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9 tips to improve your English

By Kamini Taneja
Last updated on: March 17, 2015 17:55 IST
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Studying English demands you to invest time to learn and practice new words and expressions, says Kamini Taneja, senior corporate training consultant, British Council.

Learn new words and practice them

Have you ever been in a situation when did not have the right words to express your ideas in English?

Did you feel you need more sophistication and complexity in your expression?

A lot of people face the same situation and would like to communicate more effectively in English but how can this be achieved?

To begin with, the most important thing to do is to set time aside for studying English.

You need to ask yourself -- how many hours am I going to spend learning English in a week?

Learning English can happen in a variety of ways.

Some of these methods include:

Create a personal dictionary

This entails using a notebook to organise your vocabulary.

You could record new words or phrases you have learnt according to a topic area or a theme, parts of speech (adjectives, nouns and so on), idioms etc.

The key thing is to record the word or phrase in context; which means writing a sentence than just the isolated word.

This will help you remember it better, allow you to make associations with the context and personalise your learning.

Using post-its

Write the word, phrase or chunk of language on one side and the meaning on the other. You can do this for five to six words at a time.

Stick the post-its on your mirror, the wall or the wardrobe in your room.

Test yourself in the week by remembering the meaning of the word and making an example sentence. You could also take the post-its with you in your bag!

Learn some routines in English

This relates to learning sentences which you need again and again.

Practise so that you can use these in conversations with people you meet every day without having to worry.

Set up a conversation group

Form a group with your peers, friends or colleagues -- write some familiar conversation topics on cards.

Take a card and speak about the topic, be prepared to discuss the topic at length (5 to 10 minutes) with your group.

Think of expressions you could use to agree, disagree or interrupt.

Ask a lot of questions to extend the topic and most importantly enjoy the conversation!

Maintain a writing file

Collect authentic examples of different text types (letters, emails, reports, advertisements, instructions).

When you have to write something similar, you can refer to these texts for layout, organisation and content.

Maintain a diary of your thoughts and ideas

Write down how you feel and what is on your mind at the moment.

Write freely and don’t worry about making mistakes.

You need to balance accuracy and fluency in your written work as well in your spoken English.

You can use these personal reflections and ideas in more structured writing (like essays) later on.

 Mind mapping

Brain storm ideas when deciding what to write.

This means putting all your ideas on paper in note form.

Once you have a lot of ideas, you can select the relevant ones and cross out others.

This exercise is useful just to get as wide a variety of ideas as possible.

Plan your writing

When preparing to write a report or an essay, don’t forget you need to plan first.

What points do you think you need to make? What order should you put them in for best effect?

Think about these things before you start.

Later, you can concentrate on getting grammar and vocabulary correct when you are writing.

Make a checklist

When you revise the final copy of your writing, notice the mistakes you have made; these could be related to grammar, spelling, using the same words again and again, paragraphing etc.

Make a checklist of these mistakes and refer to the list before you do the next piece of writing so that you don't make them again.

Illustration: Uttam Ghosh/


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Kamini Taneja