English can be a tough (sounds like fluff or duff see tip 1) language to learn but there are some really simple things that you can do to help yourself from the start. Try these five tips for starters…
Probably The Greatest Pronunciation Tip of all time
Sometimes English words are difficult to pronounce because the spelling variation can be huge.
If you do not know how to pronounce a word find two words that sound the same and match them for sound. For example.
You find the word ‘shoe’ and if you think this is pronounced sho-e because your eyes tell you it looks like sho-e. It is however more similar to ‘shoo’ but it is not spelt that way.
You have to find two words that might look different but sound the same.
You and too are good examples here.
Write the words down and repeat them.
You shoe too, you shoe too, you shoe too, (click below to listen)
All three words look different but are pronounced the same way. Say them over and over again until your ear tells your brain to stop trusting your eyes.
Learn from your mistakes
During a conversation exercise in class, your teacher should be monitoring what people are saying and writing down mistakes. You need to keep a diary of these mistakes and become aware of them so you know what mistakes you are making and why. Sometimes mistakes come from the form you are used to in your mother tongue. For example, lots of Italians will say ‘make a shower’ because it translates from fare una doccia. Even though everyone will understand you from the context, this collocation is incorrect and should of course be have/take a shower. Mistakes like these are known as interference from your first language and are perfectly normal. But it is imperative that you learn from your mistakes and are open to being corrected. Do not take correction personally.
Leave the dictionary alone and train yourself to think
When you were a baby you couldn’t read and you still managed to learn your own language, maybe even two! A dictionary should be your last resort and should only be used if you have exhausted every other avenue.
Use context and ask questions if you do not understand a word before you go to a dictionary. Is the speaker friendly, angry, happy, sad? What are you talking about? Is the word a ‘good thing’ or a ‘bad thing’? Is it an action or a noun?
Not all words are ‘translatable’.
For example, you will never find ‘What’s the craic?’ in a dictionary or ‘How’s she cuttin?’ and you must train yourself to figure out what these words and phrases mean from the context and/or by asking.
Put labels everywhere in your house. Put yellow post-it notes on your furniture, blue post-its on your appliances, orange post-its in the bathroom and so on. Make sure English is in your face, everywhere 24/7.
Find a job
I know it is easier said than done sometimes but getting a job is a great way to learn a new language. I know of one person who never got a lesson in his life, started working in a pub in Italy and speaks fluent Italian. He learnt everything from working in the pub. He is an exception but getting a job in a place where you have to think quickly is great for your language skills and also your friendships.