For most of our students, we know that doing one or two English lessons a week isn’t really going to be enough to help them see real improvements in their fluency or to take their English to the next level. That’s why it’s really important that we talk to our students about the different things that they can do on a daily basis to consciously (and subconsciously) work on their English. In this article we wanted to talk about some of the best tips you can give to your students of all levels to work on their English every day.
1. Change your devices to English
This is a great tip even for beginner students. Most of us know how to navigate our devices pretty easily, so changing them to English will just give your students exposure to new vocabulary and terms they might not know.
2. Download a Language Learning App
A lot of language learning apps are perfect for beginner students because they start from basic vocabulary and phrases and then slowly transition into grammar and more complicated topics. Some free apps you can recommend to your students are Babbel, Memrise, and Busuu. Tell them to spend 10-15 minutes a day ‘playing’ with the app whenever they have a chance.
3. Word of the Day
Good for beginners and more advanced students, word of the day services are a great way to help a student learn new vocabulary. Some good ones are Miriam-Webstar’s Learner’s Word of the Day or EnglishClub.com’s Word of the Day. Students can sign up for alerts to get the new words sent directly to their inboxes every day.
4. Use a Flashcard App
Speaking of new vocabulary, students need a way to memorize all of these new words and phrases. When students were learning English in school, it was easy to memorize- they were forced to because they had to take tests and quizzes. However, outside of the academic environment it’s a little hard to force yourself to memorize. One thing you can do is recommend that your students download a flash card app for their phones- this way they can keep track of all of the new things they’re learning and then test themselves from time to time. Some free apps you can recommend are Flashcards by Brainscape, Flashcards+ by Chegg, or Flashcards Maker Pro. Recommend that at least once a week they go through the cards and do some review.
5. Listen to an English Radio Station
This one is one of my favorite meta-learning tips. Listening to the radio in a second language is one of these ‘subconscious’ ways of not only increasing comprehension, but also expanding vocabulary and improving grammar. Tell your students to download an English radio app that they can listen to while they’re doing other things such as driving, cooking, or working out. Without noticing it they will be absorbing a lot of important things and they’ll notice a huge improvement in comprehension if they listen for 15-30 minutes a day! Some apps I like to recommend are this American radio station and then the BBC radio station app.
6. Follow an English Language Learning Blog
There are tons of ESL blogs out there and they can help students understand some of the trickier things that aren’t taught in school, or rather the words and colloquial phrases that are often used by native speakers. Because most of Fluentify’s users are Italian, we manage a great blog called The Zine that is specific for common doubts or mistakes of Italians learning English- you can recommend it to your students!
7. Shower Conversations
You might know this method by a different name, but ‘shower conversations’ is just the way that we refer to having conversations with ourselves in our second language. Tell your students to try to do this when they are in the shower, walking to work, or any other time when they might be thinking to themselves about something. This helps students go from ‘translating’ to ‘thinking’ in a second language and it will have a huge impact on their fluency. This is also a great way for students to figure out where they have ‘vocabulary gaps.’ Tell them to look up these new words and add them to their flashcard app!
8. Have a Trusty Translator App
In our opinion, one of the worst things to happen to language learners was full sentence/ paragraph translation apps. Students are trying even less than they were before to understand and study sentence construction and correct grammar tenses because there’s an app that does it for them. It’s a disaster, especially when people actually need to speak in English. However, students will still need to translate vocabulary in order to learn new words so it’s important that they have a reliable app or website. We always like to recommend Wordreference.com because it gives more than one translation for words and also includes some full verb conjugations- it’s all a student needs to be able to create their sentences and express their ideas.
9. Written Language Exchange Platform
A lot of our students will need to use written English either for work or study. Sometimes during short English speaking lessons, it’s hard to find the time to work on a student’s written pieces. One way that they can continue improving their written English is by signing up for a written language exchange platform. The idea behind this is like a ‘writing tandem’ where students can write a short note in English and native speakers will correct it. The the student is then expected to correct some writing in his/her native language. Some sites you can recommend are Lang-8 or Word Reference’s Language Platforms.
10. Watch an English TV Show
The final tip, which is great for high intermediate and advanced learners, is to watch or follow an English TV series. This one is also popular with students because, of course, it’s entertaining. Remind your students to use ENGLISH subtitles if they really need to at the beginning, but to eventually wean themselves off the subtitles so that they don’t become dependent on them and they can really work on their comprehension. Being able to understand some or the majority of a TV show in English is a great accomplishment for your students, so encourage them to try!
These are just some of the things that students can do to work on their English every day and to help them go from the basics to a decent level of fluency. Of course, these are recommendations and you can’t force your student to do these things, but try to figure out which methods would be the best for their situation, goals, and level and convince them to try them out!
Are there any other meta-learning tips that you recommend to your students that we didn’t include? Share them in the comments below!