Hack Your English In 10 Easy Steps!
Do You Ever Struggle to Wake Up?
Although I truly love my job as a teacher, there are mornings I struggle to get out of bed. In those moments, as I’m laying there dreaming of sleeping another hour or two, I remind myself of all the students I’ve come to know, respect and care for. The amazing relationships with my students are my "why." And by "why", I mean the most important reason you do what is important to you. For instance "why" you are motivated to learn English.
So, I get up, get ready and head to work. And I never regret it. At the end of the day, I’m proud of all my hard work and happy I was there to help. What is your "why"?
Remember Your Why
If you find yourself lacking in motivation, sit down and go over all the reasons you decided to learn English in the first place. Really embrace your why. Chances are, many of your reasons will be connected to your future goals: to get a dream job, to be able to communicate with the global village in English and thus more success in life.
In a nutshell, you made a wise decision to do something very important for yourself, and to achieve your goals, you’ll have to work hard, even when the devil in you doesn’t want to. In those moments of weakness, remember you are moving towards fulfilling your dreams!
Find An Awesome Study Buddy
Who said learning English had to be boring? Not us! Sometimes having a study buddy or two to support, inspire and grow alongside you is invaluable. You can quiz each other, ask and answer questions about subjects that are confusing, and review and discuss recent lessons. Best of all, you’re speaking and listening in English the whole time! Be sure to keep study groups small- no more than 3 or four people, and make sure the folks you’re choosing to study with are as serious and motivated as you are. And of course, have fun!
Unlike a super-computer, your mind cannot process information without rest. Break down your work goal into small steps and be sure to give yourself a little break in between. You really shouldn’t spend more than an hour without giving yourself time to refresh and rest your mind. Actually, for many people even 25 minutes of focus is enough before we need a little “me-time”.
If you want to read a whole chapter in a book, divide the section in two or three page mini-sections, and pause between each one. Grab a cup of tea, stand up and stretch, take a short walk or chat with a friend. Just remember that your brain can only handle a certain amount of new information before it shuts down. If you’re like me, and often lose track of time, I have an awesome app to suggest for you. It’s called Tomato Timer. It tells you when to take a break and when it’s time to get back to work! and it’s totally free.
Tomato Timer https://tomato-timer.com/
Reward Yourself For Your Hard Work
Studying can be hard work. When you work hard at a job, you get a paycheck in return. Well, studying, taking notes, going to your classes on time and paying attention are all deserving of a reward too. When you have set and then reached a goal, give yourself a small treat. It could be a small item you’ve been eyeing for a while, or you could simply let yourself chill out with a ton of popcorn and the new movie you’ve been dying to watch. The point is to find a way to reward all your hard work when, and only when, you deserve it. Never reward bad behaviour. No buying yourself a new pair of shoes for missing three classes and forgetting to review your notes! Unless, of course, it’s your birthday…
First Make It Happen, Then Make It A Habit
Once you’ve set a goal for yourself, such as improving your listening skills, or learning 25 new phrasal verbs, take the time to make a study schedule for yourself. It’s important that the schedule is realistic. Don’t promise to work two hours a day when you know that you have trouble focusing for more than an hour or you’re very busy with other responsibilities. Setting small targets and reaching them is the key to success.
Also, think about what time of day is best for you to focus on learning. When do you usually have the most energy? When can you concentrate and not be disturbed by roommates or work calls? You also need to consider where you should study, but we will look at this more closely in #7. Whenever and wherever it is, make sure it’s working for you. Before you know it, studying English for 30 or 60 minutes a day will become a habit and eventually doing your homework or revision won’t feel like a chore. It’ll be another part of your daily routine.
Avoid Temptation And Zero In On The Work
When it’s time to study on your own, find a place that will encourage you to focus on the job at hand. You should avoid anywhere with tempting distractions. If you’re an avid TV watcher like me, or you have chatty roommates, get out of the house. Are you a desk person? Is the local library your ideal spot? Or maybe you're like me, and do best in a cafe or small diner.
For many years, I believed that everyone studied at home. So, that’s what I did. And between phone calls (this was before the time of cell phones!) and making snacks, I managed to get some work done. Then in university, I found cafes. By leaving all the comforts and distractions of home, and removing myself from the temptation of invitations to hang out or chat with friends, I could really concentrate on my studies. I could get more done in an hour or so than I could by studying all day at home.
Everyone’s different, and so what works for me may not work for you. The key is know yourself, and get away from all the people, places or things that can distract you. (And don’t forget to turn those phones off. Or even better, leave them at home!)
Focus On What’s Important
Studying English can be so difficult partly because there’s just so much to know and think about. If you’re a student in a language class, you’re getting hours and hours of information day after day. How can you possibly remember it all? You can’t. But you can process the main points from lessons. Pay attention to the signals. If your teacher writes something on the board, it’s probably a good idea to take some notes and summarize them. If you’re teacher says, “This is important…” get your pen out and start writing. Do NOT just grab you phone and snap a pic! Read the next tip for more on this!
PS If you can’t tell what’s important in a lesson, ask.
Be A Note-Taking Ninja
Avoid using your cell phone to take pictures of the information from the board. Chances are you’ll never look at them again, and the process of writing down information you want to remember actually sets it in your memory. Also, many learners thrive by actively participating in the learning process through movement. Writing something by hand means your body is involved. Another trick that can help is saying the words out loud as you write them. The more you and all your senses are involved, the easier it is to later recall the information you’ve learned.
Use Memory Games (Mnemonic Devices)
There are a lot of tools available out there for anyone eager to learn and one of them is the practice of using association or visualization to help remember and recall information.These tricks are very personal and that’s what makes them so effective.
Here is a simple example. Let’s say you’ve just learned the word couch, which is a synonym of sofa. Now, you might say the word out loud to yourself and think about the time you banged your toe on the side of your couch at home and yelled, “Ouch!” in pain. Now you have a very personal link to the new word. All you have to remember is ‘Ouch’ + a “C” at the beginning. You can even visualize the experience with the word ‘Couch’ in big red letters floating above using your imagination.
Take a moment and picture this. It’s day one in a new class for two students. They have been placed in the same level because their skills and abilities are very similar. I introduce myself to both students and I ask them to tell me something about themselves and student one says with a smile, “My English is pretty good now but I want to improve it because I want to work in the hospitality industry.” Student two says quietly, looking down, “My English is not good, so I can’t get a job.” Can you guess which student will find more success? Why? Having a positive outlook is vital.
If you catch yourself thinking or saying, “My English isn’t good enough” or “I should have started learning English when I was younger” or “I wish I’d been a better student” turn the idea into something positive. “I’m doing my best right now,” or “Look at how much I’ve learned since I started.” You’ll not only feel better about yourself, but in the end you’ll be more successful.
Bonus Hack below!
"Neo, sooner or later you're going to realize just as I did that there's a difference between knowing the path and walking the path."
- Morpheous, from "The Matrix"
The Affirmation Hack
Hey, I don’t want you think I’m a hippie who dreams of befriending unicorns and talking to dolphins, but I do believe that our success is often connected to how we see and define ourselves. The mind is your most powerful tool and your thoughts about yourself should be your ally, not your enemy. If you have trouble with this, try saying a positive affirmation to yourself a few times a day. Here's one to get you started, “I am a master of English and I am getting better every day.” Repeat… Go ahead, it’s your turn!
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