Daily practice and immersion are the best ways to improve your English. These are the quickest ways to speak fluently and end up being able to talk to any English speaker in the world.
Being bilingual is a great thing to have on your CV and will open another culture to you.
English classes at school are rarely enough to become bilingual. You need to be speaking English every day, listening to English conversations, immersing yourself in the culture, and working on your pronunciation. Here’s some advice on how to do just that.
If you want to improve your spoken English, speak English fluently, or just meet a native English speaker, you should consider travelling to the UK, the US, or Australia, or any other English-speaking country. If you want to learn English for your future career, you’re much more likely to master English grammar and become fluent if you’re immersed in an English-speaking culture where you can hear English vocabulary and phrases every day. If you realistically want to become bilingual, you’ll want to spend at least a year there.
Oxford University! (Source: elsalvador.com)
Why do you have to go? In addition to meeting English-speaking people, immersion helps you to think in English which in turn helps you learn speaking skills and gain fluency. There’ll be a moment when you wake up one morning and think “I’m going to have a shower” (in English!). This is when you’ll know that you’re on your way to becoming bilingual.
Soon your brain will be dreaming in your second language. Usually, this process can take somewhere between 3 weeks and 3 months if you’ve fully immersed yourself in an English-speaking culture. Developing your vocabulary and improving your English pronunciation happens somewhere between the 6 and 9 month mark since the English language isn’t always the easiest to learn to speak.
Don’t forget that there isn’t a golden age for an English learner. Your language skills don’t just disappear one day. In fact, if you practise your listening skills, spoken English, and spend your free time studying English grammar rules, you’ll learn to speak English in no time and at any age!
You can also live with a host family or do a study abroad programme. You’ll be put into an English school and live with a family, giving you an opportunity to embrace the culture and the routines. Total integration is the quickest way to become bilingual.
Thanks to university exchange programmes like Erasmus, students can jet off to spend a semester or academic year in another country and study English. They can live in university residences and attend English university classes just like a native speaker would.
If you don’t feel like studying, there’s nothing stopping you from working. You can always get a temporary job in an English-speaking country. Or a permanent one!
If it’s in the right field, you might even learn business English or at least a few English words related to your work.
A good number of people do a variety of jobs while they’re abroad and these are usually just to pay the bills. The job isn’t very often that important since the main goal is immersion and becoming bilingual in your new language. Apply for student jobs and those that don’t require English fluency or English to be your native language. However, try and make sure that these jobs require you to speak English every day otherwise you’ll break your immersion. You could always work in fast-food chains, shops, or cinemas…
It’s not always possible to just move to another country due to financial reasons or family commitments. That doesn’t mean you can’t go on holiday to these countries and practise your English while you’re there.
Spend your next holiday in London, for example. If you don’t want to go to the capital of England, you can always go elsewhere in England, or to Scotland, Wales, or Ireland. Focus on visiting cultural sights with an English-speaking guide to listen to the accent and make the most of your time there. You can also work on your own accent a bit while you’re there.
Jersey’s not a bad shout! (Source: Wikimedia Commons)
If you’re on a budget, consider more unusual destinations. There are tonnes of places in the English-speaking world to visit and the unknown destinations are usually cheaper than the most popular ones! You don’t always have to go to London or New York
Watch the news in English! (Source: SkyNews)
A good number of English tutors record news stories for their students to work on their listening. You can also listen out for the different accents and see how one country reports news compared to another.
You can also repeat the expressions and copy the accent and intonation. At the start you mightn’t understand everything but that doesn’t mean you won’t get the gist.
Once your level gets better, you should consider evaluating your level in English!
You can download MP3s and listen to them. It’s better to do this in the morning when you’re more alert.
Today you don’t even really need to live near English speakers to hear them thanks to English-language radio stations! You can listen to podcasts!
More and more cinemas around the world are showing films in their original language. Avoid the translation as often as you can. However, it might be weird to hear how some English-speaking actors actually sound if you’re used to their dubber. Why not use cinema to learn English.
Once you’re bilingual, you’ll be as happy as someone who finally won an Oscar. (Source: Behance)
If you can’t get over this, you should think about watching a new English TV series with actors you’ve not heard dubbed.
Once you’re bilingual, it won’t all be Greek to you (unless you’re Greek).
Buy a DVD or BluRay and choose the original audio. When you start you should include the subtitles in English to help you.
You must have heard of Harry Potter or Twilight? If you’ve already read them, why not read them again in English? When the books were coming out, Harry Potter fans would have to wait months for the translations to come out. Sales of the English versions were boosted by impatient fans. Adults did the same for the 50 Shades sequels.
With new books coming out all the time, English literature is your gateway to improving your vocabulary. Young Adult Literature is often better for those learning the language as the language used in these books isn’t normally as formal or complicated as in other genres. They’re not even all about young love, either! There are horror, fantasy, and history books in this genre, too.
If you ever had a pen-friend in school, this is quite similar. However, it’s much quicker.
Thanks to modern technology you can make new friends over Skype. You won’t even have to leave the comfort of your own home to do it! Talk about in-home English tutorials!
Social networks are great for finding people.
It’s possible to learn a foreign language at any age. That means you can still do so even after you’ve left school. Sometimes people decide that they’re just too old to do it. On the other hand, if you have children, don’t wait until they start secondary school to teach them English. In fact, you should be thinking about teaching them as soon as you can.
Children can start learning English through games, songs, and stories at around 4 or 5 years old. By 7 or 8 years old they can start putting together their own plays in English and practice on their pronunciation. At 10 to 12 years old, they could even write a song in English and put on a show! Improve your English writing here.
And once you’re a famous bilingual, don’t forget to keep a low profile!