartphone
- Notebooks are neat, tidy and easy to carry with you
- Post-it notes are useful when learning the words for objects in your home
- Spreadsheets are great for the uber-organised student
- Diary entries are a great way to incorporate a habit of recording your new vocabulary at the end of every day
Whichever method you choose, it must be available at any time of the day for you to scribble down a new word or phrase.
It’s also essential that you regularly review what you’ve learned. Frequently reviewing the new language you’ve recorded will help you to recall it when you need it. Another way to keep your new English front-of-mind is to use it several times in conversation as soon as possible.
Sometimes, the best motivation is to see progress in the areas you really need it, fast!
That was the inspiration behind the self-study courses that you can find in the Intrepid English Academy. We wanted to create courses that would cover a wide range of skills and objectives for any English-language situation. Intrepid English Academy members can access any course from the growing library, from business English to general English, from exam preparation courses to grammar and vocabulary lessons. These courses can be studied from beginning to end, or one specific section at a time. This enables our learners to have the freedom to develop the individual skill they need right at that moment or follow a structured, personalised Success Path which will guide them through every step of their English-learning journey.
The Intrepid English Academy will be available from 1st November. Subscribe here to receive updates, special offers and a chance at winning free English lessons.
So, you’re finding interesting ways to study English a little every day, you’re recording your new vocabulary and reviewing it regularly. You’re even working your way through some great self-study courses in the Intrepid English Academy. You’re on a roll! You’re doing great.
Now’s the time to book a lesson with your English teacher to practise everything you’ve learned.
Your teacher can help you to change your passive knowledge into active English ability. Practise with us so that you can walk into your next English conversation with confidence. We’ll even make sure your pronunciation and intonation are correct. What a team!
If you have any questions about the advice above or want to know more about the Intrepid English Academy, please feel free to ask.
I’m also happy to show anyone’s who’s interested my super-duper, colour-coded flashcard collection… I’m not ashamed!
We’d love to hear from you.
From the whole Intrepid English Team – have a successful day.
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