07 Becoming a better learner of English
by Dharmendra Sheth
Your eventual success at anything really depends on you. Yes, YOU. The pivotal factor is how much effort and time you put into anything. You should be self-motivated and have a positive view of life, whatever the outcome of any enterprise. And that applies to English language learning also.
Most English language learners (ELLs), whether learning it as a foreign language or a second language, want to improve their spoken English. They want to improve their oral communication skills in English. They try different types of activities and strategies, but not many succeed in acquiring a good command of speaking skills. The following are just a few tried and tested tips that might boost your pace of learning and also improve the quality of the language.
The first task perhaps is to analyze your language learning needs. What is it that you want to do with English? What is your purpose? Is it just for fun or study or research or travel? When your objective is clear, you should make a plan. Plan your work and work your plan. Find out what your current level is and decide the level you want to reach. Once you have done that, use the following tips to become a better English language learner.
Get actively involved in oral communication:
You should begin conversations and keep talking in the target language. Grab every opportunity to use the language. Ask questions, put forward your views and respond to others’ opinions. You can even try to befriend native speakers, in person or online. In short, remember that language is primarily a speech.
Become a reflective learner:
To reflect means to think carefully and deeply about something. More often than not we do not really think of what we are doing. A good thing to do is to reflect upon what you are doing. See whether you are doing it right and what improvements can be made for better and quicker results.
Explore the nuances of the English language:
First of all, what does it mean by “nuances”? Well, Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines the word “nuance” as “a very slight difference in appearance, meaning, sound, etc:” Explore the nuances of English by developing powers of observation. But It is extremely important in language study to notice and understand the difference between two similar sounding or looking language items; for instance, lid and lead, ship and sheep, mat and mate. No two words or structures are interchangeable—one is always more appropriate than the other. That is why you need to pay special attention to such items of language. Remember, many “see”, few “observe”; many “hear”, few “listen”.
Hone study skills:
I am sure you have met many students who study hard but they do not get desired results. The same is the case with language learners. Analyse your study skills and see whether you need to modify them. You might need to find out what type of learner you are. Do you remember better if you read something aloud? Or do you remember better if you read in your mind? How do you record what you learn? How do you revise? How often do you practise? What time of the day or night is good for you? How do you clear your doubts? All these and many more are aspects of study skills. It is worth spending time on sharpening them.
Share interesting and useful information:
The more you share good things with people, the more you will be rewarded. That is the rule of nature. Find out some interesting stuff not likely to be known to many. Share it with people who you think may be interested in such material. Your time and effort will not go in vain. Sooner or later, those who have benefited because of your work will return the favour.
Become meticulous in the use of words:
Words clothe your thoughts. Words can make or mar your personal and professional life. Be very precise in your choice of words. Before using a word, try to know what it means in a particular context. See how the meaning changes by changing a word. Be a word-hunter; it is fun, believe me.
Acquire reference skills:
Many learners, in spite of their best endeavours, fail to reach the level of English they desire. One of the main reasons may be that they do not know what material to refer to and how. As an English language learner, you should prefer authentic material, be it a dictionary, a book or a website. Find out the people involved in its preparation—their qualifications, experience, publications, etc. Another related point is about the method of using any material. For instance, using a dictionary. It is not advisable to consult a dictionary the moment you come across a new or unfamiliar word. Look at the context and the co-text, make a guess at the meaning, read on and you may understand that word without consulting a dictionary.
Develop a culture of learning:
Learning English is not possible by just reading books on or about the English language. You will have to develop an interest in a diverse range of subjects. Be a good learner of every subject and your knowledge of English is a certain byproduct. If you learn how to learn, a good command of English is not far.
Enjoy the idiomatic richness of the English language:
English is an idiomatically rich language. Even in colloquial English one can easily find the richness and beauty of English expressions. Some of them may be difficult to understand, some may be totally illogical, some may sound or appear wrong. But that is English. There are two possibilities: one, you may get bogged down in complexities; two, you may enjoy the intricacies of English expressions. Choose the latter. Relish the challenge; delight in learning English.
The above list is not comprehensive. Many learners develop their own styles and methods of learning, revising and practising English. Do the same for your own language development.
Happy learning, happy sharing!