How to Learn English Effectively

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So, you need to acquire proficient English Level 7 and become more fluent to attend a university program in the United States or Europe. You’ve been studying intensively for a year or two, but you do not seem to improve in great strides. How do you get from your present English level to the level where you need to be to excel in all academic skills? Your desire is to make leaps and bounds in the language more quickly, so you can reach your next goals. What are you doing that is not as effective as it could be in your study?

Language Learning Strategy

  • Yes, practice does make perfect, but having patience is also useful in learning English or any language.
  • If you wish to learn and recall better, you need to set and outline the challenges and strengths that match where you are at, highlight the level of where you want to get to, and adjust the way you are learning and acquiring language through your approach to tasks to meet your goal.

Consider creating your own language learning strategies in order to target which technique will help you develop each academic task (a task-based strategy) you need to improve on. After you have a strategy set for each skill, then you need a way to practice those strategies in every day practice. Once you implement the daily pattern of practicing English with your set techniques, you will take note of efficient improvement. Then, use internet technology, create a proper study environment (such as an ideal location, atmosphere, group versus individual study, and minimal distractions,) and make your study tasks interesting so that you will remember most of what you acquire in your sessions. If, on the other hand, you study each day doing some exercises, but you do not have a set technique to approach each academic skill, your study of the language will be a mess, and it is likely that you will remain at the same level without increasing your advancement at the speed you would like. Studying daily with strategies in mind will develop your skills in English because the repetitive habit will become faster and shape the manner in which you learn.

To specifically prepare for skills which are tested on standardized tests such as TOEFL, IELTS, TOEIC, GMAT, and GRE to target your abilities to improve test-taking, reading, listening, speaking, writing, note taking, analyzing, critical thinking, integrating, synthesizing, grammar, and vocabulary.

When you make the web your classroom, you have a broad base to develop your own unique approach which you are comfortable with to learn English successfully.

Build Vocabulary in English Effectively for TOEFL

An isolated shot of a beautiful asian college student carrying books

Keep a reading journal and a vocabulary notebook to advance your progress in English

Have you ever gotten stuck on words on part of a TOEFL section because you fail to understand those vocabulary words?

In the integrated sections of the speaking and writing sections, are you sometimes at a loss over difficult word choice?

If you do not understand some words, you most likely may be unable to successfully speak or write responses in the integrated tasks of these TOEFL sections.

The key to success is to understand the essential information in the source even if you may not comprehend a challenging word.

In the case of the integrated task, how would you filter through unknown words to answer the integrated task prompt?

The wise approach to learn how to tackle the various integrated tasks is first to understand the task, then accomplish the task as required by the prompt. Think about if you were able to read the information and take organized notes focusing on the information requested by the prompt. Let’s say you read the passage and took notes on the main idea and three key points. However, whether or not a word that appeared is difficult is not critical since you can imagine what that word may mean in context. Don’t let coming across a hard word in the passage cause you to lose focus on the main purpose and important points. Of course, the TOEFL will have words that you might not recognize. Those words are present to confuse you. The test also puts those advanced words in a text to stall you, so that you waste time. Yet, don’t let those words distract you from the overall goal of getting the main idea and answering your response more quickly and effectively.

Remember that if you can read, take notes, paraphrase, summarize, report, and synthesize the crucial information precisely, you will see a difference of a higher test score. Start by reading the prompt very carefully. Then, begin by identifying the organization of the passage. When you read, read with a particular purpose in mind: to answer the prompt. In the summary, you will analyze and describe the reading and lecture (citing the sources) in the integrated writing task number one. Be sure to identify and refer to accurate points as well as draw precise conclusions from the information provided in the source. Produce academic writing that summarizes the sources, leaving time to revise so that the end result leaves an impression of an advanced level of English proficiency. For timing your writing, refer to your written notes and practice writing from actual prompts under the same time constraints as on the exam day for simulation. What will be a valuable practice is to summary and paraphrase the content of short academic lectures such as TedX and readings online like on NatGeo.

Not only will reading, listening, and writing skill advancement help to prepare you for future academic life in English, but you will advance quickly in the language through the practice routine of collecting reliable and valid sources of information, particularly when you need to support a thesis in your integrated writing. You can also related readings to other related passages to analyze the content or relate a reading and a lecture that have a similar topic. During your integrated writing process, write a unified, well-developed, cohesive, and coherent essay being sure to include a clear thesis in your introduction, body, and conclusion while using accurate grammar. Whenever you see words that you do not know in a reading or hear words you are unfamiliar with in a lecture, take notes on those word chunks in a vocabulary notebook with definitions, examples in real context, and synonyms. If you review them daily or each study session, you will see your retention rate soar and your proficiency go up.

To aid your learning of vocabulary, read extensively daily. Read for at least 30 minutes 5x/week and keep a reading notebook with the date, amount of time spent, length of passage/article (word count) or pages read, a short written summary of what was read, and a vocabulary journal with a few new word choice to actively learn. Online, you can look up at dictionary.com for those words. Take note on word form, definition/meaning, and an example in a sentence to write in your vocabulary notebook. The goal of the reading notebook is track if you are reading more quickly, while the objective of the vocabulary journal is for increasing your knowledge of English words. With these tools, you are sure to transform into a self-learner and master reader.

When you come across a hard vocabulary word in a reading passage, you can use it in your integrated writing. Remember to spell it correctly by looking at the right spelling in the source and to use the word in correct context. Use the chunking strategy wherever possible to decode challenge words. With more exposure to words in reading, you will expand your vocabulary in the language. Develop a game plan—a plan of attack for overcoming vocabulary barriers and progressing your level of English:

  • Note taking on readings and lectures
  • Keep a vocabulary study notebook
  • Use internet tools for accessing more vocabulary
  • Understand a reading for the main purpose and key support rather than get lost in an unknown word choice
  • Use vocabulary in context in writing

Use these techniques to learn more successfully.

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Top 5 Tips to Help Improve Your English

Set concrete goals high

Set concrete goals high

 

  1. Establish short term and long term goals why you are learning English.

Ask yourself:

  • What are the reasons I want to learn English?
  • What will I do with the language?
  • Do you need to travel abroad or to the United States?
  • Do you plan to attend graduate school?
  • Do you want to speak with your friends who are English-speakers?
  • Do you want to use English in running a business?

Self-Reflection:

  • Whatever your reasons, consider why learning English is most important to you.
  • Write down your goals.
  • Make a chart that you can refer to daily to inspire you to move forward.
  • Consider how long you will need to study.
  • What exact skills do you need to improve in the language?
  • How will you get from point A (where you are now) to point B (your destination i.e. your short term or long term goal)?
  • How will you know when you are able to meet your goal?
  • What is going to happen when you reach your objective(s)?

 

  1. Try a new strategy

How long have you been studying test-taking in English? 1-2 years? If you feel your language level has not continued to improve week by week, try a new technique. For instance, if you are studying from a book, try something different. At times, if you feel stagnant, making a change in the manner in which you learn will help to improve your language skills. Doubtless, change will help you grow.

  • Listen to English podcasts
  • Listen only to English music on your phone when you are relaxing
  • Get a native English coach
  • Enroll in an English course online
  • Watch English TV
  • Watch (international) news only in English
  • Meet a native speaker online to do a language exchange by the web
  • Meet an English-speaking colleague/friend
  • Join an English study group
  • Join a college course online that is in English

 

  1. Never give up. Learning a language requires practice. Take runners, for example, who do not run a marathon without training; they put in months or more of training. If you keep trying, and if you continue to practice English, you can master academic skills in reading, listening, speaking, writing, and vocabulary. To be inspired, think of yourself in a marathon. What you can do each day to get you to reach your goal .Keep telling yourself you will get there to a major accomplishment with these minor achievements. The days or moments you feel frustrated while you are learning, remember not to give up hope. Believe in yourself and your abilities. If you keep putting in extra effort into language learning, the next study day you will feel more comfortable, confident, and fluent. When you feel down, think about the last thing you learned, and pat yourself on the back for having learned that. Encourage yourself to keep going forward.

 

  1. Be positive about the learning process. Mastering English does not happen overnight, so be patient with yourself. Avoid putting yourself down with negative thoughts. If you hear yourself in your head saying, “I’ll never be fluent in English,” immediately switch those negative words to positive encouragement. Tell yourself, instead, “Even though it’s a new language, if I keep studying, I’ll learn more each day” or “Though a lot of new vocabulary is challenging, I can accomplish learning more if I keep studying day by day.” Stay positive in your mind, because in this way you will learn English more quickly.

 

  1. Harbor no fear about making minor errors in English. In fact, being fearful of making mistakes can stop you from learning quickly. If you sometimes avoid speaking with native speakers because you lack confidence, you can change your attitude to be more confident. Stop being fearful of producing mistakes since it is natural to make errors when using another language. When people speak other languages, mistakes arise. You will only get better in another language the more you practice it and the more confidence you feel about your abilities.

 

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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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Improve English to Score High on TOEFL

Success and Failure Road Sign with dramatic clouds and sky.

Have you picked your brains about how to rapidly advance your language progress to improve your TOEFL score?  Here are a few techniques to help get you achieve your objectives.

First, stay mentally motivated. You need to put in the time to study to improve. You can give yourself constant encouragement by dwelling on all of the reasons that you want to attain your target score. If you make a list of those reasons, you can post them on the wall near your study desk so you can look at them daily to keep you focused on your goal. Having your reasons posted nearby will help you not procrastinate. Whenever you feel like you want to put off studying, look up at your list with your goals, and that reminder will help you stay on task. If you are able to study consistently without being distracted, you have a higher chance of keeping your motivation level high. Only you can drive yourself to the next level of commitment. Your list serves as a daily reminder.

Second, make time to study. You need to schedule enough time to practice each section and review your errors so that you can improve from your mistakes. Though you may have a balancing act of student, work, or family life to juggle, keep concentrating on your priorities of getting to your highest score. You need to arrange time and dedicate extra energy outside of your normal life activities to study test preparation so that your English will advance step by step. It is not only important to study new materials, but also to brush up on what you learned a few days previously, so that you can easily retain the information to use later on.

Third, think about learning positively. Do you have a good spot to study? Wherever you plan on having your study sessions, make sure that area is conducive to staying focused. Eliminate distractions. If you have a positive learning environment with a clean desk area, you will feel less stressed to get down to study. Sitting yourself in a quiet, clean space will help give you a positive mindset. In your study space, plan your time to accomplish certain activities. For instance, study for 25-30 minutes and then take a break for two minutes standing up and moving around to move your energy. You must not study more than one hour sitting at one time because the brain performs better when it has a little rest. If you are planning to sit down and study for three hours, a positive approach would not be to study straight through, but to take 3-5 short breaks within the overall time. Statistically, the research has proven that the brain focuses better in this way. You will be able to retain more information, and it will bring you more success in the long run.

Next, avoid anxiety and stress. If you tend to worry about negative thought patterns such as, “It’s difficult; I can’t do it.” Eliminate those ideas from your mind. Don’t be frustrated. Try to be patient and focus on your goals. Talk to yourself with positive words like, “I am learning more every day. I retain all the information that I study. I am good at English. I can achieve my goal with my daily studies.” If you are able to avoid stressing yourself out, you will be able to block out the negativities. Positive reactions to taking a test will result in calmness on the day of the test. You will have a mental advantage on the exam. When you feel overwhelmed, it is okay to just take a break. Get enough rest, and don’t forget to have fun. Keep yourself positive and the stress will melt away.

Lastly, find a balance in your life. Work-study balance is vital to keeping your brain calm so it functions well on the test day. You will be able to achieve success if you schedule in time to do fun things with friends and family. It’s not just about studying. To get your goal, you need to have a solid balance of academics and normal life so that the brain is stronger. Take time to eat well, exercise daily, and reflect on all the positive improvements you have made and all the skills you have advanced on.

What to Do on TOEFL Test Day

Vision Road Sign with dramatic blue sky and clouds.

  1. Be sure you are well-rested and have gotten at least a good night’s sleep before your test. That means that you should have slept between 6-8 hours the night before. If you have slept well, you are much more likely to recall what you have studied and highly likely to perform better and get a high score than if you don’t sleep much at all.
  2. Stay in a positive mindset to remain calm. If you feel relaxed, you will be able to focus successfully on each question and in each section. If you feel anxiety, take a slow breath and inhale deeply. Simply put any worried thoughts out of your mind to stay in a “mentally successful zone.”
  3. When it is possible, try to position your seat in the exam room at the front since you probably will be less-distracted by others around. In that spot, you will also hear the recording better for the listening parts.
  4. Before jumping in, be sure you understand the directions, and if you need to, ask the examiner whatever you are not sure about.
  5. Prior to starting, know how you will manage your time adequately and make a decision about how long to spend on every question. Time management is one of the keys to finishing well.
  6. Read every question carefully. The most common error is for students to read quickly, so read the directions and understand what you will need to do. Often because they do not read carefully enough, this hampers the process.
  7. Answer carefully, and if there is any time at the end of the exam, you can read through your responses. Statistics show that your first answer is often the correct one, so remember to only change an answer if you actually see an error.
  8. First, be sure and answer the easy questions initially since it will boost your confidence and certainly save you time later in the game.
  9. Avoid losing time on any challenging questions that you are unable to answer. Furthermore, if you are unable to respond to a question, go to the next question and come back to the one you missed later on if time is available. If you waste much time on one question, you might lose your confidence.

Best tips to remember what you study in TOEFL

  1. Focus. You first need to learn it before recalling it. So, in order to learn it well, focus on listening if you are in a language class or reading if you are doing that task. If you are doing self-study, make sure to select a quiet study space set up for optimum least distracting desk area. In this way, you will be able to focus and not be distracted by your phone, internet, or friends.
  2. As you are reading, ask yourself important questions about what you read
    Of course, you are much more likely to recall it if you know your purpose for reading it. Ask yourself questions such as who (did the action,) what (happened,) where (did it happen,) when (did it happen,) why (what’s the reason for it,) how (did it happen) about the subject matter.
  3. Employ various learning approaches while studying
    Studies show most humans remember 20% of what is read, 30 % of what is heard; 40% of what is seen visually, half of what is written down on paper (typed) or said out loud, and 60% of what is performed manually with movement. Remember when you study, to use all your different senses for learning different ways: write notes down, say your notes out loud and record them, or draw pictures to take visual notes.
  4. At the end of each study session, quickly go over what English you studied. If you skim the main objective and retrace the key points of the goals of each study session, you will remember the lesson at that moment, and the next time you study, it will help you recall them. Be sure to take a few minutes to summarize your notes using key words that will improve your memory later.
  5. As often as you can, look over what you studied as a short review
    It is much easier to recall things with a regular study pattern. For instance, if you study once a week, review briefly what you did the last session. Or, if you study every other day, start your session by reviewing what you studied the last time. If you have time to study daily, then begin your study time by reviewing just a couple minutes what you did the day before. On the other hand, if you try learning everything at the last minute, your memory will not retain the information.
  6. Take time to recall your study sessions without your notes
    Without referring to your books or materials, take a few minutes to remember what you studied. Give your memory a quiz make creating notes on what you think you studied, then go back and check your notes or texts to see if it is consistent. You will recall more if you practice this technique.