I’ve always been pretty good with my English. I didn’t have any problem with my high school English tests and I have always felt like I am more comfortable speaking in the language than my own mother tongue, which is the Malay Language.
But, lately I felt like I’ve lost some of my confidence in the language. This is mostly due to lack of practice. Even though I work with a company that emphasizes the importance of the language, lets face it, we usually opt for improper English, just because its faster that way. As a result, my English is slipping away from me and I know I need to improve myself.
So here’s a few tips on how to brush up your English.
Listen to English Songs
I do this on a daily basis. Expose yourself to English music, and train your mind to familiarise yourself with the language. But, try to refrain listening to rap music. Not that its not good, but rap music tends to have a lot of grammatical errors. Not to mention, too many words, and sometimes the verse of the song just doesn’t make any sense. So, stick to slow ballad songs, from there, you could learn.
Watch English Movies / TV Series
Sometimes, you can pickup the language by listening to the exchanging conversations between the characters. But, they sometime can speak too quickly that you sometime could not quite catch what they were saying. If this happens, what I would do is I would turn on the English subtitles. Try to not turn on the Bahasa subtitle. If you don’t understand a word, Google them, or you could look it up in a dictionary. Try to get the meaning of the word, and see how they use it in that context. Remember, context if important. The same word can carry two different meaning in two different context.
Now, I know that this is a big chore for certain people. I like to read, but I wouldn’t say that its my most favourite thing to do. If you give me a choice between watching movies, and books, I’d choose the movie. But, I’ve recently attended an English class organised by the company that I work with (yes, my employer is that serious about mastering the language that they send all their employees to classes) you can’t run away from reading if you aim to improve your English. The lecturer recommends to read a book every chance you get, and read up on the newspapers. But, she recommends The Times from the UK, or The Guardian because she feels that even our local English newspapers is not up to standard. I try to do that once in a while, reading up on the current events in the UK. I now may know a lot about Brexit that I don’t know what to do with all the information.
When selecting a book, try to find a genre that suits your taste so that you would be engaged in the story line more that if you were to choose something that you don’t fancy. I’m a 32-year-old woman, and I still read light rom-com books, just like I like to watch rom-com movies. I find the material not too heavy, and I enjoy the way I feel than if I were to go for horror or sci-fi, murder-thriller storybooks. It just doesn’t spark any joy for me, and I’d just loose interest.
Try to write
This is most probably why I decided to blog in the first place. I needed a place to write down my thoughts, as well as having a platform where I can practice my English in writing form. My English is not perfect, but with the functions of the blog, where they can check your spelling, and your sentences, you more or less have someone to check for your mistakes. Its not like having an English teacher to check your work at the end of the class, but it is the next best thing. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, and certainly don’t be afraid to start. Just let your creative juice starts to flow and talk about anything that sparks your interest. It really doesn’t matter if there’s anyone out there reading about what you have to say.
When you write, always write something that you know, or something that you have made research for. Next, you just need to find your own style for writing. One tip, write as much as you can, with a certain structure in mind. Then, go back and read what you have wrote down. From there, you could add on or cut out things that you think are not necessary for you to make your point. Try and be concise, when writing facts or non-fiction. You are not in school where you have a certain number of words to hit. But it’s different if you are writing fiction. Writing fiction, you need flair, and you would have to be as detailed as possible. This way, people can have a better picture or imagination of the world you are trying portray in your story. Make sure it is easy to follow, and there’s a flow in your story. This is the process of editing. You can be your own editor and decide on how you want your writing to be. After all, its not like you hope to be a published writer or anything.
No point having done all of the above, and not share with people your new skill. I mean, if you have it, flaunt it right? Try to have a conversations with someone else fully in English and again, don’t be afraid to make mistake. Hopefully you would have conversations with someone who is big enough not to laugh when you make a mistake. But, rather pointing out your mistake (in a nice way, softly) so that you would know where you can improve. And you would also have to not be too sensitive when people point out your mistake, more often then not, they just want whats best for you. Practice do make perfect. Cliche, I know. But if you are not willing to put in the work, then you can’t expect to reap in the rewards.
PS : As I’m re-reading this post, I can see many mistakes that I’ve made and I do my best to correct them. Its a process, and nobody gets it right the first time. The beauty of technology is that when you make corrections you don’t need erasers or correction pens, and it is as if the mistake never happened!