On this page are a number of tips to help you learn English. These tips go for any language, not just English. If you want to learn a language there are a number of things you can do. I hope these help.
Tip #1: Make it interesting.
This is the most important rule. If you want to learn something, you have to be interested in it. Listen to your favorite band or watch your favorite movies. Play World of Warcraft. Read people’s blogs. Read articles and books on politics or religion. Whatever you find interesting, that’s how you should study English. It will keep you motivated. Talk to other people about your interests. Find friends online. Don’t make English boring.
Tip #2: Speak English all the time.
Speak with your teacher, your classmates, your friends, your family, and even by yourself.
Many students think that it’s only beneficial to speak English with native speakers. This is 100% untrue. Every time you speak, it helps your brain understand the logic of the language. It also helps your brain get used to the new words and grammar structures. The best speakers in class are the people that speak the most. Why? Because they always speak, not because they study more or are smarter.
For the same reason, you need to speak English in your class. Speaking Turkish does not help you learn English. It takes time for your brain to switch over to thinking in English. If you speak in Turkish, your brain can’t switch. It becomes difficult to change back and forth between the langauges.
Usually the first 15 minutes of a class are difficult for a learner. After 15 minutes, if you speak only English, your brain will switch over and it will become much much easier to speak and understand. If you speak in Turkish, your brain can’t switch over. This is very problematic for the amount of language you learn and remember.
Tip #3: Make mistakes. Make lots of mistakes.
Mistakes are great. It shows that you are learning. If you don’t make a mistake, how can you learn? If you don’t speak, how can your teacher notice your problems? How can your teacher tell you, “Yes, that’s right” or “No, that’s wrong”? You have to make mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes. It’s normal and it’s part of the learning process. Don’t worry about the teacher or the other students. They all make mistakes too and they understand.
Tip #4: Be patient.
Many students want to learn English immediately. This is impossible, especially for beginners. It’s ok and normal if you don’t understand present perfect immediately or if you forget a word 10 times. Slowly, slowly, as you use English more, you will remember more and you will understand better. You cannot learn present perfect or even present simple in a day. It takes a long time and there are many many different functions for words or grammar.
Tip #5: Don’t focus on grammar.
Turkish students love grammar. I don’t know why. Grammar is like math, 1+1=2, S+V+O. Math is simple, but it doesn’t help you speak or understand.
Many Turkish students think you should first recognize the grammar, then understand it, then use it. This is not true. Refer to # 1.
You need to use English, use English, and use English. Understanding will come later. Believe me. I’ve taught for a long time. I know what works and what doesn’t. The students that obsess over grammar and are always worried about making mistakes are the ones that never learn to speak.
Context is the most important thing when learning a language, not grammar. If you understand the context, then you understand how the grammar or the word is used.
Tip #6: There are always exceptions to every rule.
Turkish students want rules that can’t be broken. This is impossible for a language. Language is always changing. Is the Turkish you speak now like the Turkish people spoke 60 years ago? Is Istanbul Turkish like Turkish spoken in Trabzon? No, Turkish changed a lot over time and from place to place. English is the same. Things change, people use different grammar and different words all the time. Don’t worry so much about rules. Worry about communicating.
Tip #7: Use what you learn.
Similar to #1, if you don’t use the English that you learned, you will forget it. If you write something in your notebook, it does not mean you learned it. You have to practice and use the new word, phrase, or grammar again and again. For new vocabulary, you should always write at least 4 sentences using different tenses and different subjects. You should also speak these sentences out loud. Remember, writing and speaking are skills in different parts of the brain. You can also make word clouds or list things like the other parts of speech, synonyms, atonyms, ect. You can do similar activities for new grammar. I guarantee, if you do this, you will remember vocabulary and grammar much better
Tip #8: Practice makes perfect.
This is an idiom in English and is also closely related to # 1 above. Use English wherever you can. Watch English movies and listen to English music. Read books, write emails and blog comments, speak to other learners, etc. Every little bit helps.
Tip #9: Use the Internet.
You are very lucky. Everyone wants to learn English. There are thousands of sites out there to help you learn English. There are grammar practice sites, listening practice sites, sites about movies, sites about music. You can go on YouTube, you can Skype or MSN with people from around the world. It is so easy for you to practice English; it’s unbelievable. The Internet is your best friend. Let it help you. In fact, I made a list of helpful sites for you to use here.
Tip #10: Learn about the culture.
Much of language is tied to the culture that speaks it. You might understand every word in a sentence, but it still doesn’t make sense to you. This is often because much of the meaning comes from the culture. To help understand culture, you should watch foreign films, read foreign books, listen to foreign music, and, most importantly, talk to foreigners. Many cultures are radically different from Turkish culture. They think differently, they have different beliefs, different attitudes, a different sense of humor, and different history. If you learn about these things, you will understand English much better.
Tip #11: Read a newspaper article or blog post every day.
You should pick a section of the newspaper or a blog that you are interested in. For example, everyday for a month, read an article about religion. The writers will use similar grammar and language every day, so it will become easier and easier for you to understand. After a month, choose a new subject, like sports. Then you can learn the words and grammar for that subject. If you try to read articles on every subject, it will be too difficult for you.
Tip #12: Watch the same movie at least 3 times.
The first time you should watch it in Turkish (or with Turkish subtitles). This way you understand what is happening.
The second time you should watch it in English with English subtitles. This will help your reading skills and it’s usually easier to read than to listen.
The third time you should watch it in English with NO subtitles. This will help your listening skills.
Think about it. How many people watch foreign TV series and movies in Turkey? Almost everybody, right? Does everybody in Turkey understand English? No. This is because, if you watch a film with subtitles, it doesn’t help your listening skills.
Tip #13: English is NOT Turkish! Don’t translate! Think in English!
The words have different meanings, the grammar is different, the culture is different. Do not try to translate Turkish to English. Think in English. If you think in Turkish and translate, you will make all the mistakes that typical Turkish students make. I know it’s hard, but you need to think in English. Very few things are similar between the languages. The sooner you start thinking in English the better.
Tip #14: Buy a Learner’s English-English Dictionary.
Refer to #13. Try to never use a Turkish-English dictionary. They are terrible and it will usually be wrong. Instead, try to explain the word using English you know. Maybe a friend or the teacher can then give you the word you need. You can find these at most bookstores in Turkey. Here is an example of a learner’s dictionary.