It’s difficult to learn a language, like English.
It’s even more challenging when you don’t have someone to practice with.
Here are the top tips for learning English by yourself.
The best thing that you can do is read and listen to as much English as possible.
Choose something you’re interested in and search for YouTube videos, podcasts, books, blogs, and general websites to learn more about that topic.
If you already know about that area in your first language, then that makes it much easier!
Then you can focus on understanding English, rather than trying to understand both the language and the content. But, it’s always nice to learn something new too, right?
However, just reading and listening passively to things in English isn’t enough.
Although you’ll develop your receptive understanding of the language, you need to be able to speak and write too.
So, how can you transfer what you’ve listened to, watched, or read in English into your active knowledge?
Here is a suggested sequence of activities for you to do at home.
First, choose a piece of text. It could be a newspaper article, a blog post, a chapter from a book, a YouTube video, a podcast, a song… the possibilities are endless!
When reading or listening to something, make sure you read or listen to it a few times.
The first time, try not to look up any words, and also don’t try to understand every single word.
Read the passage quickly to get a general understanding of it, just like you would in your first language.
After you’ve got a general understanding of it, go back through the passage and read it more carefully.
You might like to ask yourself questions before you start reading and see if you can answer them from the text. You might like to write some questions that you would ask somebody else reading the text to check they’ve understood.
The process of writing questions (and making sure you know the answers!) is a really useful way to check that you’ve really understood what you’ve read.
These first two steps are all about improving your general comprehension skills.
Step 1: Read the passage quickly to get a general understanding. Don't look up any words in a dictionary.
Step 2: Read it one more time carefully to deepen your comprehension.
Step 3: Listen and read authentic materials.
You can then move on to looking at the language in the text.
Listening and reading authentic materials – that is, materials that are designed for native English speakers is an excellent way to enrich your language.
Learning without a Teacher
So, how can you develop your language from these texts without a teacher or somebody to practice with?
Step 1. Find
First, go through the text and find the language you don’t understand – it doesn’t need to be every single word! Choose a maximum of eight items of language.
Step 2. Test Your Knowledge
Now, using the text, see if you can write a definition of the word or phrase. Then check it in a dictionary. Copy the sentence from the text, or listen to the audio text and write it down. Underline the piece of vocabulary you chose.
Step 3. Create
Now, write your own sentence using that piece of vocabulary. Make sure you follow any grammatical patterns from the original sentence – for example, is there a preposition following the word? Does it always follow this word? Do the same for the other pieces of vocabulary you’ve chosen.
Step 4. Review
Now, you know that you understand the word and you know how to use it in a sentence. Can you write a different sentence with it? Make sure to challenge yourself! You might also find it useful to make a flashcard set with these new pieces of vocabulary – either paper or digital. Try not to use translations, but definitions or pictures instead.
Step 5. Apply
Next, challenge yourself to respond to the piece of text you’ve chosen. For example, you might write a letter to the author. You might like to write the other side of the argument. You could produce a summary of the text. If it was a story, you might like to continue the story or change the ending. You could rewrite the text from a different perspective. Try to use as many of the new vocabulary pieces you’ve taken from the text in your writing or speaking. To practice your speaking, record yourself on the phone.
Step 6. Self-Evaluate
Finally, read or listen back to your writing or speaking. How many of the vocabulary items did you manage to use? Reflect on your piece – what were the strengths and the weaknesses? Which language structures were you not sure about using? These are your areas to focus on next time!
You can do it!
Good luck with your learning at home! It’s definitely more challenging than learning with someone, but is very rewarding and it means you get to choose what you focus on. You could even use this blog post as a text to study!