Make learning English your new favorite habit
For those of us who have had little or no chance to live and work in an English-speaking country, learning this language can turn out to be a real challenge. English is the official language of the United Nations, the EU, the British Commonwealth and the International Olympic Committee as well as of the territories of the former British Empire. Ever since the Internet became a global phenomenon, speaking two or more languages is pretty much a standard and English is no longer treated as a foreign language.
You may be lucky enough to have been born in a developed country and in your school days been taught maths, physics and humanistic subjects in more than one language. That sort of education can provide You with a better life due to your greater value on the job market and easy access to valuable sources of information on the Internet. But what if You were born in one of the post-soviet states or third-world countries where education is nowhere as good as it should be? To be honest, In this case there’s no simple solution. But I am convinced that thanks to the new technologies available to every single one of us via smartphones and tablets, we can obtain new skills easily and cheaply.
I still learn English myself and whilst preparing for my CAE exam I recently came across an app named Duolingo, invented by Luis von Ahn, the same guy who formerly released reCAPTCHA, a service which significantly accelerated the process of digitizing books. Duolingo is free, fun, serves bite-sized lessons supported by a system which tracks your progress and provides great achievements. Having direct access to this app from any place in the world means that you’ll never slack with regularity again.
But how to adapt new ways of learning to our lifestyle, considering that even the cleverest solutions obviously demand sacrificing our precious time and involvement? Statistically, we work approximately 10 hours per day including one hour commuting to and one hour from work. That leaves us with little time left to spend on additional activities like reading or learning. That’s why it’s vital to make the most of every opportunity during a day and make every effort to spend at least one hour a day on self-education.
What’s important, waiting for the right moment and postponing things never makes sense. As once emphasized in The Skool of Life, “At some point, you have to take the leap. If you wait until the leap looks more like a baby step, you’ll spend your whole life waiting. And really, isn’t it better to do than to prepare?”
To make things easier for myself I created the following list of activities which can be done during a day. I divided them into three groups depending on how much time it takes to accomplish them:
Less than 30 minutes
- Use Duolingo or Babel apps to complete at least one lesson
- Listen to podcasts available on Soundcloud and BBC
- Talk to people from around the world via Speaking24.com
- Use your Twitter account to post tweets about current issues
30 to 60 minutes
- Choose an interesting book and read at least one chapter
- Start a blog and write no less than 480 words each day
- Watch one episode of your favourite TV series with English subtitles (like this one - thanks for recommendation, Martin)
More than 60 minutes
- Get involved in a community of travellers like Couchsurfing and use its communicator for conversations
- Enroll in an English course
- Going abroad? Travel to an English speaking country
- Persuade your flatmates to speak in English only for one day in a week
- Hang out with people from abroad, Erasmus students etc.
- Rent your flat via Airbnb and benefit from meeting amazing people
- Change your job to one in which you can speak English
There’s a difference between getting an education and learning something so if one of the above-mentioned methods doesn’t suit you, simply disregard it and keep trying different ways of learning effectively.
Make a realistic plan and stick to it, don’t allow it to undulate during the week. Measure your progress and think about next goals to reach. Last but not least, take and enjoy the upcoming opportunities, you never know what may be waiting for you just round the corner.
[Image: Galymzhan Abdugalimov]