Have you ever wanted to fall asleep while studying?
That’s how I felt when studying Korean. I’d spend hours at my desk reading textbooks until my eyes were tired, memorizing grammar and trying to build my vocabulary.
It wasn’t until I talked with some colleagues (co-workers) that I learned my failures weren’t because Korean was too hard or because I wasn’t good at languages. My Korean wasn’t getting better because I was studying the wrong way.
That’s when I shoved my textbooks in the back of my closet and discovered a new way to learn a language.
I figured out how to make it fun!
For those of you who felt like I did, I’m going to share some ideas that will motivate and inspire you to keep learning English!
10 Tips for Improving Your English the Fun Way
1. Label Items in Your House
You already know the importance of vocabulary.
So, make learning new words a game by taking Post-It notes and labeling everything in your house—doors, windows, cabinets, refrigerators and anything else you can think of should get an English label.
This helps because you’ll see these words every day. You’ll be learning vocabulary while cooking, cleaning or watching TV. No more sitting at a desk and memorizing vocabulary words from a textbook!
If you want the benefits of labeling but don’t have the time to spend writing out different notes, order Vocabulary Stickers online and get pre-made stickers for more than 130 different English words.
To really make this strategy work as a vocabulary building exercise, use these words as much as possible. It’ll also help to construct sentences when you can. For example, instead of just saying “door” when you see it say, “I’m going to open the door.” You’re learning words and phrases in context, and that helps you remember the words better.
Challenge yourself even more by using multiple words in a sentence: I’m going to the kitchen to get an apple and a banana. Do this for just a few days and you’ll see how much your vocabulary increases!
2. Create a Word Poster
Labeling items around the house is great, but there are sometimes new words and phrases that might not fit in the context of the home.
One way I remind myself to use new vocabulary is with a word poster. I buy a large, white cardboard poster and stick it to my bedroom wall. When I learn a new word or expression, I write it on that poster. This ensures that I see these words every day. Then I read over the poster at different times, like when I wake up and before I go to bed, until I’ve mastered the words on the poster.
Next time you struggle to remember an English word or phrase, write it on a poster along with the definition in your first language!
Try looking up a new word or phrase every day and adding it to the poster. I like to make a game out of it and try to have seven words and phrases memorized by the end of the week.
And since you should be writing every day, keep a journal and challenge yourself to also use these words in your writing (you’ll learn them faster). Once you have everything memorized, start a new poster.
3. Use FluentU
FluentU is a language learning platform that teaches you English in a way that’s fun, exciting and doesn’t feel like homework.
FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.You’ll benefit from a fully immersive experience that teaches you the ins and outs of English, alongside jokes, pop culture references and various other types of engaging content.
4. Determine the Best Time to Study
Whether it’s learning new vocabulary or watching video clips, you’ll be more attentive if you do it during the time of day that you’re most productive.
Do you feel more focused in the morning or evening?
Find out when you’re the most mentally aware and make that your study time. We all have different learning styles and preferences. Some people study better in the evening after dinner, while others like to wake up, drink a cup of coffee and start studying.
To determine when you’re at your best, ask yourself the following questions:
- What time do I usually go to bed?
- Do I feel tired or energized when I wake up?
- When do I feel the most productive? In the morning or at night?
Once you determine whether you’re a morning or evening person, you can get a better idea of when you’re at your best mentally. This will help you greatly increase your productivity as you study.
5. Sing Like Nobody Is Listening
You probably already know that listening to music can be an excellent way to learn a language. Did you also know that singing is an effective way to boost your speaking skills and help you master the rhythm, intonation and speech patterns of English?
If you enjoy a good challenge and want to take your speaking skills to the next level, do karaoke. The Sing King Karaoke YouTube channel is full of brand new and classic English songs from top artists around the world. Pick your favorite tune or look here for some suggestions.
You can also try the Smule Sing! Karaoke app for iOS and Android devices and have karaoke duets with your friends!
6. Have a Good Laugh
We all love to laugh, so what better way is there to learn English than through a good joke? Humor is a great way to learn English without it feeling like work. Because of this, more ESL instructors are starting to add humor to their lessons.
If you want to expand your English knowledge through jokes and puns, have a look at Teacher Joe Deveto’s YouTube channel. There’s an endless amount of videos that use funny jokes to teach English vocabulary and commonly used expressions. They’re all funny too!
7. Do a Language Swap
There’s a high chance that an English speaker out there wants to learn your language just as bad as you want to learn English, so why not do a language exchange?
With platforms like Skype and Google Hangouts, teaching and learning over the internet has never been easier—but how? Google Hangouts is filled with a number of great language exchange groups like Language Practice Hangouts and MyEnglishTeacher.eu’s Google+ page.
Personally, I believe that language exchanges are an incredibly rewarding experience. Not only do you get to learn English with a fluent speaker, but you get to teach them about your language and culture as well. For me, it adds a lot more meaning to the learning experience. Sites like Conversation Exchange and italki make finding a partner quick and easy.
8. Change the Language Settings on Your Devices
A good way to pick up English is to put yourself in situations where you’re forced to use it. You can do this by changing the language settings on your smartphone, social media profiles and other software that you frequently use. This will also give you more exposure to technology English, which isn’t always translated the same as it is in your first language.
If you decide to do this, just don’t change the language on something extremely important (like your online banking profile) unless you’re confident in your English proficiency levels!
In fact, as seen in the following video from FluentU’s YouTube channel, changing your phone’s language to English is one of the easiest ways to immerse yourself in English at home. Alongside watching and listening to native English media and reading a lot, a simple setting switch like this can take your English a long way.
Check out many more videos about learning English on FluentU’s YouTube channel.
9. Chat with People Online
The greatest thing about the internet is that it allows you to access an entire world of ideas and information in virtually every language, especially English. A good way to improve your vocabulary, writing, and grammar skills while interacting with English speakers in a natural setting is to use social media platforms. Websites like Facebook and Reddit are perfect for talking with English speakers.
Facebook pages like Itchy Feet and Memrise are great places to start because they have a large following of English language learners and native speakers who comment on posts and are eager to engage in discussions.
With Reddit, simply find some discussions that interest you and dive in! What makes Reddit great is that you can read the comments of “subreddits” (pages that are topic-oriented) without registration. Most of the groups are open to the public and if you want to find a new group, use the search feature at the upper-right corner of the screen.
Look for some “subreddits” to join like LANL English (LANL=Learn a New Language) and EnglishLearning. They’re both filled with helpful people who can make your learning experience fun and meaningful.
10. Follow the Right People on Twitter
Twitter operates on the same principle as Facebook and Reddit, except that its 140-character limit makes it difficult to engage in in-depth discussions. With that said, the amount of ESL resources available on Twitter makes it a brilliant learning tool for every English learner.
Here are some must-follow Twitter profiles that will help you become a better English user:
- @PhraseMix – Practical English content that helps students learn how to navigate the English-speaking world. Topics include public transportation, email communication, and banking.
- @Englishfeed – ESL content developer, Kenneth Beare’s, official profile is loaded with premium textbook-quality material.
- @The_YUNiversity – The YUNiversity uses a mixture of humor and pop culture to teach grammar, vocabulary and idioms.
- @CambridgeWords – The official Twitter profile of the Cambridge Dictionary is the perfect place to learn a new English word every day.
Remember, learning a new language is supposed to be an enjoyable experience, not a tedious one. If your studies ever feel soul-crushingly boring, it’s time for you to change the way you learn the language.
So now that you know a little bit about how to add some fun and joy into your studies, what are your favorite ways to learn English?
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.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn English with real-world videos.