English has become essential to our day to day life. Everything is written and spoken in English. If you want to learn anything in life, you better learn English first. So it’s not a matter of whether you should learn English but rather when.
When will you start learning English seriously?
One of the common problems for English learners is that you don’t understand what is being said. You don’t know what the TV, Youtube videos, movies, foreigners are talking about. It’s frustrating.
Actually, that’s a good thing because at least you have something to improve 😄.
But before you begin, you need to ask yourself a couple of questions:
- Why do you want to learn English?
- What can you gain after you achieve a good level of English?
- Are you willing to put in the effort to learn English for long term, like 6-12 months?
- Are you willing to learn English every day?
If you don’t have a strong enough reason to learn English, you’re not going to follow through.
But if you passionately want to learn English, only then should you seek for the how.
I’m going to talk about the Hows of learning English in a series of blog posts. But today I will only focus on the listening part: how to improve your English listening every day.
First of all, you need to:
1. Define your goal
Without a goal, you won’t know where you’re going. Without a goal, you won’t have the motivation to achieve it.
- What level of listening are you aiming for?
- Do you want to watch and understand a Youtube video without subtitles?
- Do you want to watch and understand your favourite TV shows or movies?
- Do you want to have a conversation with a foreigner and understand what he/she is talking about?
Write down your goal on a piece of paper or anything.
2. Check where you are
Next, you need to check your current level of listening to see where you stand right now compared to your goal.
When you watch an English video on Youtube with English subtitles on, are you able to understand the content?
- If you can understand most of it, try turning off the subtitles, listen again. How about now?
- If you can’t get the meaning, find easier video to watch, like those videos for kids with slower pace. Try switching subtitles on and off to check your comprehension.
Write down your current level. It could be something like this:
- Able to listen to a Youtube video at native speed with subtitles on.
- Or, able to listen to a Youtube video at native speed without subtitles.
- Or, able to listen to an English learning video with slower pace with subtitles on.
- Or, able to listen to a video with English subtitles, but have to pause and look up the dictionary a lot.
- Or, unable to understand anything even with a slow video and subtitles on.
If you don’t understand any English video, it’s fine. Everything can be improved so just write it down.
3. Come up with a plan to improve
Now that you know your goal and where you are right now. You can start to design a plan to reach that goal.
Here, I will give some suggestions first. Then depends on your schedule and learning style, you can tweak it to your liking:
- Go to Google. Search for “English podcast”.
- Click on one podcast. Each podcast has a series of episodes. Each episode lasts about several minutes. Try to find a way to download them. Some of them are free and can be listened through iTunes.
- Listen to those podcasts and see which one is the easiest to understand (slow pace with vocabulary explanation).
- Then listen to all the episodes in one podcast. Make sure you understand most of it.
- Find a harder podcast. Repeat the process.
- Go to Youtube. Search for “learn English”.
- There should be an overwhelming number of videos about learning English.
- Try out each channel to see which one you like the most.
- Turn the subtitles on. Make sure you understand everything.
- Turn the subtitles off. Make sure you still understand everything.
- Watch all the videos in the channel.
- Move on to some other channel.
Although many people prefer to watch a video rather than listening to a podcast, I would still recommend podcasts because it requires no attention from your eyes. You can listen to a podcast while you’re on the way to work, while you’re cooking or exercising. It’s very convenient. And when you find the time to study, you can always switch back to watch videos on Youtube.
Next, you have to put English learning into your every day’s schedule. This is what I recommend:
- Download your favourite podcasts into your phone. Listen to them whenever you’re commuting. This could take about 30-60 minutes but the good thing is you don’t need to focus on it. You can listen while you’re doing something else.
- Find sometime at night, maybe one hour, to sit down and watch a few videos about learning English. Take note of new vocabs (it’s best to put into Anki).
- Do these steps every day, even on weekends.
4. Refine the plan and keep the habit of learning every day
After a few weeks, you should know what podcast/Youtube channel works for you and what doesn’t. You also know what time of day is the best to learn English. Keep refining your plan until it fits your interest and schedule.
At this stage, I would recommend you to take an online 1-on-1 lesson with a native English teacher so that you can verify whether you are able to understand conversational English. The teacher can also point out your mistakes in pronunciation, in grammars, in speaking and help to correct them. This is the best practice. I will have a separate post to talk about this.
As you can see, the plan is dead simple. The important thing is to always know why you’re learning English so that you can keep yourself focused and discipline every single day.
I hope you can find improvement as fast as you could.