Despite the fact that a large majority of the world’s population doesn’t speak English as its first language, English is, quite rapidly, gaining universal status. From popular cultural expressions to day-to-day business dealings, English is becoming the preferred language of interaction and communication across nations. In such a scenario, finding yourself with less-than-average English language skills can be detrimental to your professional as well as personal growth. But don’t let that deter you just yet. With consistent effort and the right attitude, you can definitely heighten your prowess in the English language.
Following some basic activities on a daily basis and incorporating them into your routine can help you adopt English as a second language more effectively. However, setting proper goals and motivating yourself to achieve them is very important even before you begin.
* Set a goal – You must determine your current language proficiency and the level you want to achieve in a specified period of time. Research suggests that it takes continuous practice for a minimum of three months for natural adoption of a new language. A good idea would be to take a standardized language test (there are several free ones online) to gauge where you stand and then strive to improve your score until you reach your set target. It is easier to stay focused and motivated when you have a fixed goal ahead of you.
* Read voraciously – This is the most basic form of visual learning that involves contemplation, analysis and value addition. To improve your English reading, speaking and writing skills, it is recommended that you read news, articles, books and novels written by renowned authors. Constant exposure to English text will not only make you comfortable with the language, but will also familiarize you with sentence formation, grammar usage and new words.
* Listen to English music – Listening to English music is a fun way of getting acquainted with the language. It helps you imbibe new words and analyze their contextual meaning as well. Audio learning supports your visual learning and helps you understand pronunciation, diction and accents. To really add value to this exercise, listen to English songs while reading their lyrics and then sing along to practice your own pronunciation.
* Watch English movies and television series – This, too, is an audio-visual exercise that can greatly enhance your fluency and skill in the English language. Develop a habit of watching English movies or television series on a daily basis, preferably with subtitles. Subtitles can initially assist your understanding of dialogues and keep you from switching channels and, with time, you may find that you don’t need them at all! With continual exposure to spoken English, you will eventually find that English is not as intimidating as it seemed at first.
* Communicate in English – Talking with your friends, relatives and colleagues in English is the best way to practice what you have learnt and develop confidence. Start with discussing news or daily affairs, but as you become more comfortable with the language, start communicating about feelings and opinions in English as well.
* Learn new words and apply them – Whenever you come across a new or unfamiliar word while reading, look it up in the dictionary. Understand the root and meaning of every new word and try to incorporate it in your daily speech or writing. This will expand your vocabulary and boost your confidence in the language. There are some outstanding books that can help you learn new words; my recommendation is ‘Word Power Made Easy’ by Norman Lewis. If you manage to go through the book in a systematic and consistent way, you will find a vast improvement in your English vocabulary and grammar.
* Write a journal or blog – Writing correct English is probably the toughest and, yet, the most crucial step. Maintain an English language blog or journal and apply your vocabulary and grammatical learning while making daily entries. Error free expression in English will happen over time, but this exercise will help you appraise your performance quite objectively.
Visual Courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/santea/