3 Tips to Jump-start Your English and Add More Fun to Learning

3 Tips to Help you Enjoy English

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Tip 1: Get daily enjoyable input.

Notice that enjoyable is emphasized. If you are going to increase your English fluency, wouldn’t it be great to have fun doing it?

curious cat
Explore the possibilities

Be curious (eager to know or learn something). Look for materials that capture your attention and keep you interested in learning. This will increase your motivation, and you will be more likely to stick with (continue) studying.

Now, in case you’re wondering where to find English materials, I’ve taken care of that for you. Below, you will find a list to get you started on your journey to finding input you enjoy.

Try Authentic Materials

Most of the items below were not created for language learners. They were created for native speakers of English. There are plenty of online resources for language learning, but I want to introduce you to authentic (real) materials (and also some great materials created for language learners).

In terms of language learning, authentic materials are those that are created for native speakers.

An authentic text is a stretch of real language, produced by a real speaker or writer for a real audience and designed to convey a real message of some sort. – K. Morrow

By accessing authentic materials, you are gaining true exposure to the language. It’s a lot different from what you have access to in traditional textbooks and language courses. It shows you the language in use and is far more interesting than most of the textbook material created for learners.

Of course, one drawback (disadvantage) is that until you reach a certain level, much of it may be too difficult. If you’re reading this and can understand 80%, you should be able to handle (understand) authentic materials. Of course, some will be easier and some more difficult. It’s up to you (your responsibility) to choose what works best for you. Now, let’s get to the list to get you started.

11 Ways to Get Fun and Interesting Input

  1. YouTube – 10 random recommendations to get you started. If these don’t float your boat (interest you), search for topics and YouTubers you like. In an upcoming post, I’ll be recommending YouTubers who teach English really well. For now, here’s one with over a million subscribers that I really like: English with Lucy. Check out (look at) her “Channels I Love!” on the right side of her main page for more suggestions. 
  2. TedTalks – 2,800+ choices with transcripts and subtitles (subtitles are available in over 100  languages)
  3. TV shows – US and UK show recommendations
  4. Podcasts – 5 free podcast recommendations by Florence at EF
  5. Books – Some advice from Jack at To Fluency
  6. Blogs – Read blogs in English on any topic that interests you. It doesn’t need to be a language blog. It might be a blog about travel (Notes from the Road), food (Local Milk: The Art of Slow Living), or parenting HowToBeADad). Interested in something else? Simply type the topic + blogs into a search and voila! Lots of choices!
  7. The news –  If that’s your thing…The BBC has some great options, including Lingohack. CNN also has free English news lessonsNPR (National Public Radio) is another great source of both news and other programs, including podcasts. It has its headquarters in Washington, D.C. and has been around almost as long as I have ;-). 
  8. Twitter – Follow me and other English language accounts for bite-sized lessons and lots of idioms, vocabulary, and grammar. 
  9. Web comics 14 imaginative web comics to inspire you by Creative Bloq.  Webtoons offers many free choices as well. 
  10. Language Learning Apps – My 5 recommendations
  11. Music – Vanessa has some great advice in her YouTube video. 

With all the free resources available on the Internet, there really is no excuse for not getting daily enjoyable input.

no excuses
No Excuses

Bonus Resources for Finding Input

Finding podcasts and other English resources can be difficult and overwhelming when English isn’t your first language. If you didn’t find anything you liked from the list above, check my recommendations and resources page. It includes podcast recommendations, a variety of excellent Twitter accounts you can follow, and more.

If none of those appeal to you, the ball is in your court (it is your responsibility to take action). Start surfing the web in English in search of resources that interest you.

*An important piece of advice for Naver users

I don’t recommend using Naver to search for English materials. You will not get good results. Naver is great for lots of things, but it is not great for finding the best English resources. Trust me on this. It’s extremely limited and often inaccurate.

Instead, try one of these search engines: Google, Bing, Yandex, or DuckDuckGo. Personally, Google is my favorite. 

An Example

I’ve done yoga on and off for almost 18 years. However, it wasn’t until last year that I was able to make yoga a daily practice.

What made the difference? I finally found an online yoga teacher that I loved and who kept me interested in yoga. If you want to practice English daily, you need to find input that you love.

yoga frog
Find What Works For You

This post is not about yoga, but if you are learning English AND you are also interested in yoga, Yoga with Adriene might just be the perfect way for you to make learning English more fun!

Adriene has a plethora (large amount) of free videos where she talks you through all the poses, giving you listening practice while creating more balance, strength and flexibility. Who could ask for more?!

Okay, not everyone likes yoga. I get that (understand). If yoga isn’t your thing, find what is!

Don’t get me wrong (don’t misunderstand); learning isn’t all fun and games. It takes hard work and persistence (ability to continue) to become good at something. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t add more enjoyment to your learning.

What I want you to take away (remember, gain, understand) from this post is this:

It is possible to find and add enjoyable input to your English learning toolkit (personal set of resources).

Special note for beginners

Don’t worry about not being able to speak when you are a beginner. It takes time. Just like (similar to) learning your first language, listening is the first step.

For those ready to start exercising their speaking muscles, check out How to Practise Speaking a New Language… Without the Anxiety Rush! by Shannon Kennedy at Fluent in 3 Months.

One of the best ways to improve your English vocabulary and grammar is not by studying more but by getting more input in a natural way.

Input is the first step

You need to put some English in before you can put it out. It’s important to find interesting and easy things to read and listen to. As you get more and more input, your vocabulary and comprehension will grow. Little by little, you will start to understand more. As your vocabulary grows and you start understanding how the language is used, you can start to speak.

Grammar
There’s More to Life than Grammar

Tip 2: Don’t focus on or worry about your grammar when you are having a conversation.

There is a time and place for grammar work, but it is not during conversations. While I actually enjoy teaching grammar, too much focus on grammar can be detrimental. Do not become hyper focused on grammar. When having a conversation, the most important thing is understanding and being understood. Focus on communication and expressing your ideas.

If you are getting lots of natural and enjoyable input, and you are doing so regularly in an active and engaged way, you will be getting good exposure to grammar at the same time. Reading for pleasure in English is a great way to see grammar patterns in use. If you have never read a novel in English, a great book to begin with is Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman.

Recommendations for Grammar Lovers

If you enjoy learning about grammar and/or want an excellent grammar book, I highly recommend the following 2 books:

Understanding and Using English Grammar by Betty Azar (*Be sure you get the one with the answer key!) – This textbook is for Intermediate and Advanced students.

Practical English Usage by Michael Swan – This book is for Intermediate and Advanced students and is a great reference for teachers too! It is a reference book with over 600 explanations of English language use that regularly cause problems for students studying English. The writing is not too complicated. True to its title, it gives practical answers with examples of correct usage and also typical mistakes. From abbreviations and acronyms to the subjunctive and yes/no questions, this book is extremely comprehensive in scope and is also well-organized.

Another tip for improving your grammar is to get a grammar coach. I hope to make these services available in the future. A grammar coach is someone who is able to assess your grammar issues and help you target areas for improvement. This is helpful in cases where errors may have become fossilized (incorrect language that has become a habit and is not easily corrected).

If you write a lot and want your grammar checked, I highly recommend Grammarly. Even the free version will catch many of your grammar mistakes in documents, emails, on Facebook, and other places you want to write accurately.

Tip 3: Don’t be afraid of making mistakes!

Mistakes are not failures
Embrace Mistakes

You are going to make a lot of mistakes! It’s totally okay and normal. Were you perfect the first time you played your favorite video game? Of course not! You practiced and you got better. Speaking English is like playing a game. Hang in there! You can do it! We all make mistakes. Learn to treat mistakes as no big deal. Recognize them for the gifts they are.

I’m here to provide input, resources, and encouragement, but it’s up to you (your responsibility, your decision) to put those resources to use! It’s up to you to take my advice and realize the value of mistakes. If you focus on being perfect, you won’t be able to have a conversation. Mistakes are a good thing! They are opportunities to learn and improve. Welcome them (happily accept them).

Remember: Communication is the most important thing. Mistakes are not important, understanding is. Mistakes are great learning opportunities!

If you are thinking, but I want to be fluent!

Of course we all want to speak well, but that is a different type of practice. It is a separate activity from having a conversation. If you have the opportunity to have a conversation in English, focus on your ideas first. Focus on the person you are speaking with. Ask them questions. Be a good listener. Find the gaps and fill them.

Let me know if you have any questions or would like to request a post. If there is any way I can help you on your English journey, feel free to leave a comment or send me a message on Facebook or Twitter!

Ready to jump-start your English?

Bouncy ball
Energize Your English

Why not have fun doing it? Check out these Video Clips for Fun and Improving English.

Your Turn

What English resources do you enjoy? Is there one that you would recommend to other learners? What makes learning English fun for you? I invite you to share your ideas in the comments below.

If you enjoyed this post or found it helpful, help support Apoven and English learners by liking, pinning, tweeting or sharing. 🙂

Thanks for visiting!

References

Morrow, K. (1977). Authentic texts and ESP.  In S. Holden (Ed.), English for Specific Purposes (pp. 13-17). London: Modern English Publications.

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