Learning English is like a delicious slice of cake.
When you first see it, it looks amazing.
It is covered in frosting that looks very tasty. Its sweet smell fills the room, making your mouth water.
But as time goes by, your feelings towards the cake change.
After sitting there for a long time the icing begins to melt. The sweet smell fades away and the cake gets dry.
It does not seem that impressive anymore. You no longer feel as excited to eat the cake.
In fact, after some time you start to consider whether you want to eat the cake at all!
Just like this slice of cake, learning English can feel like it is going stale. You can lose your enthusiasm and the English language can start to become a little boring.
If this is you, do not worry! It happens to all of us and it is something that can be easily fixed.
We have for you four language improvement techniques that will increase your interest in English and take your reading, writing and comprehension abilities to the next level.
4 Creative Ideas to Improve Your English Communication Skills
There comes a time where you feel your vocabulary hits a limit and you are constantly relying on the same words or phrases to communicate. These four fun language techniques will help break the boredom that comes from repeatedly using the same English words.
They will teach you the nuances (subtle differences) of words and phrases in the English language. You can use them to add greater detail and meaning when communicating, which allows you to express yourself more like a native speaker.
1. Stop Saying Good and Nice All the Time! Use Synonyms to Energize Your English
You just had a wonderful day at work. Everyone loved your presentation and your boss gave you a raise.
If I asked you how you felt at the end of the day, what would you say?
Your response could be, “I feel good,” “I feel great,” “I am so happy” or “I am fantastic!”
So which is the correct answer?
All of them!
Each response uses English synonyms, or words that have similar meanings.
Learning synonyms is necessary to grow your English vocabulary. They let you express yourself in more varied and interesting ways. Synonyms also make it easy to understand native English speakers, since they will often use similar words interchangeably when they speak or write.
Just be aware that synonyms are similar but not the same. This is important to remember. The use of correct synonyms can be very clear in some situations, but not in others.
For example, a synonym for the word “commute” is “travel.” Both are correct in the context of going to work in the morning:
I commute to work by bus.
I travel to work by bus.
However, using the word “commute” in other situations would be incorrect, because the word “commute” is specifically used when you are going to work. Using it in any other situation, such as “I commute to the beach for a holiday,” is incorrect.
Now, do not go worrying about this too much! Trying and testing new synonyms is all part of the fun! The practice ideas and resources below will help you get the hang of it.
And do not hold back if you are not sure whether a synonym is absolutely correct, because most people will still understand you. Having a go in social situations is a fast way to learn the correct context in which to use each word appropriately.
Where to Learn English Synonyms
- Smart Words: This site has various lists of words, including synonyms, for quick searching. The lists are categorized by theme, such as action words, positive and negative words, etc. The site also has the option to download and print the lists to take with you wherever you go!
Look for the words you use often and try replacing them with other, more descriptive words from the list.
Each video comes with interactive captions—hover over any word, and FluentU will automatically pause the video to show you a definition and synonyms. You will also hear how to pronounce the word and see other videos that have it. That means you will actively build your vocabulary and find new synonyms, all while absorbing English the way native speakers actually use it.
FluentU also provides flashcards and exercises for every video, so you remember what you learned when you are done watching. And since the videos are organized by genre and learning level, it is easy to find something that works for you. FluentU will even suggest new videos based on what you already learned.
Best of all, you can take FluentU anywhere with the mobile app. Start exploring the video library for free with a FluentU trial.
How to Practice English Synonyms
You can easily make synonym practice a part of your daily routine at home!
Stick some post-it notes on a window in your house that has a view of the outdoors. Make sure it is on a window you pass every day. Take a moment every time you pass to stop and look out at the weather. Write a single word that describes the weather for that particular day on a post-it note.
Separate the words onto different post-it notes, for example, one post-it note for words that describe good weather and one for words that describe bad weather. Every day add a synonym that describes the weather on the appropriate post-it note.
Once you have a large word bank of synonyms for the weather, move on to completing the same activity with other objects and themes around the house.
A word of warning: try not to memorize too many synonyms at once! Keep it to one or two new synonyms at a time to help you remember each word and have a clearer understanding of their meanings.
2. Drop the Not! Look for the Opposites of Words
Do you overuse the word “not” to describe the opposite of something? For example, “not good,” “not nice,” “not happy,” etc.?
Why not use the words “bad,” “mean” or “sad?” These are antonyms, or opposites, for the words above.
Antonyms highlight the different characteristics of things. They compare objects, actions and feelings. They can allow you to speak more precisely, rather than relying on the word “not” all the time.
Some common antonym pairs you may already be familiar with include:
happy — sad
confident — nervous
hot — cold
moving — still
Seems pretty simple right? Well, it is most of the time. However, it can become tricky when dealing with certain words.
There are two basic groups of antonyms. One group includes antonyms that are seen as a pair. The words are exact opposites of each other such as “light” and “dark.”
The other group has words where the opposite is not as clearly understood.
For example, the word “overwhelmed” does not have a definite opposite. There are several opposites you could use, such as “capable” or “calm,” but there is not one single word that would make a clear antonym pair.
So it is important to remember that antonyms can sometimes be subjective (based on personal opinion). As with synonyms, practice using them whenever possible and do not be too hard on yourself if you have trouble in the beginning.
Where to Learn English Antonyms
- Thesaurus.com: This is a really helpful website when it comes to improving your speaking, writing and comprehension skills. Simply type a word into the search bar and it will show you all forms of the word, lists of various synonyms and antonyms and links to their definitions.
It is great for quick access and even has an audio function that helps you learn the correct pronunciation of more difficult English words.
- AntonymsWords.com: This is an online dictionary built specifically to suggest antonyms. Type in any word and you will get a longer, more thorough list of antonyms than regular dictionaries provide.
How to Practice English Antonyms
Drawing an antonym tree is a great way to make these opposite word pairs more memorable.
On a piece of paper, write down a word that could have several possible antonyms. Brainstorm three antonyms that could branch off from the main word. Slip it in your pocket and add to it or start a new branch of words when new language comes up in conversations!
You can even get your friends involved! One person selects a word in their mind and then tells the group two or three antonyms for the word. The first person to guess the chosen word is the winner!
Try not to learn synonyms and antonyms together as this can become very confusing! Stick to learning two or three antonyms at a time, for words you already know.
3. English as Clear as Crystal: Use Similes
Have you ever heard someone say he snores like a chainsaw (he snores loudly) or she eats like a bird (she does not each much)?
Is he really snoring that loud? Not really.
The speaker is using a simile, or comparing two concepts using “like” or “as.”
Being comfortable with similes will instantly help you sound more fluent. They demonstrate an advanced understanding of English comparisons as well as related vocabulary words. They are especially useful if you plan to study in an English-speaking environment, since similes are so often found in English literature and even nonfiction writing.
Plus, there are many English similes that are important to recognize simply because they are so commonly used by native English speakers. These include:
Light as a feather (thin or small ; not heavy)
Fits like a glove (an ideal match ; fits perfectly)
Eats like a pig (very hungry and messy eater)
Hot as the sun (very hot)
Clear as crystal (obvious ; easy to understand)
Where to Learn English Similes
- Complete English: This app is perfect for learners looking to explore more complex English. It offers clear and detailed explanations of all types of language techniques and English grammar, including similes. Use it to enhance your writing practice and build confidence in your comprehension skills.
- 100 Similes on EReadingWorksheets: EReadingWorksheets is a great website for those who learn better with pen and paper. It provides lots of English exercises and resources for easy download. This list of 100 similes is a fantastic resource to get comfortable with recognizing and using them yourself.
The list is split up into intermediate and advanced categories.
How to Practice English Similes
Set up your similes every day!
At the start of the day, write down three similes that you know you can use at some point during the day. They may be about the weather (make sure it does not change by the time you get to say it!), an object you know you will be talking about (the cup of coffee you drink with colleagues at work) or the way you are feeling on that particular day (“I am as happy as _____”).
Similes offer another opportunity to practice with friends, too. Get some friends together and nominate one person to start a simile. For example: “It is as hot as…” Come up with three different endings to the sentence to create three similes.
4. Make Your English Come Alive: Personify English Nouns
Did you know that a cake can talk? Well, not really.
But when someone says “that slice of cake is calling my name” it definitely sounds like they are describing a cake with amazing human-like abilities!
That is because this person is using personification to make their English come alive.
Personification means describing non-human nouns with human-like qualities. Like stepping into a Disney movie, the ordinary objects around you take on human traits when you use personification.
Personified phrases are probably more common than you think in English. Once you listen closer to native speakers’ language, you will find personification everywhere. Recognizing personified phrases is important to eliminate miscommunication when reading, writing and having conversations in English.
Here are some common English sayings that use personification:
The traffic is crawling (traffic is moving very slowly)
The wind is howling (the wind is making a lot of noise)
The plants are thirsty (the plants need to be watered)
In your own speech, personification lets you add depth and descriptive detail that will hold people’s attention. Feel free to get creative and make up your own! And do not just rely on human actions—try using humans emotions, thoughts and appearances when using personification.
Where to Start Using Personification
- “What is Personification?” Chungdahm Learning has a YouTube video series dedicated to English language techniques, including this video about personification. It uses animations to help you understand how personification works.
- Flocabulary: Ready to unleash your inner rapper? Flocabulary is a fun website that uses hip-hop music and engaging videos to teach language techniques! Check out these personification videos and enjoy adding some interesting hip-hop lingo to your vocabulary.
How to Practice Personification:
- Personification surprise! Use a random word generator to select a noun and come up with a description of it using personification. Here is a simple random noun generator you can use. The Parrot app is also useful as it has multi-language support.
- I Spy: In a group, pick a visible object and create three personified phrases to describe it. Have fun watching your friends race one another to search and discover the answer!
- Search your favorite songs: Listen closely to lyrics of your favorite songs and you will be surprised by how many singers use personification! Cannot seem to find any? Log on to LiteraryDevices.com to get started.
With these four fun ways to improve your English, you will never have to let your learning get old, stale and boring. These language techniques improve your conversations and advance your comprehension in creative, interesting and engaging ways.
Just like a fresh slice of delicious cake, make your learning something irresistible and enjoyable to experience!
And One More Thing...
If you like learning English through movies and online media, you should also check out FluentU. FluentU lets you learn English from popular talk shows, catchy music videos and funny commercials, as you can see here:
The FluentU app and website makes it really easy to watch English videos. There are captions that are interactive. That means you can tap on any word to see an image, definition, and useful examples.
For example, when you tap on the word "searching," you see this:
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
The best part? FluentU remembers the vocabulary that you’re learning. It recommends examples and videos to you based on the words you’ve already learned. You'll have a truly personalized experience.
Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or from the Google Play store.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn English with real-world videos.