Learning a language on your own is both easy and difficult. Organize your classes correctly, choose the right methodology, find good textbooks and dictionaries – and learning can even turn into a hobby.
The habit of studying regularly will allow you to raise your level of knowledge over time above the level of many university graduates who do not study the language after graduation. By communicating with foreigners, expand your social circle. And when you reach your goals, you can be rightfully proud of yourself.
Problems in self-study of English
Learning English on your own is an idea that has visited many. But not everyone succeeds in realizing it. Why?
The first problem is lack of control. Sometimes, in order not to miss a lesson, you even need willpower. Anything can distract you, from an interesting movie on TV to an invitation to go out with friends. Have a clear schedule and stick to it.
The next problem is errors. When learning a language on your own, you need to be very careful, sometimes even pedantic. If you make a mistake (albeit a minor one) while studying with the teacher, he will correct you. When you learn on your own, there is no one to correct you, and the memorized construction will “take root” in speech and writing. Relearning is harder than learning. In this sense, an English tutor is the best alternative to self-study.
We draw up a schedule of classes
Make a schedule of classes that will be easy for you to follow. It is advisable to practice daily, for an hour – one and a half with a break of 5-10 minutes. Your schedule is likely to be different, but follow the principle of “it is better to practice often a little than rarely and for a long time.” Doing 20 minutes a day for two weeks will be more rewarding than one five-hour “storm”. Hang the schedule at home in a conspicuous place.
Determine the goal
Define a goal – and focus all your efforts on achieving it. Why do you need English? Conduct correspondence with business partners? Do you want to read your favorite books in the original? Communicate over the Internet? Or maybe go abroad to work?
In class, combine reading, writing, grammar exercises and develop your ability to express yourself. And focus on what you need and what you like. If you want to learn how to speak – talk more, etc. Then the fruits of your labors – skills and knowledge will inspire you to conquer new heights.
Choosing an approach
In order to create an optimal training program for yourself, you will have to become teachers for a short time and get acquainted with the methodology.
There are two main approaches to language learning: “traditional” and “communicative”.
The traditional approach is a combination of audiolingual and grammar translation methods.
If you studied a foreign language at school, then you “know by sight” the grammar-translation method. Grammar exercises, retelling texts (and sometimes even memorizing), expanding vocabulary with word lists, and translations, translations, translations. Of course, talented teachers expanded the list of activities in the classroom, they could interest students. But these are only a few. In most cases, the method was not worth the effort.
The audiolingual method is much more effective than the previous one. It was fully implemented in language laboratories – and today you can buy exercise discs. The training consists in listening and reproducing dialogues – on their basis, grammar is studied, pronunciation is “put”. If you want to learn to speak as quickly as possible, look for good English courses on CD.
The communicative approach combines techniques in which they use exercises unusual for graduates of Soviet schools: games, debates, tasks for finding errors, for comparisons, and analysis of situations. This approach is one of the most effective today. He doesn’t just teach the language – he teaches how to use the language. Choose a textbook based on the communicative method.
Textbooks, dictionaries and your other tools
If you have studied English before, the first thing you need to do now is to assess your level using tests. Do not overestimate it – it is better to repeat what is already known than to get stuck on the third page of an incorrectly selected tutorial.
Choose a textbook that contains not only standard exercises, but also creative, unusual tasks that implement a communicative approach to learning. The more interesting the textbook is, the less chances you have to face the first problem of self-study: “I will study, but not today, but tomorrow.” Tomorrow rarely comes the next day.
Feel free to pass by books, CDs and cassettes with titles like “English in a Month!” If everything were that simple, everyone would have known the language for a long time.
Whatever goals you pursue while learning English, you will need a very good vocabulary. The internet won’t help here – you won’t have enough online vocabulary.
It is convenient to work with a thick dictionary of a small format, which cannot be said about publications in a format larger than landscape. We advise you to buy a general vocabulary dictionary for fifty thousand words, no less (more is better). Please note: a good publication always has examples of the use of words.
Try to choose the most recent edition as possible so as not to waste time and effort on memorizing outdated, outdated words. One more argument for a “fresh dictionary”: in the editions compiled in the first half of the last century, you will not find many words that have long become a part of our speech. It is convenient to use a dictionary with small print – do not let this moment confuse you when choosing. The dictionary is your permanent assistant in language learning, do not spare money for it.
Be sure to use audio materials, courses on CD: as we have already said, they will help you to improve pronunciation, expand your vocabulary and learn to speak English. Even if these are not priorities, listening to dialogues will diversify the learning process. And the more interesting the classes, the better the results.
One option for self-study is to use materials from the online course program. During distance learning, you will be sent assignments by e-mail, you will complete them, send them to the teacher, after checking, he will indicate errors. Taking these courses will help you discipline yourself and learn not to miss classes. This is a good option for beginners.
Books in English have now appeared in large bookstores, adapted for readers of different levels. The required level of knowledge is often indicated directly on the cover. By reading books, you will expand your vocabulary, learn to build sentences, develop literacy and a sense of language.
Watching movies in the original is a real pleasure. Buy movies with an English audio track and subtitles. If your level does not yet allow you to understand complex dialogues, start with cartoons. They usually use simple vocabulary. Watch at the beginning several times with subtitles, pause if you come across an unfamiliar word. For each movie, create a small vocabulary by writing down unfamiliar words as you watch the movie. Please note: there are films where the characters speak quite clearly (for example, “The Hot Chick”, “Chick”) and those where the speech is difficult to make out (“Back to the Future”, “Back to the Future”).
Use the Internet while learning a language – it offers simply amazing opportunities. With the help of Skype, you can talk with native speakers, in the livejournal.com service you can start a blog in English, or just read the online diaries of Americans and British. Social networks, forums, chats – use it and get the most out of it. Do you like to cook? Look for recipes in English, try to cook with them. The language should be useful to you – otherwise, why learn it?
Techniques and exercises for self-study of the language
We offer several English learning techniques that can help you.
Find the lyrics of your favorite songs in English, translate, learn and hum along with the performer.
Spend a vacation in an English-speaking country: combine a good language practice with an enjoyable vacation.
Try to start thinking in English, comment on actions, events, daily incidents to yourself.
Study the culture: This will be useful if you want to travel to a country where English is spoken. Find out what is valuable to the people you interact with. For example, find as detailed a biography of Winston Churchill as possible – it looks like the plot of a gripping book. Read about it (ideally – in English, but it all depends on your level of language proficiency). Not interested in politics? Read, watch films about the key moments of history, outstanding figures of art, science, about the development of fashion, the automotive industry, about social phenomena and customs of countries.
Learning a language is interesting. Didn’t you know?