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Teacher tips and tricks for learning English

Learning a language doesn’t always require the help and guidance of a teacher. One can learn and develop language skills in a variety of ways. Some learners choose to study on their own with the help of books, audio books, CDs, DVDs, computer programs and so on, whilst others acquire a language by immersion - simply living and communicating it in a place where the language is used by ‘picking it up’ over time.

Many students find themselves at a loss on how to improve their English, especially in the absence of a teacher. The following article will provide you with a list of 10 tips and tricks (provided by a teacher of the English language school Maltalingua) to keep in mind when learning English through learner autonomy.  

1.   Learn how to use a dictionary: We use a dictionary not only to check how to spell a word and learn its meaning, but also to understand other aspects of the English Language. We use a dictionary as a resource material for words, jargon, vocabulary and pronunciations with phonetic markers. In fact, after every word, many dictionaries provide the learner with a phonemic script enclosed in brackets, indicating where the emphasis (or word stress) should be put, to help students understand how a word should be pronounced and articulated. Moreover, a dictionary usually integrates all the suggestions and words in various contexts and different categorises like whether they are verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs and so on.

2.   Derive meaning from context: Although having a good dictionary as a companion in your language learning, it is important for a learner to acknowledge the fact that meaning cannot always be derived from a dictionary. A meaning can also be obtained from its context. Sometimes it is easier to focus on the context as a whole rather than simply focusing on just one word within an entire story or text. The same approach can be taken when watching television (be it current affairs or a movie) or listening to music.

3.   Keep a Vocabulary diary: A good idea one can adopt to keep track of new words learnt, is to keep a Vocabulary Diary. This can be like a personal ‘mini dictionary’ where vocabulary is organised either alphabetically or according to theme/topic. Of course, one must adopt categorising new words in a way s/he feels is easily accessible and memorable.

4.   Take up a new hobby: Whether learning a new instrument or practicing a new sport, activities can be another means of learning and practising a language. It is important to make sure that the people practicing this activity use English as a communicative language.

5.   Read: It is essential to include reading in your language learning, because it can help you understand sentence structure, use of punctuation and above all, helps you become more proficient in natural English. When reading a text from an article or book, you are presented with a variety of linguistic aspects such as linking words, synonyms and new vocabulary.


6.   Listen to Music: This is an enjoyable and relaxing way to practise English, because there is such a vast choice of music genres to satisfy everyone’s taste. Again, when listening to the lyrics of a song (as mentioned above), the important thing is to focus on the overall context rather than the meaning of each and every word the singer sings in a song.

7.   Try out Tandem Learning: Learning alone can sometimes be lonesome, so Tandem Learning is a great way of learning a language and meeting new people. The principle of this technique is for two people, who are native speakers in different languages, to meet in person (face-to-face Tandem) or learn through correspondence via e-mail, phone or other media (known as eTandem or distance Tandem). Learning is maintained by various materials and schemes: work sheets, textbooks or simply informal conversation.

8.   Practise Functional Language:  If you are at a café try your best to order a meal and do all the talking in English. Perhaps a useful suggestion is to have a native speaker give you important tips and/or phrases to use and also to come with you to give you feedback and suggestions on whether you made mistakes when putting your functional language into practice.

9.   Write: or join a blog or social network. One can either keep a daily diary, in which thoughts and daily activities can be recorded. Alternatively, you can also join a blog or social network where you can meet new people and exchange ideas and thoughts with one another in English.

10.  Socialise with native speakers: Maybe this is a slightly obvious suggestion, but as obvious as it may be, not many make use of it.  You should keep a look out on who has proficient English Language skills and you can suggest planning activities with them, and ask them to correct you if you make any mistakes when speaking to them in English. They will probably be more than willing to help out!


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