“Help me, I’m bored.”
As an ESL teacher, I have heard too many English students say this.
Unfortunately, the truth is that bored students learn less than enthusiastic, motivated students.
Maybe you are sitting in class, not paying attention, wondering when your exciting journey into the world of English will begin.
Well, you cannot wait until you have a plane ticket to an English-speaking country in your hands.
You cannot wait until you finish a class to make English enjoyable.
You have to find a way to enjoy learning English now, or you will lose your motivation and your study time will not be effective.
Luckily, learning English does not have to give you a headache.
You’ve probably heard it a thousand times: “The only way to really learn English is to be totally immersed in the language.”
To be immersed is to be completely surrounded by the English language. Just like learning to drive a car or cook your favorite recipe, you can’t just learn English from studying a textbook. You have to actually go out and practice it yourself in the real world.
You have to try to challenge yourself beyond the classroom.
Memorizing words and rules does not teach you how to speak, solve problems or be creative in English. Perhaps you can conjugate verbs or read from a text, but will this make you a confident English speaker outside of the classroom? It might seem so, but language taught this way is often missing some important details.
For example, even a student who has mastered the present perfect tense might be confused in a conversation if they have not had enough practice speaking. Immersion solves this problem, by allowing you to constantly become more familiar with the English language. You will also get more practice using the English language like native English speakers do. It sounds great—but immersion takes a long time.
Now you might be wondering, “How I can make learning English through immersion more effective? How can I learn English fast?”
We all want shortcuts in life. Shortcuts are quicker and easier ways to get things done. This can be anything from winning the lottery to losing weight, and people are always looking for ways to make things simpler and to get things done faster. The same can be said for learning English, yet there is no “magic fix.”
There are however, more complete and creative shortcuts to learn English through immersion.
Below are some best ways to learn that combine the benefits of both long-term immersion and quick learning shortcuts.
6 Tips for Improving Your English by Taking Shortcuts to Immersion
1. Build the basics
Get all the resources you need to master the basics of English.
Even though you are going to be learning by immersion, it is always helpful to have formal, instructional books you can look at it when you do not understand something.
Start by getting a dictionary, a phrasebook and a vocabulary book.
For example, reference materials like “McGraw-Hill Education Essential ESL Dictionary” (dictionary) and “Perfect Phrases for ESL Everyday Situations” (phrasebook) would be perfect additions to your language library.
Studying is about more than language skills. You also need to build a solid foundation of good study habits and strong organizational skills. Try studentguide.org for more helpful information.
2. Try to understand English without subtitles
Immersion is about building a lifestyle where exposure to English is around every corner.
You will usually use authentic materials like music, TV shows, movies, software and YouTube.
Just remember, when you speak with someone in English on the phone, or when you meet an English-speaking friend for a conversation over coffee, they will not be using subtitles to communicate with you. Challenge yourself as much as you can!
In order to practice this skill, work with FluentU first.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
3. Hire a tutor
Paying for a tutor is worth the money.
Make sure they are skilled at teaching pronunciation, reading, grammar, vocabulary and culture. Decide if you want to meet in person or on the Internet by using Skype.
You will also decide if you want a private tutor who you will meet with alone, or if you want to meet with a tutor and a small group. Meeting with a small group provides you with more support and partners to practice English with. However, a private tutor who you work with alone will make sure you get plenty of attention, and will make sure that all your unique issues, needs, desires and interests are focused on.
If you’re an English learner living in the United States, click here to find a great, local tutor through Wyzant!
This is a very professional, polished website that helps you locate tutors who live and work near you. It is an especially nice choice if you need help studying for an English proficiency test like the TOEFL, since many of these tutors are professional teachers with certifications and many years of experience. You can even find English tutors who specialize in writing skills or English grammar skills.
If you’d prefer to find a tutor online, start by visiting Verbling. This is a huge website where thousands of professional tutors are waiting to share their knowledge. You can easily find a native English speaker to tutor you here.
4. Learn English by having life experiences
Find a job or volunteer position that involves English. In your home country, you might want to consider becoming a tutor and teaching your native language to English-speaking visitors.
You could also find a job in tourism, where many English-speakers will come to your office and need you to help them in English.
But what if you live in an English-speaking country?
Is it enough to just live in an English-speaking country?
No. You need to be active about learning English, even when it is everywhere around you!
Whether you are a tourist, worker or an international student in an English-speaking country, you will need to find additional experiences where you can practice your English.
If you are in the United States on a student visa, students are permitted to hold jobs on university campuses, such as in retail or customer service positions. You will practice your English, and a job like this will help to cover expenses and supplement funding from scholarships and loans.
In other cases, you might want to gain new skills and network (meet new people in your school, company or industry) as an international student volunteer.
Check out isvolunteers to learn about different volunteer programs around the world. There are plenty of work opportunities there as well.
Look for international jobs, volunteer positions and internships on the site Idealist, which is great for English learners living in English-speaking countries and elsewhere.
5. Spend time in an English-speaking country
Nowadays you can travel abroad and spend less money on places to stay.
Check out housing sites like airbnb for places to live. If possible, opt for a roommate situation so that language acquisition can occur inside your residence as well as in the city you’re visiting. Check out websites like aupairworld and workaway for overseas jobs.
Also extremely beneficial are programs that offer to teach English through real-life situations or field trips.
The best programs will offer multi-level conversation classes, and help you improve your English vocabulary through listening, speaking and presentations.
Best of all, you can interact with students from all over the world and enjoy the journey together.
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Be confident. People can only correct your mistakes when they hear you make them.
Surround yourself in English. Put yourself in an all English speaking environment where you can learn passively, but do not forget to speak—the best way to learn conversational English is through speaking.
Check out studyusa and learn about the best short term immersion programs as well as the easiest ways to obtain a U.S. student visa.
Interested in other English speaking countries? Try studyinaustralia and learn about different Australian programs as well as anticipated living costs and potential financial aid.
Give languageschoolcanada a look. This site offers information on both short-term and long term programs in Canada.
6. Become an active learner
Active learning means engaging, participating and collaborating with others.
Don’t simply listen and memorize. Instead, find a way to demonstrate your learning process, or apply a concept to a real-world situation.
Make the most of English around you. Read the signs you see on buses and trains. Often times, people on public transportation are the most interesting characters, making for exciting exchanges. Even reading food labels at the grocery store is a great way to learn English. At restaurants, pay attention to vocabulary and spelling on menus.
You can even be an active learner at tourist venues like libraries, museums, monuments and amusement parks. Get the courage to ask people questions, and strike up a valuable conversation.
For example, you don’t have to be an exciting type of person to be a good speaker. Just be the person to start conversations in English. Try to keep the conversations moving and use listening words (“really?” / “go on…” / “what happened then?”)
Don’t wait for others to speak to you. Get in there!
Just remember, learning a foreign language is always a messy business. You will make mistakes, you will feel embarrassed sometimes, but this should not stop you.
The key to successful English language learning is to be childlike. This can often increase your interest, creativity and also support critical thinking skills, imagination and verbal self-confidence.
Go ahead. Lose your insecurities, and watch as fear slowly disappears.
Take learning risks.
If people laugh at you, laugh with them. The important thing is to make it an adventure!
Michelle Suzanne Snyder is a freelance writer. She has taught ESL and lived in three different countries. She believes the benefits of language learning are endless.