In this article, I’ll be sharing with you my advice regarding English speaking lessons. Why should you listen to me? Well, I’ve been teaching nearly my entire adult life, so I’m very confident in the information I’m sharing with you. And I don’t just give out advice to students. I use my own advice. This is how I became fluent in Russian very quickly.
Tip #1: Make flashcards
I know….It sounds old-fashioned, doesn’t it? But I promise you, flashcards — handwritten, on actual cards — are still the best way to learn. On one side of the card, write the new phrase or construction you want to learn. On the other side, write the meaning in your native language. And as you study your cards, be sure to put an “X” next to each word or phrase that you get wrong. Then, be sure to spend extra time on the cards with the most X’s.
Tip #2: Learn phrases, not words
“Melancholy? Jubilant!” People don’t communicate with words very much. We mostly communicate with phrases, and especially constructions. (I want a _____ . Do you have the ______ ?) So, even if you learn a new word like “melancholy” (which means, “sad, depressed”) or jubilant (which means, “extremely happy, joyful”), be sure to practice them in phrases. Maria is melancholy because she failed her English exam. But Sergei was jubilant when he got a job at Microsoft!
Tip #3: Practice out loud
It’s amazing how many students do NOT practice speaking out loud. They spend most of their time reading, thinking and writing. But believe me: if your goal is to actually speak English, then you need to spend a lot of time doing that…speaking out loud.
I’ve had students tell me: “I don’t know what to say.” My answer is: Use constructions, and then create your own construction branches.
Other students say, “I don’t practice English out loud because I worry that I’m saying it wrong. I worry about my pronunciation.” To them I say: Yes, pronunciation is important, but don’t worry about having an accent. What does that even mean, anyway…to have an accent? Which is the “right” accent? British English? (Where, in Great Britain? Scotland? London? Wales?) Is an American accent the “right” accent? If so, then where in America? A New York accent? Boston? Southern? California? There are hundreds of accents in English. The main thing is to be understood. So I repeat: Practice everything out loud.
Tip #4: Studying a little every day is better than studying a lot, once a week
This one doesn’t require much explanation. Even studying just thirty minutes each day is much better than doing two or three hours in one day, and then nothing for a week.
Tip #5: Don’t quit
Learning a second language can be frustrating. Please don’t quit. You can reach your dream of a better life and a brighter future if you keep going.