BBC Learning English (Watch and Listen)
Watch and listen to TV and radio programmes
British Council LearnEnglish in Listening
Listen to stories, articles and poems, all with audio scripts
Listen to the radio news or watch a television news programme at the same time every day. How many stories are there? Note down what each story is about (think: when, where, who, what).
If you can, record the programme and listen to/watch it again to check details from the first time. You cannot do this in “real life” but it is very useful practice and it means you find out what you got right the first time and this will boost your confidence.
Alternatively, record a news programme without listening to/watching it. Then play only the headlines. Stop the tape and predict what the stories will be about. Then listen to check your predictions. Use one of the stories as a dictation text. Listen several times and write down what you hear.
Don’t force yourself to listen for too long. Set yourself realistic goals. For example, when listening to the weather forecast, just listen for the temperature and weather conditions for your city/area for the next day. Don’t worry about information which won’t affect you.
If there are similar programmes in your language and in English, compare them. Is the content exactly the same? Are the opinions given similar? What are the differences?
Native listeners don’t often listen to or understand 100% of what they hear. Non-native listeners shouldn’t try to either. Work on strategies to find out what people are talking about – listen for clues about the topic, the speakers’ opinions/feelings and the type of relationship they have (eg boss and employee, colleagues, wife and husband). Practise on the bus by eavesdropping on (secretly listening to) other people’s conversations. Or, try to work out what a tv/radio programme is about when you’ve missed the beginning.
If you are watching an English-language film with subtitles in your language, listen to check if the subtitles are accurate. Are they a direct translation or just a summary of what is said? If you hear a bilingual announcement, is the grammar exactly the same? Notice the differences and the similarities.
Watch a television soap opera every day so you get to know the story and characters. Knowing the background and context makes listening easier.
Enjoy listening. Use an English-language workout video and “kill two birds with one stone”. Listen to songs in English and learn your favourite lyrics.
BBC Learning English (Watch and Listen)
Pronunciation advice and practice
British Council LearnEnglish in Listening
Listen to a pronunciation poem
Become aware of how native speakers behave and copy them.
Watch a native English speaker’s mouth on television. Note what shapes they make and try to copy them. Listen out for characteristic “English” sounds and copy them too. What noises do they make when they are thinking? How do they take turns to speak? What happens to their voices when they get angry or embarrassed? Do they only smile in certain situations or with certain people? All these things are just as important as the words they use.
Ask a native speaker you know to help you with English you don’t understand.
Keep your questions simple and don’t expect your friend to know their English grammar as well as you do.
Talk to yourself in the mirror
Sing your favourite songs in English to copy the native speaker sounds. Have a set of general topics to choose from and take a new one each day.
Try to think in English
Ask yourself: How would I say that in English? How could I explain that idea to an English speaker?
Set up a conversation group
Meet regularly to talk in English. If you are preparing for an oral exam/interview, ask one friend to practise the interview with you and another to listen and give you constructive feedback on your performance. Then swap roles. Keep your conversations on topics you are familiar with. If you don’t know what to say, change the subject or keep quiet until you feel you can contribute easily again.
Write familiar conversation topics on cards.
Take a card and speak about the topic for two minutes. Record yourself and then listen, checking for things you could improve. Next time you take the same card, can you speak more confidently?
Learn some English: sentences which you need again and again.
Practise so that you can say them in conversation without having to worry.
BBC Learning English
Understand words in news stories
British Council LearnEnglish
Magazine articles to read.
Learn five words a day.
Note them in a small diary, five words for each day. In this way you quickly build up a large set of vocabulary. If you keep the diary in your pocket, it is easy to review it on the bus or in a queue.
Create a personal dictionary.
Use a notebook to organise your vocabulary. Decide how you want to sort out the words:
parts of speech (eg all the adjectives together)
topic area (eg food, crime)
function of the language (eg suggesting, complaining)
If you use an address book with A-Z dividers, you could make an alphabetical sequence.
Keep a scrapbook of headlines, articles and advertisements
Include vocabulary that interests or amuses you. Write down phrases you hear on television or read and note the context they were in.
Use pictures to record idioms
Draw a cartoon picture to make each expression more memorable: eg “a storm in a teacup”.
Use the idioms to label a poster of your favourite singer or actor. Put “He pulled her leg” next to the leg, “She has no heart!” next to the heart, “She didn’t believe her eyes” next to the eyes, and so on. This may help you remember them better.
Make vocabulary cards
Write the English word on one side and the translation in your language on the other. Prepare the cards with new vocabulary and then use the cards to test yourself. Look at the English word and try to remember the translation.
You could also try to explain the meaning of the word (How would a dictionary define it?) or think of a sentence including the word. This is another activity which is easy to do when you have a few minutes of free time if you keep the cards in your pocket or bag.
BBC Learning English in the news
Choose a topic and click on Reading
British Council LearnEnglish in reading
Read magazine articles on many different topics
Remember that there are different ways of reading
Think about the process of reading. When you skim read, you just get a general idea about the content. If you are looking for something particular, for example the name of your team on the sports pages, you scan the text for more detail.
When you do any reading, predict what the text is going to be about from the title or the pictures. After you have read the text, do something with the new information you have, think about these questions:
Who is the article about?
Where and when is the article talking about?
What are the main points of the article?
What kind of people would find the article interesting to read?
What is your opinion of/reaction to the article?
Share your understanding
If someone you know has read the same article, talk about it with them. What do they think? Do you agree with them?
Read the same material in English as you would in your language
If you enjoy reading about fashion in your language, read about fashion in English too. You will already understand some of the vocabulary and ideas and have a good background knowledge. Conversely, if you hate films and never go to the cinema, reading an English-language film review will probably not be a useful exercise for you because you won’t enjoy it.
If you have access to the same material in your language and in English, compare the two versions. How has the translator expressed the same idea in the new language? Is it a good translation? What would you change? Are the texts exactly the same?
Set yourself a reading target
Reading one article every day is better than reading a whole paper only once a fortnight. Ask your teacher to recommend suitable materials.
BBC Learning English (Learn it)
Answers to your grammar questions
British Council LearnEnglish in Grammar
Read & listen to English every day
Reading and listening to natural English will expose you to a lot of new grammar in a natural context. Find magazines that interest you, watch films in English and read simplified readers with tapes, or do the crossword in the newspaper.
Try to work rules out for yourself
Try and work out rules for yourself before checking in a reference book. If you try to work things out for yourself first, this will help you remember it better. It’s also good practice as you won’t have a reference book with you all the time, so you’ll often have to guess the meaning of unknown words.
Keep a notebook
Have a separate notebook for grammar. When you come across sentences or paragraphs with good, clear examples of structure and grammar, write them in your notebook. Grammar rules need good examples to help you to better understand. Don’t just learn the translation. Practise using the grammar and vocabulary in the right context in written and spoken sentences.
As well as writing in a notebook, try to stick what you’ve learned in a place where you often see it. For example, you could stick it next to your mirror in the bathroom. While you’re brushing your teeth, read through the list and try to remember them. You could stick words on the walls or beside your computer.
Learn words in groups or phrases
There are many words in English that go together. Try to learn words together with their partners and not words on their own, e.g. phrases (brush up your English), adjectives or verbs with prepositions (interested in, listen to, verb and noun collocations – do your homework).
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