English / Test-taking / TOEFL / Vocabulary

Why Am I Not Improving English?

Woman Writing in Daily Planner

Avoid translating

  1. You are translating from your native language into English. That’s a big “no-no.” Avoid translating from your first language into English. You can speed up your progress in English if you simply focus on listening to English and catch the words you understand. Use the context to guess understanding. For instance, if someone says, “There will be a big shin dig this Friday night.” Imagine you don’t know the word shin dig. Don’t translate it. Just imagine what those words could mean in terms of happening on Friday night: a feast, a reception, a get together, a dance, or a dinner party.

 

  1. You are not practicing enough English speaking with a native. Dedicate enough study time to make advancements. Don’t expect to study English only a half hour per week and improve rapidly. Intensive language learning of a few set hours every weekday can expand your progress. When you do have a set study session in-person with a native speaker, don’t forget to speak. Sometimes, when you are conversing with someone in another language, it’s easy to just listen, but you won’t learn English faster if you don’t practice participating more in the conversation. So, the more you converse, the more you will learn to communicate better in English. If you spoke English just one time today, next time or tomorrow, try to speak two times. Of course, the more often you practice speaking, you can improve your confidence and your fluency in the language.

 

  1. You lack confidence in your English abilities. How can you improve in the language if you do not believe in yourself? Be confident that you are learning, and you will acquire more language skills day by day. Avoid saying, “Sorry,” if you don’t feel confident using English fluently yet with a native speaker. If you come across a new word/phrase/express, you can always ask a native speaker, “What does (~phrase) mean?” Just because you may not be familiar with idiomatic expressions or advanced vocabulary, you don’t need to apologize if you are not at the highest level. Remember that you are trying. Give yourself a break because you are learning a language. Keep trying your best, be confident that you will learn more and more. No doubt, you will learn more vocabulary as you progress to a higher level.

 

  1. You are not listening to a sufficient amount of English daily. Perhaps you do not understand enough of what you listen to. Let’s say that you comprehend only about 65%. This is particularly a concern if you live in a foreign country (a non-English speaking place) and do not have access to listening to speakers of English face-to-face. Solution: get a native trainer online or in-person, or listen to English on the web. Practice listening to English every day to train your ears to focus on words you already know in English and listen for word chunks, phrases, which you may be familiar with to comprehend the context. Avoid listening just for grammar. You won’t be able to attain fluency by picking apart a conversation through grammar points. Stop trying to catch single words. Neither will you be capable of advanced fluency if you are concentrating only on individual words in a dialogue. You need to listen for how phrases are grouped together in a pattern. You can listen to music, television, or movies to gain more fluency and understanding. Tell your ears they must listen to English phrases, understand English in context, and capture the bigger picture, the overall meaning.

 

  1. You forgot what you already studied in previous lessons. If you are not remembering your intake, then taking notes on what you learned during your study sessions will help you review and keep the knowledge fresh. For example, keep an English notebook for acquiring more information. In your journal (digital or paper,) you can take note of phrases that are new that you can learn. Then, try to use these new groups of words if you think of it in context. If you write down only the vocabulary word, you may not understand in the future how to use it in context, so try to catch an entire phrase. Later, when you review your notebook, the whole phrase will serve as a reminder of the meaning in context. Consequently, it will be much easier to recall. Furthermore, it will be a base for you to move up to the next level.

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