Why do you want to improve your English?
Write down your goals, look at them and really think about the reasons why you have chosen those goals. It's much easier to achieve goals when you have a WHY.
For example, you might want to improve your English vocabulary so that you don’t get stuck when telling an anecdote in English and so that you’ll be able to talk with more confidence when you're out with friends.
Break your goal down into segments Maybe one of your goals for 2016 is to improve your English but what exactly does that entail? It is important to break your goal down into segments. So, perhaps you want to improve your speaking. Here are some ideas of the different ways that you can break up that goal.
So we have created some segments, but how does that help?
Take each category and think about how you can split that up further. Let’s look at each segment in turn
Vocabulary I think that it’s great to have a certain amount of words that you are going to learn each week and day. You can search online for lists of words that are suitable for your level.
Here is a list for level B1 (low intermediate level) http://www.cambridgeenglish.org/images/84669-pet-vocabulary-list.pdf
This is slightly off topic but If you aren’t sure what level you are, there are lots of level tests that you can do online. Here is one that I recommend: http://www.ef.co.uk/test/#/
It's quite useful to know exactly what the different CEFR levels mean. Here is a page that explains them: http://www.examenglish.com/CEFR/cefr.php
So you can either work from a list or you could find vocabulary from books, magazines, newspaper articles or video subtitles and transcripts. I actually use this visual dictionary for learning Italian:
When you have chosen how you are going to learn your new words, you can decide how many new words you are going to learn each day and each week.
If you decide to learn 20 words each week, you’ll know 1040 new English words by the end of 2016! Or even better - if you decide to learn 10 words a day, you’ll be able to use 3650 in just 12 months time!
But….there is a but! How are you going to learn these words? I recommend using flashcards, either on paper or a digital flashcards like flashcards Duluxe or Anki. I use Flashcards Duluxe and I find it really effective.
It is also important to keep revising these words so keep that in mind when you are deciding how many new words you are going to learn each week.
Grammar Again I would say that the best thing to do is to break this category down and find out exactly what grammar you need to learn or brush up on for your level. There are so many resources now for learning grammar. Here is a page that has lists of grammar topics for B1 level: http://www.examenglish.com/grammar/b1_grammar.html
You can then either find resources online or use a grammar book. Make a plan and decide how long you are going to give yourself for each topic. There are 26 topics in the link above so if that is your level, you could give yourself 2 weeks for each topic.
Goals become much more manageable when you break them down into smaller more attainable tasks.
Fluency To be more fluent in a language you simply have to practice more. You need to practice the new vocabulary and the grammar structures that you’ve learnt. If you can have classes that is great, otherwise language exchanges is a good way to practice. If you don’t have much time, you can do either of these through Skype. Gumtree, Converstaion exchange and Italki are all sites that you can use to link up with language exchanges.
Confidence I think that confidence is a bit like fluency and the more that you speak up, the more confident you will be.
Try not to compare the way that you speak in English to the way that you speak in your mother tongue. It is hard not to do this but it is much better not to keep thinking that your English has to be at the same standard as the language that you have grown up speaking. English is your second language and you need to be kind to yourself and remember that it is completely normal to confuse prepositions or forget certain words.
Try and be aware of what that voice in your head is telling you. Listen to what you are telling yourself and if it is negative, make it your goal to try and change that. You could keep a notebook and keep a record of how you are doing each day.
Write down some positive affirmations to read aloud every morning, such as
I’m good at English I have a great accent People understand me when I speak to them I enjoy speaking English
These are just some examples – try and think of some sentences that resonate with you. Write down sentences that make you feel great and when you read them, visualize yourself talking fluently, easily and confidently.
It is difficult to have the time but this is a great way of changing that little. There are lots of very good meditation videos on You Tube about positive thinking in general. Here is one that I listen to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HBPiA4MPwY8
Make English language learning part of your daily routine
If you really want to see a significant improvement over the year, I suggest blocking out some time and working out what part of your day you are going to dedicate to learning vocab, doing grammar exercises or doing speaking practice. You don’t have to sit down and study for hours at one time. Many people actually find it more efficient to do small chunks of 15 minutes at a time.
So, would you prefer to set aside an hour/ a couple of hours every day or learn in small blocks of time?
Do you want to study in the morning, afternoon or evening?
Can you study while you are travelling or would you prefer to study at home?
When you have decided what will work best for you, write it down in your diary or on a wall chart. I like using a wall chart because I can see the whole year and I feel a sense of achievement when I tick off what I’ve done. Remember that consistency is really important and if you don’t have much time just do 10-15 minutes a day and you will still see a huge improvement by the end of the year.
Accountability It’s great to have someone or a group of people that will keep you accountable. It’s much easier to do your ‘homework’ if you have to hand it in. If you can have a teacher, that’s perfect but you could also learn with a friend. Perhaps you could meet weekly and test each other on your weekly set of words. If you have a language exchange, you could try and read an article every week and then summarise it to each other when you meet.
So, there’s my tips of achieving your language goals in 2016! I’d love to hear about what your goals are in the comment section below. It’s easy to forget about our goals as we get busy throughout the year so I really recommend planning out what you intend to do and writing it down somewhere where you’ll see it every day. You could even set reminders on your phone!
I wish you all good luck and let me know if you have any questions.
All the best,