➤ Be brave and speak
A good way to start is to find a someone you can talk to on a regular basis. This could be a friend, a tutor or a social group that is interested in learning the English language.
Chloe Wang Youjia, a TV presenter from China, says she went to a park every Sunday to look for people to practice her English.
At first, if you are feeling scared or shy, you can let the person you’re speaking to know that you are still learning the language.
Before you speak to someone, try to prepare for it in advance by noting down some useful phrases that involve introducing yourself.
You can also find out how to ask some questions to keep the conversation going.
➤ Use the internet and social media to your advantage
There are many videos with subtitles that you can watch online to help you learn English. Podcasts are also available with transcripts and they can be useful too.
Start by watching or listening to simple topics like introducing yourself, making friends or talking about your hobby. These are everyday topics that you can practise easily with others.
When you’re watching a video or listening to a podcast, take note of new words you hear or useful phrases you come across. Keep a record of them in a book and look up their meanings so you can understand how the words are being used.
If you don’t understand a video or podcast the first time round, don’t worry! You can watch or listen to it a few times and once every few days too.
Using a dictionary is another useful tool and many online dictionaries can tell you how the word is pronounced.
You can also learn English when you’re on social media by following pages on Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites that are dedicated to learning English.
This is a great way to meet different people from all over the world by interacting with them as you practice your English.
➤ Use a mirror
We all know that speaking is important, but what if it’s hard to find people to talk to? This is a common issue faced by many people from our Australia Plus Learn English community.
Helen Zhang Yuan from China has a good piece of advice – her way of practicing English was to use a mirror.
“I give myself a topic and to practice, I do this,” she says. Helen is a TV presenter from China and she speaks English and Mandarin.
Set aside five minutes of your time every day to stand in front of the mirror and talk to yourself. If you find five minutes too long, start with a minute and slowly extend the duration as you progress.
You can start by telling yourself how your day was and what you were up to. If you get stuck – and you probably will when you first start doing this – don’t stop!
Pause and think about what you want to say and continue talking for the time you have set aside.
If it helps, you can write down short sentences or words on a piece of paper before you starting talking. Refer to the paper to use the words and sentences when you need to.
Soon enough, you won’t need the paper anymore because you will start to remember the words and sentences.
It can be weird to be talking to yourself at first but don’t feel shy. This is a good way to practice your language skills anytime and anywhere!
➤ Think in the language you want to speak in
We tend to think in the language we’re most comfortable in when we want to say something.
But Bei Aixinjueluo in China says you should avoid translating from your native tongue into English. Bei is a TV presenter from China and she hosts shows in English and Mandarin.
“For example, I’m Chinese. [At first] I tried to translate Chinese into English but try not to do that,” she says.
“Try to think in the primary language that you’re speaking which is English. Do not translate [in your head]. And I think slowly, you’ll get used to it.”
As you think in English, you will start to find out the words you need to know to express ideas. If you can’t find an English word to express a particular idea, you can think of it in your language and find a dictionary, teacher or a friend to help you find the English equivalent.
Also, translating from one language into English in your head can be tricky and slow you down when you’re speaking or writing in English.
When you make a conscious effort to think in English as you go about your day, you will also be able to associate words and phrases with what’s happening around you. You will also be able to use the language more naturally.
➤ Find what works best for you and enjoy learning
Languages are beautiful and learning can be an enjoyable process!
When you’re learning English, surround yourself with the language in every possible way. That could mean watching English movies, listening to English songs or talking to friends. Or it could be switching your phone settings to English so you’re reading and understanding the language all the time.
There are also so many ways you can learn English and we’ve discussed some of the ways here. Some of these methods may work for you or you may need to use a combination of different methods to learn a language.
Whatever it is, enjoy the process and you will be encouraged by the results you see.
As linguist Frank Smith says, “One language sets you in a corridor for life. Two languages open every door along the way.”
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