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Self-study English

Let's talk about some ways to self-study English, but first... is it even possible to learn a language through self-study?

Well, if you're talking about studying a textbook, using a mobile phone app, or scrolling Instagram then no, I don't think it's possible. Why? Well, because language is a vehicle for communication, so if there isn't another person involved, it begs the question: What are you doing it for? If the only interaction you have is with a page in a book or screen on a phone, what is the point?

If, by self-study, you mean balancing various self-study techniques with English lessons and other real experiences with English speakers, then yes, self-studying can help you make real progress.

With that in mind...

Self-study English tips:

Do your exercises. Get yourself a grammar exercise book and work through it. Exercises help increase your familiarity with structural patterns, and allow you to repeat things until they become natural. But... don't forget to try and apply the patterns you have learnt in real situations whenever you get the opportunity to do so.

Practise Speaking! Don't expect what you know in theory to come out of your mouth easily in practice. 'Knowing' something and being able to use it are not the same thing. Our brains need time to process what's happening and time to formulate what it wants to say in response to a situation. You can close the gap between what you know and what you can do with one simple thing... practice!

Repeat Repeat Repeat! Don't expect to read something once and remember it. Repetition is essential. Repeat and recycle the word or phrase until it sticks. Whenever possible, try and learn longer 'chunks' of English not just individual words. This will help you with both vocabulary and structure, and make your English sound more natural. For example, the phrase 'be looking forward to' is usually followed by the 'ing' form, so practise it as such. 'I'm looking forward to going...', 'She's looking forward to trying...', 'We're looking forward to seeing...'. This will help it become automatic and before you know it, you won't have to think about it.

Self-study English
to practise (v) practice (n)

Check your pronunciation. Check the pronunciation of unfamiliar words using an online dictionary (or native speaker), and don't forget to find out about pronunciation variations, weak sounds, and stress patterns. Unlike many other languages, the English sound system is quite different from the written system, so just because you know the word on paper, doesn't mean you'll recognise it when you hear it, or be understood when you try to say it.

Look in the mirror! Pronunciation is physical so just like any other physical skill, it takes physical practice. Practise your pronunciation using a mirror to check the position of your lips and tongue for individual sounds.

Read anything and everything. There is no better way to learn a language than quantity of input. Read anything and everything around you. Read often and make it part of your routine.

Don't forget listening too. Balance input from written English with listening comprehension. Learners who have great structural awareness and vocabulary range, often tell me that they struggle with speaking, listening comprehension, or both. As I mentioned earlier, this is because the written and sound systems are not as closely related as you might like, so it's essential to experience both written English and spoken English to progress well.

Focus on transactional English. Language is not just about knowing individual words, it's about responding to situations, receiving and transmitting information, and communicating! - this cannot be practised with a textbook or app. Native speaker, teacher, or other English learner, is doesn't matter who, but find another person to communicate with.

Self-study English

Talk to native speakers to build your confidence. However, don't assume they will correct your mistakes. Even when asked to do so, most native speakers won't feel comfortable doing this (not enough anyway) and why should they? If they understand what you are trying to say, naturally, they will consider this to be sufficient even if you are insistent on improving your accuracy. The good news is that speaking without correction is great for improving confidence.

Avoid doom scrolling! Think of Instagram, Facebook, or TikTok as bonus material rather than a main source of English learning. Remember that most teachers on social media are not necessarily aiming to teach new people through the channel, but rather providing their existing students with bonus material and a platform to keep in touch. By all means follow and engage with social media pages, but don't expect it to be enough to make good progress. If you do follow teachers on social media, choose your teacher wisely ensuring that they know what they are taking about. There is a lot of great content on the internet, but there's a lot of bad and unhelpful content too; make sure that the teacher is presenting the English that you need. Learning lots of colloquial or idiomatic American expressions will not be very useful if what you need is more formal British English. Read more about this here

So, good luck with your self-study but remember, the key is balance.

If your self-studies are going well, and you are now ready for an English teacher to help you with your next breakthrough, get in touch, and I'm sure I can find a course that's perfect for you.

English Progress with English Lessons
Self-study English versus English Lessons


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