Following on from last weeks’s post abut having fun in English when you are out and about or socialising, this week we look at ways to add some variety to your English studies when you are sat at your desk or in front of your computer. Learning English on your own can be frustrating and it’s easy to lose interest and motivation. It’s all very well burying your head in a course book and memorising rules and structures but studying grammar at the sentence is both boring and limiting. English is such a rich language, full of idiomatic expressions, colloquialisms, ‘turn of phrases’ and many different words meaning the same thing, but how can you access this richness if you are not exposed to it in your daily life, as when you live in an English speaking country?
By ‘thinking outside of the box’! We suggest you ditch your grammar rule book for a while and focus instead on English in its most varied and expressive forms. There are so many way to liven up your study time.
- Increase your knowledge of idioms. Many languages have their own collection of these expressions. They are combinations of words which taken together have a specific meaning which is different to the actual words used, for example – ‘it costs an arm and a leg’ means it is very expensive! These idioms are usually unique to a specific language and culture but are understood by everyone within that culture. They are an extremely common feature of English so learning a variety of them to use will improve your fluency.
- Joke around. Understanding humour is key to understanding a culture and connecting with people. Many jokes are classic ‘word play’ or puns, meaning they are based on the different possible meanings of a word, or words which sound alike but have different meanings, so this is a great way to increase your vocabulary and knowledge of informal English. As well as reading jokes and puns, try creating your own and using them in conversations with your friends. Watch stand-up comedians online with subtitles, or even better, try to see a live gig (show). This guy Michael McIntyre in particular is very funny (and doesn’t swear).
- Study your favourite songs. Find English songs on Youtube and read along with the lyrics on a lyrics website to improve your vocabulary, pronunciation and rhythm. Or take your favourite song in your own language and translate it to English. Challenge yourself to create new phrases in English that will correctly translate the exact meaning of words or phrases from your native language.
- Perfect your pronunciation with poetry. This is a great way to increase your vocabulary as well as learn about rhyme and word stress. Try reading aloud to improve your pronunciation and intonation, then have a go at writing your own, or translating your favourite piece of poetry from your own language into English.
- Find some fairy tales. Most cultures have their own version of fairy stories. They have simple plots and only a few characters so they are easy to remember. Read them then try retelling them to a native speaker, or try to rewrite them as you remember them. Have a go at creating your own or translate a tale from your own culture into English.
- Try out some tongue twisters. You’ll really improve your pronunciation, as well as impress your friends! Tongue twisters are difficult even for native English speakers but they are really fun! For example: “If two witches would watch two watches, which watch would which witch watch?”
Check out our free downloadable reference sheet with examples of idioms, puns, fairy tales and tongue twisters to get you started.
Next week, we will look at fun ways you can adapt your social media activity to improve your language.