Right. So you have set your mind on mastering the English language. By mastering the English language, I don’t mean just being able to introduce yourself, ask or answer a few common questions, write an email to a friend or even a business email to another company, I don’t mean just using the language in specific situations but in any situation, anytime, and any place with anyone, native or non-native speakers. The problem is…time. “How long is it going to take me to write and speak English that well?”, most students wonder. Other questions are “how do I start?”, “where do I start?”, “how can I practice English when I hardly meet any foreigners?” and “how much is it going to cost me to study and practice English?” In this article, I’m going to attempt to answer some of these questions and mainly lay out a self-study program guaranteed to impress and do wonders with your English.
I don’t know if you DID have a New Year’s resolution but if you didn’t, that would be a good time to get one. Your resolution is “Mastering the English language”. By making it a resolution, you’re going to have to stick with it. You’re going to fight every weakness, fight every whim, urge or temptation of giving up. And make NO mistakes about it; you ARE going to be tempted to call it all quits. You are also going to try to slack off (be lazy)! You’ll be saying things like “I can’t be bothered studying English now, I need some sleep” or “I’ve been studying a lot lately, it’s not a big deal if I miss one day”, you might come close to losing your motivation which is the key to the success of any great endeavor especially of English learning.
So what are you need for this English self-study program?
- One modern novel.
- A very good dictionary.
- A rap song.
- Internet connection.
- 20 hours study a week.
- $405-550 to cover your expenses for 6 months ($10-$50 novel+$35-$80 dictionary+$60-$70 per month for internet connection).
How can a novel improve my English? And why only one?
Novels feature stories. Stories are crucial for understanding grammar and vocabulary. By understanding, I don’t only mean understanding the grammar rules and words’ definitions, but also understanding and grasping how to use a certain structure in context. A story presents a plot and a plot needs a conflict. Conflicts occur among very well defined characters with clear motives. Your job is to comprehend the characters’ motives and realize the plot in order get to the point when you are able to utilize the grammar and vocabulary of the novel properly in your English writing.
You should not read too many novels at this stage, as it will be very difficult for you to understand the small nuances of grammar and vocabulary. If you keep reading the same novel, you will understand the characters and story much better and consequently improve your grammar and vocabulary much quicker.
What’s the dictionary for?
You need to use the dictionary to help you to understand the events of the story. Where your novel is, your dictionary will be.
How do rap songs help me improve my English?
While novels strengthen your vocabulary and grammar through the written word, rap songs improve your speaking, listening and pronunciation dramatically through the spoken word. Choose one rap song and listen to it repeatedly while looking at the lyrics. Try to follow the rapper’s speed, don’t worry or give up as in the beginning you will fail miserably, but it doesn’t matter as the aim is to force yourself to analyze the differences between your pronunciation and the rapper’s. Ask yourself constantly “Where am I going wrong?”, “what is it that he’s doing and I’m not?”, and instead of just answering yourself with what 95% of the learners answer themselves, “oh well, he’s a native speaker, I’m not”, say something like “if he can do it, I can”, and then go on a frantic search for clues, tricks and shortcuts to help you to sound a bit closer to the rapper. You will gradually see tiny improvements and few months later, if you persevere and stick to the same song, you will start to realize that the rapper’s just a human being, not God. Your confidence in your spoken English will increase tremendously. Your brain will coordinate much better with your muscles.
How can the Internet help improve my English?
The internet is your main research and practice tool.
Study grammar on the internet.
Just google “english grammar” and find an endless number of websites, literally. Some are good, others bad. I personally recommend these:
Search for articles that contain the difficult words, expressions and structures you find in the novel.
This will reinforce your knowledge and enhance your confidence in using the language drastically. This is also particularly useful for slang or idiomatic expressions which the dictionary is not very good at explaining. Use the internet for that. You will find tons of examples on each idiom. Go over a few examples, and then go back to the novel and read the specific text in which those expressions appear.
Learn pronunciation on the internet.
Again, google will never fail you. Google “English pronunciation”, or “native-like English” and get access to hundreds of free websites, articles, tips and tutorials. Again, not all of it is helpful, but that’s OK, just pick a few and use them as clues in your rap song practice. Start HERE.
Chat on the internet.
There are zillions of chat websites. Find a good one and stick with it. Choose a certain group with similar hobbies and interests to yours and get chatting. Once you find someone willing to chat with you, stay with that person and build a connection with him or her. If you try to chat with too many people all at once, they’ll get bored waiting for your reply and eventually lose their interest and ditch you. If you succeed in building rapport with someone, you may be able to become Skype pals and call each other every now and then. Naturally, you will extremely feel nervous at first but after a couple of chats, you’ll relax and begin to enjoy it.
Watch movies on Youtube.
Search for “American movies English subtitles” on YouTube, choose a movie you like, and turn the caption on. It would be better if it had subtitles. Look at the subtitles the first time only though, and then watch it again without the subtitles, and again and again until you’re bored. Once you’re sick of it, go ahead and find another movie you can watch until you hate.
Find some good websites for common slang and idioms.
Don’t just read them. Think which ones are relevant to you? Which ones can you use in your conversations? Pick the ones you think you can use with the person you’re chatting with and plan how you’re going to use them during the conversation. When you do, pay attention to the person’s reaction or feedback.
So here’s the schedule for your self-study program. Of course, you decide the timetable, the times of the days etc.
|Novel Reading||Novel Reading||Novel Reading||Novel Reading||Novel Reading||Watching a movie|
|Rap Song Practice||Rap Song Practice||Rap Song Practice||Rap Song Practice||Rap Song Practice||Net chatting|
|Internet-Studying Grammar||Internet-Watching a movie||Internet-Studying PRON||Internet-Studying idioms and slang|
|Internet-Studying PRON||Net chatting||Internet-Studying grammar||Internet-Studying PRON|