I know it is summer, and that means it might be the hardest time of the year to stay motivated to learn, especially if you feel you are not making much progress. But if you want to improve, you must find ways. Here are some tips that may help:
1. Be Encouraged – Your English Is Probably Better Than You Think It Is!
Unfortunately, a lot of English learners have a very negative view of their English skills. Do you ever find yourself saying or thinking things like…
“My English is probably full of mistakes.”
“I’m afraid to speak, because other people might not understand me.”
“I’ve been studying for years, but my English is still bad.”
I can tell you honestly – your English is probably better than you imagine. As a tutor here, I’ve interacted with hundreds of students. So I can say with confidence that most of you are doing great in English!
Yes, of course there is room to improve. But you already have good English skills, and I can understand your speaking and writing. That’s a really big accomplishment.
So if you tend to have a low opinion of your English, try to eliminate those negative thoughts by focusing on what you CAN do, not what you can’t do yet.
2. Never Compare Your English Skills To Others’
One reason that many English learners have a low opinion of their skills is that they’re comparing themselves to native English speakers or other learners who have reached fluency. If you observe that your English is not as good as other peoples’, you start to bad about yourself – imperfect, inferior, etc.
Don’t compare – it’s not fair!
Native English-speaking adults have had 20+ years of being immersed in English practically 24 hours a day. We’ve watched thousands of hours of TV in English, we’ve had years and years of instruction in school, read tons of books in English, and participated in millions of conversations in English.
That’s a huge advantage. If you had all that experience, you’d be a native speaker, too. So comparing yourself, as an English learner, to a native English speaker doesn’t make sense. Learning a language later in life is a different experience and can’t be compared to being raised as a native speaker since birth.
You should also avoid comparing yourself to other English learners. The fact is that everyone is different – some people naturally learn faster, some people naturally learn more slowly. Some people have invested more time in studying, other people have studied “on and off.” Some learners have had excellent teachers, other learners have had trouble finding a good teacher or method.
Don’t compare your English skills to anyone else’s. Just focus on your individual progress.
3. Don’t Take Mistakes So Seriously/Personally
MISTAKES – they have the power to make you afraid to use your English… they can also make you feel humiliated when someone corrects you… they represent your failure to know the rules of English… right?
Mistakes only have all that power if you allow them to have such power.
The goal of learning English is to communicate, and the fact is that many mistakes actually don’t damage communication. For example:
If you say “It depends of the weather” instead of the correct version “It depends on the weather,” everyone will still understand you (and many won’t even notice the small error).
If you say “I live here for 3 years” instead of the correct version “I’ve lived here for 3 years” or “I’ve been living here for three years,” people will still know what you’re saying.
If you say “I have a swimming pull in my backyard” instead of “swimming pool” (a pronunciation error), everyone will understand what you meant because of the context of the sentence.
Yes, of course we want to correct these so you can speak more perfectly. But can you see that these mistakes aren’t so serious? That’s why you shouldn’t “beat yourself up” (think strong negative thoughts about yourself).
Sometimes you make a bigger error that does cause a communication problem. This is NORMAL – it’s part of learning a language! Just try to clarify the issue using other words. Think of a different, simpler way to say what you want to say.
Just remember that making mistakes does NOT mean you are stupid. Choose to view mistakes as an opportunity to learn, not a disaster!
4. Plan For Breaks, But Also Plan To Come Back
Some English learners are too hard on themselves – in other words, they have VERY high expectations for themselves and they never take a break. They feel like they must study every day, and if they miss a day, then they feel like a failure.
Of course I recommend studying English as often as possible – it’s especially good if you can make it part of your daily routine and habits. But we all need breaks!
If you have a very busy day, it’s OK to skip your studying – just make sure to come back to it the next day. If you’re going on vacation for a week, it’s OK not to look at English. Relax and enjoy your vacation, then resume your studies afterwards.
The key is always to come back to English – don’t let yourself get so busy that you forget to study for weeks and months. If you have a busy season at work or school, try studying only once a week instead of trying and failing every day. Find a rhythm that works for your lifestyle, and be flexible enough to adjust it when necessary.
5. Make Learning Enjoyable
You don’t have to study the exact same way every time! Try to have some variation, to keep things interesting.
For example, maybe one day you do a lot of grammar exercises. The next day, do something different – listen to a podcast instead and work on your comprehension. After that, maybe learn new vocabulary from the news. Then, maybe you want to relax a bit more so you watch a TV show or movie with subtitles.
All of these things will be beneficial to your English, and having variation prevents you from getting bored.
Here’s another tip for making English more fun – find material in areas of your interest. Do you have a hobby? Do you like a certain sport? Do you enjoy politics or history? Look for English articles, books, and podcasts on that topic. When you enjoy and care about the subject material, it’s easier to learn the language.
I hope this helped. If you want to learn more and practice more or just need someone to encourage you, sign up for a trial lesson with me soon. Good luck and happy summer!