How much do you need a teacher to motivate you to learn English? The question came up for me this week as I’ve just come back from Australia, very curious to see what my own students and clients have been doing on their own to improve their English while I’ve been away.
It should come as no surprise that the best language learners, or at least those who make the most progress, are the ones who are internally motivated and who can study English on their own without their teacher to guide them.
Motivation is a funny thing. I know one client of mine who read an article I sent her last week, and who also answered some reading questions and looked up new vocabulary. But there’s no way she would do any writing homework! Similarly another client enjoys reading novels for pleasure, which is a great way to learn English and to relate better to the language beyond mere grammar. But after a few Cambridge exams, I doubt she’d choose to do any serious grammar exercises in her free time!
I’m betting a third category of client thought: “well, if David’s away I’ll wait for him to come back’. It can be fine to have a break – if there’s a plan to get back to English once the course resumes. But waiting for me (or whoever you teacher is) seems to imply you need some kind of outside influence to give you the discipline to study English.
It’s also worth remembering that only your imagination limits you in what you can do to study English! Gone are the days when ‘studying English’ meant page after page of grammar exercises and tests.
So do you really need a ‘break’ from English when you can naturally integrate activities for learning English that you enjoy into your everyday lifestyle?
As I’m sure you are already aware, but may forget on occasion as other things get on your mind, there’s a whole world of English out there for you to listen, read, and participate in.
Which of these activities could you do to help you improve your English?
- read the headlines in a newspaper which you find interesting, and choosing one or two stories each week to read. Newspapers which are quite popular across the globe include The Guardian (UK), the Globe and Mail (Canada), the New York Times (USA) and the Age (Australia).
- spend an hour a week on a learn English website, choosing activities which suit your needs. An example here is the vast resource from the BBC http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/
- follow the life of your favourite celebrity for a week. This is not for everyone but if you love reading the gossip in Czech (or your native language) it could be fun to see what is written about your favourite film or pop star. People in the news this week include politicians Silvio Berlusconi, Tony Blair, Presidents Obama and Hu, as well as Kate Middleton, Ricky Gervais, and the tennis stars at the Australian Open.
- find a blog which interests you and post a comment after you read one of the articles on the site. You can practice this here in fact 🙂 A list of the world’s biggest blogs is here . For more specific blogs you may need to surf a little, using google to help you.
- watch a scene from your favourite TV show either on its official website or Youtube. Even better – these days you can buy DVDs of your favourite shows. Why not order them and watch an episode of Friends or the Mentalist at dinner each evening?
- find a podcast for one of your hobbies and interests. You can search under iTunes or ask your friends what they listen to. Podcasts and be downloaded onto your iPod, so you can listen to them on the bus, at the gym or on the way to work. One site which has some fun videos is Howcast – you can watch a 2 minute video and also follow the script for new vocabulary. http://www.howcast.com/
- buy your favourite magazine in English once a month. Foreign magazines are expensive in Prague, but if you spend a few hours reading the Economist or Cosmopolitan, it’ll be worth it.
- write a postcard or an email to a friend of yours from another country.
- call an American friend on Skype to find out how they are.
- spend an hour walking around the centre of your town, writing down the words you see in English (eg on the shop windows).
- write a story or a keep a diary for a week. Even better – make this permanent. If you usually keep a diary in Czech, why not do the same thing in English?
- watch a film nominated for this year’s Oscars. Invite a friend and talk about the film in English afterwards.
- join a club where you’ll meet foreigners in Prague.
- google the lyrics of your favourite song. Watch it on Youtube. What is the song about?
- what can you do in English instead of doing it in your own tongue?
The main point is that if you are motivated enough, there are literally HUNDREDS of things you can do NOW without your teacher in order to improve your English. Just imagine what you can achieve if you start doing more things on your own instead of relying on your teacher!