I want to share some tips to help you learn English faster.
When I lived in Istanbul, my laptop and mobile phone systems were set to Turkish. I struggled initially, but soon learned the words for ‘shut down’ and ‘messages’. Later, when I lived in Armenia, I watched children’s cartoons in Russian online. Though I barely understood a word, they helped me get used to the rhythm of the language, and animations showed the context. Now that I’m preparing to move to Spain, I listen to a flamenco radio station.
A study at Georgetown University Medical Center showed that language learning under immersion conditions can be more effective than typical classroom training.
The research demonstrates that “the kind of exposure you have to the language can determine whether you achieve native-language brain processing” – that’s fluency to you and me.
The important thing is to make the new language a part of your everyday life. Whether you live in Italy, France or Timbuktu, here are some simple steps you can take at home to speed up language acquisition.
And read what interests you. Maybe it’s your favourite childhood book: a book about yoga, or playing the guitar. Reading about a topic you’re familiar with will help put new vocabulary into context. One of my favourites is The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint Exupéry. Originally written in French in 1943, it’s now translated into over 250 different languages, of which I have the Spanish and Turkish versions. A full English translation is available here.
2. Listen to the radio.
This is great even for beginners, as repetition of song lyrics and advertising slogans will help reinforce vocabulary and aid comprehension. Advanced learners can listen to news and chat shows too. There are a wide variety of programmes on BBC Radio 4.
3. Watch films and TV series.
It’s fine to use subtitles, but make sure they’re in English too! According to another study, watching with subtitles in the same language as the film aids learning, but using subtitles to translate into your native language can actually impede it.
4. Get your news in English.
There are several obvious widespread news agencies, such as CNN, Google News and the BBC. There are also British and American ex-pats living all over the world, and there will be English-language news outlets aimed at them in every country. For example, www.thelocal.com has separate English language editions focusing on news from Italy, Spain, France, Germany, Sweden, Norway and Switzerland.
5. Set your device settings to English.
I advise you not to make the switch right before giving a Power Point presentation to a new client. Wait until you have time to explore potentially unfamiliar words and phrases.
6. Write a diary.
Just a few sentences every day about what you’ve been doing can help keep your brain working in your target language.
7. Utilise social media.
Follow people who tweet regularly in English about topics that interest you. Interested in art history? Join a Facebook group. The internet is your oyster.