Tips for learning languages

woman with headphones at a laptop

We asked some of our educators 'What tips do you have for improving language skills?' This is what they said.

Find people to talk to

Do you know anybody in your network who speaks English? Maybe you have friends or colleagues at work that you can speak English with. If not, look for 'meetups', social events for people interested in practising languages. Or what about a language exchange? You find someone who is learning your language, and in exchange they speak to you in English. A language exchange app can also be a great way to find a conversation partner. (Remember to stay safe when connecting with new people in person or online.) Practising English socially is fun! You get to know new people and use your English for real communication. 

Build up your listening stamina

Look for videos or podcasts on a subject which interests you, as this will make you feel more motivated to listen. Using videos or podcasts with transcripts can be very helpful too. Try to listen for short periods of time at first (maybe starting with one minute) and then gradually build up listening stamina by listening for longer periods of time. 

Read short stories

Reading a long novel in English can be difficult if you're not used to it, so one way to start is with short stories. It's even better if the story is written at the right level of English for you. 'Graded readers' are especially written for language learners and they exist at different levels, often from beginner to advanced. You may be able to find these in your local library, or there are lots available online.

'Notice' correct grammar

Noticing means paying attention to language patterns when you hear or see them. And it's something you can do in your everyday life. Imagine you've been going around saying, 'Don't worry for that'. And then one day you hear someone say, 'Don't worry about that'. If you're a good noticer, you'll recognise that what you just heard is the correct version, and you'll make a mental note to say it correctly next time. Once you've noticed a correct bit of grammar being used, it means you're ready to learn it and use it yourself.

Improve pronunciation by listening

If possible, spend time (as much as possible!) listening to the language before you start learning it. Learn the 'music' of the language: listen for what sounds are familiar and what sounds are strange, and see if you can notice different intonation patterns. Once you start learning the language, it will probably be easier to understand and pronounce.

For lots more tips, check out the articles in our Improve your English level section. 

What do you think?

Can you share any tips or advice for improving English language skills? Tell us in the comments!

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