10 easy ways to improve your English

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So you’re already enrolled in an ESL class. Or maybe you’ve finished a course but you want to learn more. If you’re looking to supplement your English lessons or practice what you’ve learned, here are 10 suggestions for you:

  1. Watch TV shows and films in English

  2. Watching TV shows and movies help you understand and get used to English. Watching is also helpful for context. When you see the characters’ facial expressions, actions, and hear the tone of their voice, you understand the dialogue better. Here’s a tip: If you can’t understand what the characters are saying, turn on the English subtitles. You can also rewind and pause if you’d like to read and hear the dialogue again. You can even read along to practice saying the words.

  3. Read aloud

  4. Set aside some time to read a newspaper or magazine. Go to your room or any place where you can be alone (especially if you’re shy and don’t wish to bother anyone). Read one to two articles aloud. Enunciate and pronounce the words clearly. If you don’t know how to pronounce a word, search for it in a dictionary. Online dictionaries like Merriam-Webster have an audio feature (icon on the right). Click on it to hear how the word is pronounced. You can also use howjsay.com.

    Another benefit to reading the news is learning about current events. The information will come in handy when making small talk with your neighbours and friends.

  5. Read English materials

  6. Read newspapers, magazines and books regularly. Develop the habit of reading to enrich your vocabulary, get used to sentence phrasing, and understand idioms, expressions and colloquialisms. If you don’t know what you should read, ask your teacher or a librarian for recommendations.

  7. Sing English songs

  8. Listening to songs and singing along is another fun way of improving your English. Songs use a lot of idioms and descriptive words that are used in everyday conversations. You’ll discover that these idioms and words are easier to remember when you sing them because of rhyme, rhythm, and repetition. Don’t worry about your voice! Just choose a song that you like and learn the lyrics by searching for it online or by using YouTube karaoke songs. Start with simple ballads (the words are clearer and easier to understand) or country songs, which usually tell a story. If you’re feeling brave, use a microphone. Just make sure that your windows are closed or hope that your neighbours are not too sensitive!

    “There are plenty of opportunities to improve your English continually even after you are done with your ESL course. Choosing fun activities will help if your enthusiasm is flagging.”

  9. Learn a new word everyday

  10. Write down a new word every day in a notebook. Write down its definition and use it in at least one sentence. Practice by using new words in your conversations or in your writing.

  11. Carry a dictionary

  12. Whether you prefer the printed version or an application (there are many you can download for free on your mobile or tablet), having a dictionary on hand encourages you to look up word meanings. This is an effective way to build your vocabulary. Try Merriam-Webster, The Free Dictionary or Dictionary.com. You can install these on your mobile phone.

  13. Keep a journal

  14. Make it a habit to write a few sentences in your journal every day. Write about things that you are grateful for (gratitude journal), what you like about Manitoba, or just simply describe a person, place or thing. This is a great way to practice using new words and improving your grammar. Ask your teacher or a friend to read your entries and comment on them. Later on, you can compare your newer compositions to the old ones to see your progress.

  15. Surround yourself with English-speaking people

  16. You learned your native language by being surrounded by it every moment of the day. In the same way, hearing English and speaking English all the time will help you learn faster. Listen to the way people pronounce words. Note how they use idioms and phrases. Use the new words and phrases you’ve learned when speaking. The more you do this, the more confident you will get and the better you will become.

  17. Ask

  18. Are you shy about asking people what they mean when you don’t understand what they’re saying? Don’t be. As long as you ask politely, people will repeat themselves or explain what they’ve said. Never pretend to understand if you did not. Canadians in general are very helpful. They will gladly explain something to you and help you out.

  19. Never stop learning

  20. There are plenty of opportunities to improve your English continually even after you are done with your ESL course. Choosing fun activities will help if your enthusiasm is flagging. But remember, the activities above are only meant to supplement your learning. To learn English faster, you would need to invest time in active learning. Good choices would be joining conversation circles, English Online’s Coffee Chats or Lunch & Learns, getting a tutor, or joining other informal English classes to continue developing your listening, speaking, reading or writing skills.

Article updated January 10, 2024.

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Community Resources

Libraries around Manitoba are fantastic! Go to the library nearest you for the latest books (or search online at eLibraries Manitoba). Ask your librarian for book and audio book suggestions. They know the best materials for ESL learners.

ESL Notes.com’s The English Learner Movie Guides has everything you need to start learning English while watching movies. It has a list of good movies to start with, plot summaries, list of major characters, glossary and vocabulary list of cultural references, and questions for discussion.

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10 easy ways to improve your English

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