The early bird catches the word – Five reasons why getting up early will help your English

early birdWe’ve seen the expression ‘the early bird catches the worm‘ before on the World of Words. But how can getting you up early help you learn a language?

I’ve mentioned before that I’m an early-riser. In the past, I’ve used my extra time in the mornings for a number of things, including learning a language. Nowadays, I prefer to use the early morning for writing.

If you’re a night owl and you enjoy living that way, that’s fine. If you think you could get up just a little bit earlier to to help improve your English, keep reading. It’s not difficult and, who knows? You might grow to like it. Here are five great reasons to get up early and learn English.

1. Mornings are quiet and there are few distractions
If you lead a busy life, it can be difficult for find a quiet time when you can concentrate. Especially if you have kids. Interruptions can disrupt your concentration and it’s even worse if people interrupt you in another language and stop you from thinking in English.

Early mornings are almost always a quiet time. The kids are still in bed, there are no workers making noise in the street outside, and the rush hour is still a long way off. Making the most of this time can be a great way to learn some new vocabulary, review a grammar point or even take a speaking class if you learn online.

2. You won’t need to cancel your practice
After a busy day at work, there are lots of reasons to cancel your English practice. Maybe a friend wants to go for a drink with you. Perhaps you need to take your kids to football practice. It might even be that you’re just too tired to practice. None of these things would cause you to cancel your practice if you did it before you started work.

3. You have the rest of the day to reflect on it
I mentioned a few weeks ago some tips on how to use your downtime to learn English. If you make an early start, you can review what you learnt throughout the day and make sure you really remember it.

4. You’re fresh and can think clearly
Let’s be honest – to start with, you might feel a bit tired in the morning. Once you get into the habit, though, you’ll be fresh and alert. You’ll also not have your mind full of all the things you have done in the day. A fresh, clear mind is great for learning new things.

5. It helps you get into a habit
Lots of people have written about how powerful habit-forming techniques can be for helping you reach your goals. People have applied it to personal finance and productivity, and it works for learning English, too. It’s so effective, in fact, that I will go into a lot more detail on this in a future article.

So, how do I start getting up early?

There’s a great guide to this on Leo Babauta’s excellent blog, Zen Habits. The article is really worth reading because it’s very simple and well-written. Here are the main points I found helped me learn to become an early-riser.

Start small
Try getting up fifteen minutes earlier each week. It’s quite easy to adjust this way and in a month, you will be getting up an hour earlier. Think of what you could do with all that extra time!

Have a good reason
There’s no point in getting up early unless you have something to do with the extra time. I think learning English is a good reason to get motivated to wake up earlier,

Learn to love the morning
I used to hate mornings. It really used to take me a long time to wake up. However, now I have spent time learning to get up early and made it into a habit, mornings are my favourite time of day! I always go to sleep looking forward to waking up the next day and enjoying the morning.

Have you ever tried learning in the morning? If so, let me know how it went by leaving a comment below. I’m always eager to hear about other people’s learning experiences.

Today’s image is by PsychoPxL.

Bored of Learning English? Five ways to make learning fun!

man yawningDo you ever feel a little bored when studying English? Maybe just a tiny bit? Learning a language is hard work and takes a long time so it’s natural to feel bored or frustrated occasionally. Here are some ways to make learning fun again:

1. Watching movies – Teachers really often mention this as a good way to develop listening skills and hear people speaking at a natural pace. It can be difficult to follow the dialogue at times, though. Especially if the actors have heavy accents or are using a lot of idiomatic vocabulary.

If you have trouble following, it’s fine to put the subtitles on but remember to have them in English. Reading and hearing the words at the same time usually helps with comprehension.

If you don’t have time to watch a movie, watch an episode of a TV drama or comedy. The language used there is most likely to be natural, too. Watching TV shows for kids in English can be fun, as well and it’s a nice family activity.

Remember, whatever movie or TV show you choose, make sure it is one you enjoy. Don’t force yourself to sit through a boring show just to learn English.

2. Imitate adverts or people on TV – This sounds a little childish but can be a really good way to develop your intonation and speech rhythm. Try recording your favourite actor and copying the way he speaks. It’s fun and great practice.

3. Singing – Not everyone likes to sing and that’s fine. If you prefer not to sing, try one of the other methods instead. If you do like singing, do it as often as possible in English. It’s a great way to build your pronunciation skills and confidence, too.

4. Reading – Read subjects you are interested in. If you are interested in a subject, you are more likely to try to understand all the words and expressions in the text than you would of you were reading something boring.

5. Actually doing it! – What was the reason you started learning English? I bet it wasn’t so you could just sit in a classroom for hours. Actually putting your English into action by talking to foreign colleagues or English speaking friends makes all your hard work worthwhile.

If you don’t have any English-speaking friends, make some. You can meet friends online. There are Internet forums on any topic you could imagine. Join one related to your hobby or field of work and get involved in a discussion in English.

Try volunteering to be a tour guide. Many historic sites need tour guides to show foreign tourists around. This could even turn into a part-time job!

Start your own conversation club. If you have some friends or classmates who want to practice, meet up for a coffee and agree to only speak English to each other for a few hours.

I said at the beginning that learning a language is hard work and that’s true. It’s important to remember, though, that hard work doesn’t have to be boring. Approach leaning in a way that’s fun and relevant to your life and you’ll find your skills improve faster than you could imagine!

This is the fourth installment of my new ‘Tuesday Tips‘ series. Every Tuesday, I try to share a simple tip on how to improve your language skills. Some of these are techniques I use with students in class and others are things I’ve found work well when learning languages myself. If you decide to try them out, let me know how they went by leaving a comment below the article. Click¬†here¬†to see some more tips on how to improve your English.

Today’s image is by Jean-Pierre Knapen.

How to learn new vocabulary – and remember it!

rememberA piece of advice language teachers often give their students is ‘learn three new words every day‘. This is a great idea but only if you can actually remember the words and make them part of your active vocabulary. Here’s a simple tip on remembering new vocabulary so you will actually be able to use it when you speak.

Step 1: Find the new words that you want to remember. I find the best way to find new words in another language is reading the news but maybe you have another way you prefer. If the vocabulary is not in context already, type each word or phrase into your favourite search engine and have a look at some of the real-life examples of it in context that come up.

Step 2: Write the new words or expressions on a small piece of card or a memo on your cellphone / PDA so that you can keep them with you throughout the day.

Step 3: Keep the words with you for the whole day and whenever you have some free time, make three sentences with each of the words. This helps to put them in your active vocabulary so are able to use them fluently when you speak.

By the end of the day, you should be able to remember the words or expressions and won’t forget them for a long time. I find this method works best starting early in the day and finding the new words before work so I have the whole day to make sentences with them whenever I have a few minutes spare. It only takes a few minutes in the morning to find the new words and write them down so even if you’re not an early-riser, it’s still fairly easy to find the time.

Which words are on your list for today?

This is the third installment of my new ‘Tuesday Tips‘ series. Every Tuesday, I try to share a simple tip on how to improve your language skills. Some of these are techniques I use with students in class and others are things I’ve found work well when learning languages myself. If you decide to try them out, let me know how they went by leaving a comment below the article. Click here to see some more tips on how to improve your English.

Today’s image is by Bartek Ambrozik.

Don’t waste time – Think in English

man thinkingHow much time do you waste in a day? Have you thought about it before? Most people waste time commuting to work, waiting for people to turn up to meetings, waiting in lines, the list is endless.

Why not use that time to practice English? For this simple tip:

  • you don’t need a teacher
  • you don’t need to buy any special materials
  • you don’t need to download anything
  • you don’t need to pay for anything

So, I bet you are wondering what the tip is. It’s very simple:

Think in English

Think about whatever you want. The important thing is to do it in English. If you are on the train, try describing the other passengers in your head. If you are waiting for a meeting, think about the agenda in English. Wherever you are, there’s always something to think about.

How will thinking in English help me?

First of all, it will help with your fluency. Thinking in one language then translating into another is what makes people have to hesitate and causes unnatural speech rhythms. Once you can think directly using the language you are speaking, your fluency will improve dramatically.

Thinking in English also helps you to discover what you don’t know. If you are waiting for a train, thinking in English and can’t remember how to say which direction the train is going in, you have identified a weak spot in your vocabulary and will be able to work on it later. Knowing what your weaknesses is very valuable because it can help you to focus and make the most of your practice time.

I tried this technique when I was learning Indonesian and I found it worked really well here because people are often late and I had a lot of waiting to do!

What would you like to think about in English?

Today’s photo is by Paulo Correa.

Make your English sound more fluent – Today!

This is the first installment of my new ‘Tuesday Tips’ series. Every Tuesday, I’ll try to share a simple tip on how to improve your language skills. Some of these are techniques I use with students in class and others are things I’ve found work well when learning languages myself. If you decide to try them out, let me know how they went by leaving a comment below the article.

Many people think that speaking more quickly in their second language will make them sound more fluent. These people are wrong! Speaking too fast has exactly the opposite effect. It makes people sound nervous and unsure of themselves. Have a look at these examples.

First, an example of someone speaking slowly:

Now, an example of someone speaking too fast:

Obviously, the second example is a little exaggerated but I think it makes the point well. I certainly know who I would have more confidence in!

Speaking slowly also has a lot of benefits for language learners, such as:

1. It gives you time to think while you are speaking so you don’t need to hesitate while trying to remember vocabulary or decide how to express a yourself.

2. It means you can concentrate on making your pronunciation clear and accurate.

3. It makes you feel more confident because it gives you time to breathe evenly and relax while you speak.

It’s a very simple tip but it works really well! Try it today and see how much more confident it makes you sound and feel.