English Learning Self-Study Guide

English learning Key areas

English learning is very difficult. I have met hundreds of English learners who lost motivation shortly after coming to Australia. Big disappointment. There is a myth that most English learners (and their family and friends) believe in prior to coming to Australia. The myth is "if I live in Australia, an English speaking country, for 3 months, I will be able to speak like a native speaker very quickly". Unfortunately, the myth does not last for a very long time. The myth ends soon upon the realization that being in Australia ALONE does not improve your English automatically, and that it still requires a great effort regardless.

Another trap English learners fall into is focusing too much on the 4 macro-skills, reading, writing, speaking and listening while ignoring the key English learning areas or knowledge areas that are the foundation for the 4 macro-skills. There are three key English learning areas: Grammar, Vocabulary and Pronunciation. As long as those learning areas are weak or limited, however hard you practice the four macro-skills, you will not be able to improve your English. You need solid knowledge in both grammar and vocabulary to understand what you read and to write what you want clearly. You also need intensive training in the sounds of English in addition to grammar and vocabulary to understand and speak English well.

English learningUnfortunately, most schools use activities with the aim of improving the four macro-skills rather than train the students in the English learning areas of the language. Therefore, you'd be better off investing a great deal of time and effort into self-study and gaining the knowledge that is key to develop solid skills in reading, writing, speaking and listening.

Here are the key English learning areas you need to target in your self-study.

English learning Key area 1-Vocabulary

English-To-English Dictionary

Do not look up the word in your mother tongue, and if you absolutely have to, write the meaning of the word IN ENGLISH. Also, make sure you understand how to use the word in a sentence and in which situation or context.

Correlation: connection, link, tie, relationship etc
Example: Do you think there is a correlation between high crime rate and lax gun regulations?


Find out if that word or expression has a synonym. Synonyms are words that have the same or similar meaning. Also, ask yourself if there is a way to communicate the meaning of that word formally or informally. For example, is there a slang expression we can use to express the meaning of that word? Is there an idiom we can use to convey the same message?

Hate: resent, loathe, abhor, detest etc
Slang/idiom: Hate (someone)’s guts or hate (something) like sin


Find out if that word or expression has an antonym. Antonyms are words that have OPPOSITE meaning. Once again, ask yourself if there is a way to express the same idea using slang and idioms.

Hate: love, adore, admire etc
Slang/idiom: to love someone is to be head over heels with someone (not to head over heels)

Prefixes & Suffixes

Explore the prefixes and suffixes of word and how that could change the meaning. Prefixes are letters we add at the beginning of the word and suffixes are letters we add at the end of the word. Understanding how to use prefixes and suffixes could help you to build up your vocabulary much quicker than just looking up each word in the dictionary in isolation.

Prefix examples:
Honest: DIShonest (means NOT honest)
Likely: UNlilely (means NOT likely)
Paint: REpaint (paint AGAIN)
Confident: OVERconfident (TOO MUCH)

Suffix examples:
Explore: explorATION – explorATORY – explorED – explorER
Hesitate: hesitATION – hesitANT – hesitANCE – hesitantLY – hesitatED
Relax: relaxED – relaxING – relaxATION – relaxATIVE – relaxationAL
Mean: meanING – meaningLESS – meaningFUL

Phrasal Verbs

Phrasal verbs are verbs followed by a preposition. They are a very important feature of in spoken and written English.


Awake: wake up or get up
Collect something: Pick something up
Explode: Blow up
Raise a child: Bring up a child
Cancel a meeting: call off a meeting

Always write examples of the new words you hear and double-check with your teacher to make sure your use of the word is accurate.

English learning Key area 2-Grammar

Verb BE in 12 Tenses

Memorize the 12 basic tenses of verb BE and learn how to use those tenses with other verbs.

Simple present
Present continuous
Am/are/is being
Simple past
Past continuous
Was/were being
Present perfect
Has/have been
Present perfect continuous
Has/have been being
Past perfect
Had been
Past perfect continuous
Had been being
Future tense
Will be
Future continuous
Will be being
Future perfect
Will have been
Future perfect continuous
Will have been being

Verb Form

Write the present participle, past, and past participle of each verb that you are not sure about and review them constantly.

InfinitiveGerund Present ParticipleSimple PastPast Participle
 To be being being was/were been
 To go going going went gone
 To play playing playing played played
 To put putting putting put put

Subject, Verb, Object

Practice finding and recognizing the subject, verb and object in each sentence. Remember that any sentence, regardless of how small it is, MUST have at least one verb. A sentence can be as small as one word, and that word MUST be a verb. Keep your sentences short.


The man’s family and friendsstoppedhis destructive drug addiction.

Conjunctions & Linking Verbs

Focus on the use of conjunctions to write longer sentences accurately and to avoid confusion.

The man’s family and friends stopped his destructive drug addiction BECAUSE it had a very negative impact on his life.
The man’s family and friends stopped his destructive drug addiction BUT it took him a while to overcome his addiction.
ALTHOUGH the man’s family and friends stopped his destructive drug addiction, it took him a while to overcome his addiction.
The man’s family and friends stopped his destructive drug addiction; HOWEVER, it took him a while to overcome his addiction.


Use punctuation properly. Examples of punctuation are full stops (.), commas (,), semicolon (;), and questions marks (?).

Punctuation is important. First, we need to know what punctuation is, don’t we? Punctuation is not only commas and semicolons; it also entails other marks such as full stops, question marks, colons, exclamation points, and parenthesis!

English learning Key area 3-Pronunciation

IPA & English Phonemes

IPA is International Phonetic Alphabets. Each IPA represents a phoneme. A phoneme is practically a sound which if you change the word would change. IPA symbols help you learn how to pronounce a word that you have never seen before. Study the IPA so that you may be able to pronounce new words correctly.

The IPA of “There”, “they’re” and “their” is /ðeᵊr/
The IPA of “son” and “sun” is /sʌn/
The IPA of “phonetic” is /fəˈnet̬ɪks/

Sound & Spelling Patterns

In English, there is a big difference between sound and letter. We do not pronounce every word as it is written. In other words, you cannot always rely on the word’s spelling to figure out how to say it. Study common spelling patterns for each of the 44 phonemes.

The “ou” combination is not pronounced the same in “pour” “house”, “tour” and “generous”
Sound /s/ is pronounced the same in “science”, “psychology”, “kiss” and” listen”

Minimal Pairs

Do you find it difficult to hear the difference between certain pairs of words? Are you able to distinguish between two words?
Find out which minimal pairs are difficult for you to distinguish between and practice them.

Rice and lice
Badge and batch
Work and walk
Sheep and ship

Tongue Twisters

Ask your teacher to recommend a tongue twister that you can use to focus on the most difficult sounds to you. For example, do you find consonant /r/ difficult to pronounce in the beginning of the word? You may want to practice the following tongue twister:

Round and round the rugged rock the ragged rascal ran.

Reading Aloud & Recording Yourself

Nothing is more effective than reading aloud (except getting trained by me) and recording yourself to improve pronunciation, and subsequently speaking and listening. You have to give yourself feedback even though that could be very difficult to do.

2 thoughts on “English Learning Self-Study Guide

  1. i want to pass toefl and have a big passion to learn english because i wanna to be study in A FORIEGN english country your videos passion me but i need more help. because of my strike in my childhood i cant pronoun r letter well
    please help me

    1. Thanks for watching my videos and visiting my website.
      I would love to help you but I would need to listen to you first.
      You could record yourself and send me the recording at, I’ll listen to it and try to give you some feedback, or if you want more help, you could book 10 hours with me on Skype (but that’s not free).
      Thanks and good luck.

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