1. Take advantage of any opportunities you have
to communicate in English

Learning a language is hard work and without enough motivation it is very difficult to do the necessary work and to improve. This motivation often comes from the need to use English as an international language at work or whilst travelling. But whatever your motivation is, you will become more motivated if you can use your English to take part in some sort of meaningful communication. This is usually more rewarding than passive understanding (e.g. reading a book or watching a film) and will prove to yourself that you are making progress.

Donít be afraid to make mistakes, itís part of learning, and communicating with other non-native speakers is good practice (it doesnít have to be a native speaker!)


- donít be afraid to speak as much English as possible on holiday or at work
- chat online (voice or written, find another non-native if youíre worried about mistakes)
- donít be afraid to speak in any group English lessons that you have

Here are some notes that I give my students about optimising speaking time in lessons and correction
during speaking.

2. ĎGrammarí is only part of learning English.

Unfortunately a lot of school English still means grammar exercises. Doing grammar exercises is only one part of improving your English. And donít forget, just because you can do the grammar exercises, it doesnít mean that you will use the grammar correctly whilst speaking.

So donít lose motivation because you think that learning English is just about getting a grammar book and spending hours doing the exercises.

3. Motivate yourself!

English learners are very lucky because there is so much material freely available that
we can use to help improve our English. So instead of just using boring grammar/vocab books choose articles, books, films etc. that you are really interested in. The quality of learning will be much better if you are genuinely engaged. There is so much on the internet, for instance, which is great learning material, and that will be genuinely interesting for you!

Reading or listening (podcasts, films etc.) for fun will help you a lot if you can motivate yourself to do it regularly. Choose things which you really want to read/watch/listen to, and don't worry too much about vocabulary you find difficult - only look words up in a dictionary if you really want to, to make it more enjoyable. Dictionaries, vocab learning etc, i.e. studying, can be done at another time as part of your more focused learning. Just 'understanding' a lot of English regularly is really important.

If something you choose to read/watch/listen to isn't fun because there's too much which is difficult to understand, then just leave it and try something else, don't feel guility about this!

4. Vocabulary is about repetition

Learning vocabulary is about using or understanding words again and again until they become learnt. Think about this when you plan your studying. It is more efficient to concentrate on tasks that repeat the same vocabulary than to cover lots of vocabulary themes that you never repeat. And donít just write out lists! We learn by doing active, engaging things with the vocab.

Here is a PowerPoint presentation with advice that Tom gives to his university students about how to learn vocabulary efficiently if you're given a list to learn.

Youíll find some great
ideas for learning vocab here in the  BBC World Service website vocabulary notebook.

5. Take quality notes

If you decide to take notes whilst you are studying then make sure they are good notes and do something with them afterwards, donít just put them away in a cupboard! Here are some notes on notes that I give my students to help them improve the quality of their notes.



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