Learning a new language as an adult is always a daunting challenge.
You might have spent years learning a new language and, finally, you have the opportunity to use these new skills in your career. Making sure that you have a high level of English aptitude is important for communicating with clients and producing important documentation.
Take a look at some of our strategies that you can implement in your daily life to improve your English skills.
Speaking English fluently
Language learners are often intimidated by communicating with native speakers in their language.
Don’t be afraid to jump into the deep end. The quickest and best way to improve your speaking fluency is to immerse yourself in the language as much as possible.
Some ways to improve speaking fluency in your daily life:
- Use music as a resource – You don’t have to be a rock star, but using music will definitely help you elevate your language skills. This is not only fun but also an effective method to improve your fluency. Start listening to songs in English – this will help you remember new vocabulary, while trying to imitate the artists will improve your pronunciation.
- Become the narrator of your daily life – Narrate out loud what you’re doing while completing daily tasks. For example, while you’re cooking, narrate every action you’re doing and talk about the ingredients that you’re using. It might sound silly, but this will help you learn and remember vocabulary about daily tasks, which you might not learn otherwise.
- Get feedback from native speakers – If you have the opportunity, make friends with people who speak English. Socialising is a very important part of becoming more comfortable and confident in your abilities to communicate in English. Native speakers won’t mind you asking them to correct your pronunciation or mistakes you might be making repeatedly. If anything, they will be very excited about someone taking the effort to learn their language.
- Watch documentaries in English about your interests – If you’re planning on studying abroad or working in an international environment, it is important that you have the right vocabulary to talk about your field. The importance of this is often overlooked by language students. Change the language settings of Netflix and watch documentaries in English that are related to your field of study and work to make sure you’re equipped with the right vocabulary.
Another skill that is important to focus on improving is your writing, especially if you will be using English in an academic environment.
Pay attention to the four major types of writing to know which kind you should be focusing on and improving:
- Critical writing – In a way, it seeks to persuade the reader, but this type of writing examines the opinions and conclusions of a topic. The best example of this is a literature review.
- Descriptive writing – This is seen as the simplest form of academic writing, where the main objective is to present facts and create a clear picture in the reader’s mind of a place, object or thing.
- Persuasive writing – This includes articles that have the objective to persuade the reader towards the writer’s opinion, normally by presenting facts and solid research to support their point of view.
- Analytical writing – This type of writing requires you to break information down into parts that need to be assessed to come to a conclusion.
When writing English for academic or professional purposes, make sure that you always:
- Use the correct tone – The contents of the writing determine the tone. Pay attention to whether your writing has to be formal or informal and how you want to convey your message to the reader.
- Use clear and concise language – Always avoid flowery language in professional writing, as this delays your message from being delivered and will leave your reader confused. When writing in English, stick to the rule that less is more.
Expand your vocabulary
Enhancing your vocabulary is important when learning a new language. Having an expansive vocabulary will increase your reading speed, comprehension and fluency.
To start expanding your vocabulary, let’s look at five words which you can add to your writing:
- The first is “whereas”. This helps organize a sentence contrastively with a minimum of fuss. For example, “Ian uses the same words over and over again, whereas John has an extensively developed vocabulary.”
- Another useful “organising” word is “conversely”. This would usually come at the beginning of a sentence to imply a matching contrast with the previous sentence. For example, “Opponents of immigration have argued that it places too much pressure on scarce resources. Conversely, migrants themselves have complained that they are often denied access to necessary facilities.”
- “Nevertheless” is a word which helps produce both contrast and cohesion in your argument. For example, “Opponents of immigration have argued that it places too much pressure on scarce resources. Nevertheless, most economists continue to believe that immigration supplies further resources, as well as consuming existing ones.”
- One word which can be very useful in constructing an argument is “empirical”. It means “derived from or pertaining to experience” – so an empirical argument is one which is derived not from first principles but from observation of the facts. For example, “Arguments from first principles suggest that referendums ought to be the most direct form of democracy. However, empirical observation suggests that this is not always the case.”
- “Alternatively” offers us a way of introducing a different angle of a particular question. For example, “Renewable energy supplies must be developed if advanced industrial societies are to prove sustainable. Alternatively, it could be argued that we should all learn to use less energy.”
A note of caution regarding vocabulary: DON’T BE A THESAURUS. More complex is not always better, but it is important to have an extensive vocabulary.
To improve your English skills, it is important to find the method that works best for you. Always keep your goals in mind and commit yourself to achieving them within a certain time frame. The best way to improve is to start!
Ben Worthington is originally from northern England, but for the past 15 years he has been living abroad in a few different countries.
As the founder of the IELTS Podcast, Ben started his journey as an English educator in 2006. His competitive nature and passion for results led him to focus specifically on IELTS Students. This resulted in the creation of the IELTS Podcast, a platform to help Students improve their English in order to achieve their goals, study abroad or emigrate for a better life.