Advanced English: 23 Methods and Additional Resources for Continuous Improvement
As we all know, learning a language is not an easy task.
At higher levels of language learning, it’s very common to reach a plateau—a point where you feel like you’re no longer making progress.
In this post, we’ll discuss 23 methods to continue improving the four major language skills (reading, listening, writing and speaking) at an advanced level of English proficiency.
- The Receptive Skills
- The Productive Skills
- 8. Study and practice the fundamentals of writing
- 9. Test your ability to write to different people
- 10. Experiment with advanced grammar structures
- 11. Challenge yourself with new vocabulary
- 12. Practice academic and formal writing
- 13. Learn to edit your writing
- 14. Seek feedback and corrections
- 15. Write for fun
- 16. Do English crossword puzzles
- Improving Vocabulary For Advanced English Learners
- And One More Thing...
The Receptive Skills
Reading and listening are receptive skills. This means you’ll receive English-language input and need to understand it.
Here are some things you can try to improve each.
1. Change your usual resources
One of the reasons students reach a plateau in their advanced English reading skills is because they often read the same kind of text over and over again.
Do you read the same newspaper every day? Are you reading the fifteenth book in a series of mystery novels?
To get better at reading, change it up! Choose a newspaper you’ve never read before. Select your next novel from a genre that is new to you. Read an English-language blog.
If you’re like me, then perhaps you like to check the news in the morning.
By simply switching languages and checking relevant English news sources you’ll be able to both keep up-to-date with what’s happening in the world and practice your English reading comprehension.
If you read a wider variety of genres and authors, you’ll encounter more varied language and you’ll be more likely to learn something new.
If you’re hesitant to read new material because looking up new words is time-consuming, consider using the online extension Readlang.
Adding Readlang to your devices will allow you to click on any English word for an instant translation. It will even automatically save the words you’ve clicked as flashcards so you can study them.
Of course, reading anything is better than not reading at all. But to improve your reading skills, you have to get out of your comfort zone!
2. Test yourself on the text
Are you studying English by yourself without a classroom or teacher? Has it been a long time since your last formal English reading exam?
If so, then you may be out of practice with certain skills. For example, guessing the meaning of a new word based on its context is a skill often taught to students when they’re going to take exams.
So, next time you read something for pleasure, take a few minutes after you finish to study the text as if you were preparing for an exam.
Pretend that it’s very important for you to remember all of the most important information about the reading. Imagine what type of questions could appear on an exam, and then try to answer them.
3. Try speed reading
You don’t have to sign up for a speed reading course or get competitive about it, but you can try to increase the number of English words you’re able to read and understand per minute.
Follow these steps to give it a go:
- Time yourself while reading a paragraph of a book or other text. For example, read quickly for 30 seconds.
- Then, without timing yourself, read the paragraph again to check for any key information that you didn’t understand.
- If you missed something, review it. Then, do more practice reading at the same speed.
- Keep reading at the same speed (or even a little slower!) until you’re able to understand almost everything.
If you can read the text without missing key information, then you know you can try the next paragraph a bit faster.
Little by little, your speed will improve along with your advanced English reading skills.
Reading quickly takes practice, but remember—it’s only helpful if you actually understand what you’re reading.
4. Get familiar with different accents
One challenge of learning any language is the fact that different regions have different dialects and accents.
You may be perfectly comfortable listening to an American speaker, but have you mastered the Australian accent? What about the Northern Irish accent?
If you still find certain accents difficult to understand, focus on improving your listening comprehension.
These days, it’s easy to find YouTube videos narrated by users from around the world, or even full-length films featuring actors with the accent you’d like to work on.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
Using authentic content intended for native speakers will allow you to pick out the nuances of different accents so you can practice listening to all types of English.
Like all language skills, your listening comprehension of English accents will improve with practice. Once you feel more comfortable, you could even try to find a language partner from that region to practice with!
5. Try listening to different podcasts, news and speeches
Nowadays, podcasts and videos on just about every niche (very specific topic) are available online.
Listening to a podcast or video on a topic that you know a lot about in your native language will improve your language skills in English.
You’ll already know the general idea because you learned about this topic before you learned English.
If you need some resources for finding interesting videos or podcasts at advanced English levels, you can check out:
- BBC Learning News Review. They release 10-minute news stories every Tuesday about the relevant issues of the week. It’s free, and you can download the transcript and audio, and take a multiple-choice quiz for each episode.
- TED Talks. Whatever you’re curious about—whether it’s street art, technology trends or something else—there’s probably a TED talk about it. Each talk has transcripts and subtitles in 30+ languages to aid your understanding.
- English Learning for Curious Minds. This podcast focuses on interesting people and weird history like banned books and the quest for immortality.
If you’re looking for some morning motivation before you start your workday or gym session, you can listen to some inspiring and memorable English speeches. English speeches are short, powerful and vocabulary-rich sources of English practice.
Speeches are a fantastic tool to use for your learning because they also teach you about English culture. They also help you with other skills such as public speaking, confidence and tone.
If you absolutely fall in love with a speech, you can even find a transcript and practice it yourself in the mirror.
6. Watch fun English videos
If you like to watch YouTube videos to unwind, you can watch some cool YouTube videos to help you study English.
Due to the entertainment value of many YouTube videos, you’ll be having fun while practicing your English. Find a channel that you’re interested in and then keep up-to-date with the content. To take it a step further you can even comment and interact with other viewers.
If you’re more of a TV buff (TV fan), you can explore some of the most addictive TV shows from the English-speaking world. Watching TV series with different themes is a great way to explore new and exciting vocabulary. You can go from a nature documentary to a horror series very easily with today’s platforms.
Start out by watching with subtitles, and turn them off when you feel comfortable. While watching, record new vocabulary and try to notice differences in the characters’ accents.
7. Transcribe exactly what you hear
One of the best ways to truly test your listening comprehension is to try transcribing or writing down everything you hear.
You can type your transcription on the computer, but writing by hand is much better for your memory.
Transcribing will give you an idea of how much you actually understand when you’re listening. You’ll also learn whether that understanding is based on your real comprehension of individual words, or just on overall, general context.
That is, did you understand 100% of the words that were spoken? Or did you understand 50% of the words and the overall message from context?
Transcribing everything you hear, word by word, will draw your attention to important language features like unstressed syllables, different forms of words, which words connect other words and which words blend together—all features of spoken English which can be problem areas for learners.
The Productive Skills
Writing and speaking are the productive skills, where you’ll need to create English sentences yourself, sometimes without any input.
Many learners find these skills more difficult because they require more knowledge about English and how it works.
8. Study and practice the fundamentals of writing
It’s never a bad idea to go back to the basics.
Before you try to get fancy, make sure you’ve mastered basic concepts such as spelling.
English spelling can be very difficult and in addition to this, it can be tempting to rely on spell checkers and modern apps. But remember that spelling study also helps with your reading skills and writing skills.
If you’re using some sort of spell checker be sure to attempt to spell difficult vocabulary first. If it’s incorrect then try again before checking with your app or dictionary.
Once you’re sure your spelling is correct, you can move on to other fundamentals such as structure, tone, voice and level of formality. This will allow you to write like a native English speaker.
9. Test your ability to write to different people
How would you write an email invitation to dinner for your 13-year-old niece? You would probably be very casual, cute and simple.
How would you write a letter to your grandmother? It would probably be casual and friendly, but also very respectful and polite.
How would you write a business letter to your boss? You would most likely be very formal, polite and professional.
Practicing different registers, or levels of formality, is a useful exercise that will keep your advanced English writing skills fresh and varied.
To help you improve the style of your writing, you can try using Hemingway. Named after the American writer Ernest Hemingway, this program provides immediate feedback that tells you how to simplify your writing in order to be more clear and concise, no matter who you’re writing to.
Even if there are English registers that you don’t normally have to use, it’s good to practice them. You never know when those skills might be helpful, or even required!
10. Experiment with advanced grammar structures
If your daily writing needs are limited to text messages, you may find that you’ve forgotten the advanced English grammar you’ve learned.
But just because you don’t need to use advanced grammar patterns doesn’t mean you should avoid them. In fact, they’ll help take your English skills to the next level!
Try to use more:
If you need a refresher or want to learn more, check out the Advanced Grammar and Punctuation Specialization course on Coursera. You’ll get free online lessons, plus assignments and projects to help the concepts stick.
Another option is the book “Advanced Grammar in Use.” It’s geared towards C1-C2 level English learners and functions as a combination reference and practice book, so you can study grammar on your own as you’d like.
For one-on-one feedback, you can try Go Correct. For a fee of either £10 or £16.50, you’ll receive three to five questions per week. Reply to each question using 70 words or less, and an English teacher will correct your writing, complete with grammar explanations.
So, next time you sit down to practice writing in English, try including some more advanced grammar!
11. Challenge yourself with new vocabulary
Just like with grammar, most language learners understand much more vocabulary than they actually use.
However, there’s no reason not to use the words that you spent such a long time learning! Again, it’s important to get out of your comfort zone and try out vocabulary that you don’t use often.
You can practice using vocabulary in different ways. For example, you can first choose one new word you want to master and write it multiple times in different sentences. Next time you practice, write something longer and replace a few words in each paragraph with more advanced synonyms.
Make sure to stay true to the meaning of new words you use. You should be sure of the word’s meaning and proper usage, otherwise, your writing might sound awkward or have a meaning that you didn’t intend.
If you want a fun way to build up your English vocabulary, check out the daily crossword puzzle at Dictionary.com. You’ll get pop culture tidbits about movies, artists and slang while expanding your knowledge of English words.
12. Practice academic and formal writing
Another method is to practice your academic writing. Reports, emails, essays and presentations are included in this group. If you’re an advanced English speaker then there’s a chance that you’ve already come across academic writing in English as a university student.
Some great tips for writing academic English include learning grammatical structures, staying away from contractions and upgrading basic vocabulary. For example, when you edit your writing you can exchange words like good for excellent and so on.
There are also many great resources online to help with any academic writing skills. Even if you’re not attending an academic institution, you’ll still find these resources useful.
13. Learn to edit your writing
Many great authors will tell you that the editing process is the most important step in good writing.
Once you reach an advanced level of writing, it’s advisable to edit your writing. To do this, first, take a step back and away from your work. Then approach it with fresh eyes and assess your work for spelling, grammar and structure.
If it’s an essay, ask yourself if there’s a clear introduction that introduces your main idea, many well-written body paragraphs and a conclusion that emphasizes your key points.
After checking the structure, you can edit the language. Is it forceful, direct and clear? If not, consider your word choice and make appropriate changes.
14. Seek feedback and corrections
After the self-editing process, it’s advisable to have your writing checked by somebody else. This can be done by a native speaking partner, your English teacher or an online service.
This is a key way to improve your writing. Corrections and feedback can then be implemented into your writing study and upcoming work. You can do this with any piece of work. It’s sometimes known as a feedback loop, and it’s an important step if you’re looking to seriously improve your writing level.
15. Write for fun
Another great way to improve writing skills is to write for fun. It’s important to play around with different writing forms. With some excellent descriptive writing tricks, you’ll be able to discover more advanced vocabulary and explore different writing forms.
One of the best ways to practice is to write in a creative writing style. You can write stories, poetry or any type of creative fiction.
Start by freewriting. This means that you just write whatever comes to your head. After this, you can edit for spelling, grammar and style.
16. Do English crossword puzzles
Challenging crossword puzzles in English are an excellent tool to help develop spelling skills. Crosswords are also a great exercise to fill time when you’re waiting for something like an appointment or a train.
In addition to this, they’re a great tool to practice reasoning skills in English. Weekend morning crossword puzzles were and still are a popular weekend morning activity with the morning newspaper. Of course, you can also find them online.
You can even challenge your friends for social English learning!
17. Incorporate idioms and expressions into your speech
Native speakers of every language use a lot of idioms and expressions in their everyday speech. One way to take your advanced English closer to fluency is to make sure you use them too!
You’ve probably already learned a lot of idioms and expressions. After all, there are many books, websites and videos about them. The Accurate English YouTube channel, for example, specializes in advanced English speaking and explains many useful expressions.
The real key is to start using more English idioms and expressions yourself!
Every day, make a list of five idioms that you’d like to use. It’s okay to repeat them for a few days, or even a few weeks. Challenge yourself to find appropriate moments to use the expressions each day.
Even if you speak your native language all day at work or school, you can do this practice silently in your head. The next time you find a good moment to use an idiom in English, it will come to you more readily and your English will sound more natural and carefree.
18. Keep working on your pronunciation
Unless you moved to an English-speaking country before the age of about four years old, you won’t sound like a native speaker when you speak English—and that’s okay!
Being a native speaker doesn’t automatically make someone a perfect speaker, anyway. And being a non-native speaker doesn’t mean someone speaks English badly.
The most important thing about English pronunciation is that you’re well-understood by the people with whom you converse.
Check out this video to learn more about the common mistakes in English pronunciation:
Since you’re at the advanced level of English proficiency, I’m sure people already understand you pretty easily. If so, it’s time to perfect your English accent!
You can do this with ELSA, an AI-powered pronunciation coach designed to help you develop a more standard American accent. Talk out loud to the app, and it will highlight the exact sounds and syllables in your speech that you can work on to get closer to native pronunciation.
For other accents and further practice, keep listening to native speaker pronunciation, as well as friends who have a higher level of English than you do. Try to mimic these people and figure out exactly what mouth shape and tongue positions are necessary to keep improving.
19. Practice with a native speaker or friend
You probably knew this advice was coming. What is the number one way to improve your English speaking skills? Speaking, of course!
Aim to spend as much time as possible practicing your speaking skills. If you have a very advanced level of English, you’ll make the most progress by having lots of different conversations with native speakers.
No native speakers around you? Don’t worry!
There are plenty of other solutions, including practicing with a friend who has the same or a higher level of English than you. You can also find native speakers to practice with online—and you may make some new friends in the process!
Just remember that it’s okay to make mistakes, even at the highest levels of language learning. Even native speakers don’t speak perfectly all the time!
Invite your friends or language partners to correct your mistakes, and you’ll keep improving.
Improving Vocabulary For Advanced English Learners
Building a deep and unique vocabulary is an excellent tool for your future English capabilities. Let’s take a look at a few strategies below.
20. Develop a “Deep Study” habit
Take one central topic or one vocabulary word and then think about all the different ways to talk about it.
For example, if we start with the word happy, we can make a list of several English ways of saying happy including synonyms, expressions, idioms, and sayings.
You can take the same approach with any word or concept.
Here’s another example: start with the English concept of “luck.” You can dive deep into the English language of luck.
You can look at history, superstitions, expressions, phrases, and words that all relate to this central concept.
All this “deep study” helps create a map in our mind and helps learn vocabulary in a natural way.
21. Find memorization techniques that work for you
Memorization techniques are one of the most effective ways to learn hard English words.
You can use visualization strategies or memory devices to help learn and remember complex English vocabulary.
This approach is especially important if you have an exam or project and are required to learn a specific amount of vocabulary words in a short period of time.
22. Increase your exposure to English vocabulary
The more time you spend reading and listening to English, the more vocabulary you’ll learn.
Take music, for example. There are many examples of English vocabulary from famous English songs. You can use music to boost vocabulary by taking advantage of lyrics, repetition and context. By simply introducing English music into your daily routine, you’ll increase your ability to speak like a native speaker.
Movies, TV, books and the news are other great ways to increase your vocabulary exposure.
23. Move Out of Your Comfort Zone
If you understand every single word in your English study materials, it’s time to find new materials.
There are many ways to get out of your comfort zone. You can choose to study a different type of English like business or technical English. You can start to speak with native speakers from around the world.
A great tip is to notify your native speaking partner that you’re in the process of learning advanced vocabulary. They can consciously try to use more advanced vocabulary when you’re speaking together.
When you’re at an advanced English level, it’s important to know your own language needs.
Every learner has individual strengths and weaknesses. To keep improving, you’ll need to focus on certain skills more than others.
But that’s great, because you are the boss of your own language learning process! You got this!
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 gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. You 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.