How to learn English and Optimize your study time
by Jason Cane
If you’ve ever wondered how to learn English and optimize your study time in the process, it starts with a bit of organization. Ever felt like you’ve spent hours reviewing material, and you’ve made no progress to show for your efforts?
In today’s post, I’m going to show you how to make the most of your time studying English, so you can stop worrying if you’re on the right path and improve your language skills with confidence!
Let’s take a look!
Set SMART Study Goals
You may have heard this acronym describing goal-setting before, and it applies to language-learning as well. Your goals should be:
To set yourself up for success in learning English, you’ve got to follow the advice of Tim Ferriss and ‘rig the game’ in your favor from the start.
So, what does this mean for you as a learner of English?
You need to set yourself attainable goals that won’t discourage you from studying a bit each day. In this way, you can maintain a consistent daily practice that turns into an enjoyable experience instead of feeling like extra work.
Check out an example of this practice at work in the next section!
To Master the English Language, Break it Down!
We mentioned that to optimize your study time, you need to set yourself manageable goals. Now, here’s a little-known fact that shows just how easy this can be if you break the information down:
Did you know that the first 300 most commonly written words in English make up about 65% of all written material?
Think about what that means for you!
Learning just 6 of these words a week would allow you to read most English texts and more within a year. If that’s not fast enough for you, learn just 12 a week, and you’ll be able to read most written material within 6 months! To decrease the timeframe, just add a few more words each week.
This is a specific goal that can be attained through short, consistent daily practice-you can do the same with the as well!
Practice with virtual flashcards of these words using the Anki App. It’s more than just simple flashcards on your device-the app actually automates your practice using a spaced repetition system (SRS), so you’ll see specific words to review right as you are about to forget them.
Use Cognates as Clues
Here’s another thing you might not know about how to learn English:
You’re already a step ahead of where you think you are right now because of cognates!
That’s because these helpful ‘loan words’ have been borrowed by the English language from other languages but retain their meanings, so you should be able to recognize quite a few from your native tongue. We’ll use Spanish as an example, since I’ve used this tip to optimize my own language-learning.
If your native language is Spanish, you can often take the ‘-ción’ word ending and replace it with ‘-tion’ to form the word with the same meaning in English. For example, ‘condición’ becomes ‘condition’ and ‘legalización’ becomes ‘legalization’.
Now, this doesn’t work in every case (I learned the hard way that ‘embarazada’ means ‘pregnant’, not ‘embarrassed’), but it does work for many words in multiple languages. If you want to make the most of your study time learning English, it makes sense to start with what you already know, like cognates!
Expose Yourself to English Every Day
There’s a common phrase about language learning that says, ‘If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it’. To learn English, it’s important that you expose yourself to it every day so that you don’t lose what you’ve gained from studying!
You can listen to music with English-speaking singers, watch videos on YouTube or Netflix in English with subtitles, or visit websites like Radio Garden or TuneIn to hear English talk-shows on the radio. Podcasts are also a great tool for listening to a variety of English accents.
If you’d like to practice your reading skills, check out Breaking News English. It gives you contemporary news stories at varying levels of difficulty to suit your current abilities, as well as practice exercises to go along with them.
As for English writing and speaking, you can read as much as you want about improving these skills, but reading about a skill is different from actively practicing it. Language experts agree that building up the confidence to speak and make mistakes is one of the secrets to learning a language, and that it’s even more important that you receive feedback from a native speaker to avoid reinforcing bad habits.
This is where our final strategy comes in!
Take English Lessons Online for Practice with a Native Speaker
You’ll need to actually produce written and spoken English and receive feedback from a native speaker to help you correct your mistakes and make progress. The sooner you begin this, the less chance there is that you’ll strengthen incorrect habits!
In an interview about how to learn foreign languages quickly, polyglot Benny Lewis (who has reached fluency in seven languages!) said he believes ‘paying for the undivided attention of a native speaker’ is the only thing it makes sense to spend money on when trying to learn a new language.
Just make sure you know the most important factors when choosing a teacher, and be sure to choose a reputable school like Live Lingua!
How to learn English and optimize your study time: Final Word
To make the most of your time learning English, it’s best to:
- Set SMART study goals
- Break down and review the material using a spaced repetition system
- Use cognates to help you recognize English words that appear similar in your native language
- Expose yourself to English every day
- Practice online with a native speaker
The final step in how to learn English is critical, and James North, associate director for instruction at the Foreign Service Institute in Washington, DC, emphasizes the importance of , saying:
‘Practice makes perfect, but practice without feedback just makes perfect whatever you are practicing. The naïve learner does not have a perspective on what they are doing. It is really vital to have someone saying yes you are on track.’
The sooner you implement these strategies, the better prepared you’ll be to learn English confidently and optimize your study time.