Have you ever tried to study English, but it turned out way too difficult for you? Well, let me tell you that the language of Shakespeare and Austen is easy once you keep in mind these 7 golden rules:
1. Always study and review phrases, not individual words.
Did somebody give you a dictionary when you started learning your native language as a child? No? Then why do you keep using it when studying a foreign language? Memorizing individual words has absolutely no sense without the context. Learning whole phrases is much more effective. For example, take the word “cantankerous” (meaning “disagreeable and ill-mannered”) – if you tried to memorize it just as it is, you probably wouldn’t succeed. But if you put it into a sentence, e.g. “that grumpy cantankerous old man” it’s bound to stay in your mind forever.
2. Don’t study grammar.
Cramming grammar is the quickest way to slow down your progress. When you start thinking about what construction to use, you begin to stammer, stop sounding natural. Your responses should become automatic to master the language, so instead of studying theory – take more practice! When you speak, you don’t have time for considering what tense is appropriate, one hundred per cent correct. Grammar is important in writing, not in speaking.
3. Learn with your ears, not with your eyes.
One of the most common mistakes when studying a foreign language is relying solely on textbooks. Thanks to them you may know a lot of grammar and vocabulary, but you’re still not capable of conducting a conversation. It is because you should learn English by listening and not by reading. If you listen more, you’ll grasp useful vocabulary and grammar without even realizing it and without memorizing!
4. Learn English deeply.
Remember it’s always about quality, not about quantity. Instead of learning dozens of new words in a short time, try repeating one, but dozens of times. When memorizing the phrases (remember the first rule!) slowly, you put them into the deeper parts of your brain so they don’t fade away quickly.
5. Learn grammar by “point-of-view” stories.
Never learn grammar by heart. Instead listen to short stories that are told in various tenses. This way you will improve your grammar automatically and naturally. For example, if a story begins: “I don’t like banana but I want to eat one”, the other stories would be like “I didn’t like bananas but I wanted to eat one” and “I won’t like bananas but I will want to eat one”. (The last sentence may sound a bit silly, but doesn’t matter so much. In fact, we tend to learn strange and funny things easier.)
6. Use only authentic English materials.
Throw away any textbooks you possess! Practice your English by reading and listening to “real stuff” – unabridged and unsimplified versions of books, movies and podcasts. There’s a lot of free materials for students of English who want to improve their language skills naturally, for example BBC or CNN podcasts.
7. Listen and answer, not listen and repeat.
A variety of English textbooks employs this completely useless method: “repeat after the speaker…”. You should answer the questions asked by the speaker instead of mindlessly retelling his words. If you practice listening with a podcast or a video, pause it every 20 – 30 second and summarize what has been said. You have to think quickly, so you stop bothering yourself with useless grammar and start to speak the real, living language!
Maybe you have already heard or thought about these rules but now the time has come to put them into practice! Print and hang them on your fridge and, most importantly, act accordingly. I assure you that your English is going to improve in no time.