Student blog: repeat after me - tricks to improve your English
Claudia is from Bogota, Colombia. She is currently studying English at Shafston International College, after spending 10 years working as a journalist in her home country.
For many years, English blocked my brain. In my home country Colombia, I had an exciting career as a journalist and in various communication roles. However, after missing out on two great job offers because my English was not good enough, this language had blocked more than just my brain. I started to understand that the ability to speak good English was more than a skill. It was a dream to fulfil, a journey I had to embark on that would involve leaving my country because I needed to practise outside my comfort zone. I had to immerse myself in an English-speaking country where I was allowed to study and work at the same time.
I started researching, I took my time and found the perfect place: Brisbane, Australia.
Yes, it is far from my home, but from the beginning, Brisbane has welcomed me with open arms, even though I arrived with limited English. This city is full of opportunities, and I decided to take the reins and gallop firmly into this adventure. Nobody said it's easy, but it can certainly be achieved.
Some importants tips
Learning English doesn't just happen in school; you must also strive on your own, outside of class. When you are studying, English it is very important to adopt some good study habits and look for the best tools to learn quickly.
Speak it constantly. Constantly practise it when you speak with other people, in the shop, on the bus, and especially at work because you will use different phrases and expressions in every scenario. Practice makes perfect.
Write in English to improve your spelling. Use new words, form big sentences and write the idea two times but in a different way without changing the meaning. Grammarly is an excellent tool because it can help you rephrase and correct your grammar and spelling mistakes. Urban Dictionary can help you to find pop culture expressions or "slang" that are spoken locally.
Read English books or complex news articles. A good recommendation is reading complex news articles because they help you learn vocabulary and speak better. Always try to find information that interests you. You can find excellent options on the internet or in a nice bookshop.
Go back to the basics. Learn at least 10 new words a day about a certain subject, like body parts or types of clothing. Over time, your brain will remember them and when you least expect it, you will be saying them.
Listening to music in English. I first listen to a song carefully and try to understand it. When I listen to it for the second time, I read the lyrics of the song in English to see if I fully understood it. When I see a word that I don't know, I write it down and look it up in the dictionary. I do the same exercise when watching movies in English.
Immerse yourself in English completely. The reason why I decided it’s easier for me to learn the language in an English-speaking country is to avoid falling back on my native language when things get tough.
Don’t be embarrassed
Undoubtedly, the most important thing is having the courage to speak. As we say in Colombia: "to loosen the tongue". Unfortunately, fear can get in the way because we feel embarrassed when we make mistakes. It scares us as we may think that people will lose their patience and stop communicating with us.
However, in a country like Australia and a city so multicultural as Brisbane, that is very unlikely to happen because you can find people from all over the world studying English here. We have different accents, which is wonderful because we can train the ear, and embrace our differences.
Enjoy your learning
Sometimes you will find yourself getting frustrated about not being able to express your ideas. You may even be terrified if you get a call on your phone in English. It happens. The point is to learn to live with that, love your learning process, trust in yourself and give yourself time because we don't all learn in the same way or speed.
There are many ways to make learning English more entertaining, such as:
- Making a lot of friends who don't speak your native language.
- Meeting new people. Connect with a group that shares your interests to practice together.
- Falling in love with a foreigner is an excellent method. *wink wink*
- Trying to talk to yourself in English when you’re home alone (don’t go too crazy though).
- Changing the language interface in your devices (mobile, computer)
- Going to the movies – cinemas here don’t have subtitles. It will force you to listen.
Allow yourself to be corrected by your teachers and people who have better English than you because this allows you to improve pronunciation and correct mistakes. Remember this is not a race against anyone. It is a goal imposed by you and for you, which over time you will manage to conquer.