The English language plays an important role in our lives, and no matter how hard we try, we can never undermine the relevance of this language. It may not be the most spoken language in the world, but it certainly is the most accepted language in social, cultural, and business settings.
Whether you are representing your school in a debate competition, or are sitting for an interview with an MNC, good language skills can surely provide you with that added edge. Proficiency in English can also help you score well in most competitive exams since it is one of the skills put to test. Good communication skills are an asset to have, in every walk of life. Many, however, struggle with it and often miss out on opportunities.
If this sounds like you, you’re in good company. In this article, I will suggest some simple tips, and tricks which will help you improve your language skills across 5 domains – Vocabulary, Grammar, Spoken English, Reading, and Language Usage.
1. How to Improve Your Vocabulary
Have you ever been inspired by someone’s speaking skills and word usage and they left you in awe of their personality and confidence? Be it professional or personal life, it’s the power of words which will help you network with people, and lay an impression on them. A good sense of vocabulary enables you to write, speak, and communicate better in every sphere.
Many wrongly perceive vocabulary as having a huge stock of words at your disposal, or the way to confuse people with fancy and complicated words. But instead, it is the most effective form of communication, is the art of using right words at the right time. A good vocabulary is all about choosing the right words with greater precision.
Here are a few hacks that you may use to improve your vocabulary.
Learn New words – Whenever you see a difficult word while reading a book, simply jot it down in your notebook. Don’t just look for its meaning and move on to the next one. Instead, understand its meaning, look for its usage in different situations and when you feel you have known enough, try inculcating the word in your daily language. The more you use it, the better you will retain.
A Word. A Day – Set a target of familiarising yourself with one word per day. Ensure that you revise all the words you learnt during the week, before moving on to the next set of 7 words, for the next week. The focus should not be to fill up your vocabulary book but to be able to use those words without any strain.
Read to Learn – As obvious this advice may seem, read. Reading is an integral part of our lives and we can’t ignore the fact the reading evolves our mind and broadens our knowledge base, lets us see the world with a different perspective, and of course adds to our word power. It exposes one to different usage of a single word, and thus adds a lot to their existing vocabulary book.
“A capacity and taste for reading gives access to whatever has already been discovered by others.” – Abraham Lincoln.
In today’s world, there is no dearth of reading material available. Newspapers, websites, blogs, e-mails, reports, books, magazines, etc. are all available in plenty. Start with any topic that interests you but don’t read for the sake of reading. Try and comprehend what you are reading. So, take small baby steps and enter into the magical world of reading.
Online Resources to Improve Your Vocabulary
Vocabulary.com – It is a platform that combines learning tool, and games, allowing you to retain and learn new words through a game, thus making it fun and interactive. You may also compete with your Facebook friends by accumulating points, achievements, and badges, etc.
Powervocab – It is challenge game app, where the challenge is to choose the correct meaning of the word, as you tackle the challenges, the levels get unlocked and difficulty increases. Here you can also challenge your friends for a 90-second game and win points against it.
Advanced English and Thesaurus – A great vocabulary is not just about getting to know loads of new words, but also their proper usage with respect to the arrangement of nouns, verbs, adverbs and adjectives. This application focuses on the organisation of words and learning of new words with a different approach.
2. How to Improve Your Grammar
Do those Grammarly memes about ‘your’ versus ‘you’re’ confuse you? Do you make sentences in your head before speaking to make sure you are not making any grammatical error and its sounding perfect? If so, you definitely need to visit the good old Wren & Martin and get your basics right.
Grammar is the root of English language, and many times, wrong grammar can severely play with our confidence.
Let’s look at learning a few techniques, to improve your grammar usage:
Grammar Games – One of my favourite grammar game is the word chain. This is one tricky game that requires fast thinking and creativity. Now the question is how do we play it and how does it help us with grammar?
We start by forming a group of people and giving them a word which fits the desired theme. Restrict them to specific parts of speech like nouns, verbs or adjectives. The person has to start off the game with the last letter of the word provided.
Let’s say you’re practising with adjectives and started with “wonderful,” then the next person might say “lazy” or “loud.” This helps you to increase your thinking ability and rightly distinguish between varied forms of speech, which is the very first rule of grammar.
Grammar, Let’s Be Friends! – Do you have a friend who always has a habit of pinpointing grammatical mistakes, and you pretty much don’t interact with them, for the fear of getting insulted? Let’s be friends with them instead, and make it a point to converse in English, no matter how many times they correct your grammar.
The next step at your end should be to go home, classify those mistakes, and write it on a paper. Since this is coming from a friend you won’t feel bad and when learning is done with fun, it always adds more value.
Watch Movies/TV series – Well, a common advice on every point. Read, write and speak more. Do you watch English TV series or online videos, movies, or lessons? If not, this can be a great way of improving your English in general, and getting the hang of the grammar and its usage in specific.
Some Online Applications to Improve Your Grammar
English Grammar in Use – The official English Grammar in Use app, written by Raymond Murphy, includes a starter pack of 6 units through which, you can learn all the basics of grammar with detailed explanations, examples and a complete guide to all areas to focus on when learning grammar.
This has been the world’s best-selling book, and now is the best official application for learning grammar effectively.
7 Little Words – It’s a fun learning game where you have to unjumble the words to fit in the required sentence? Each puzzle consists of 7 clues, 7 mystery words, and 20 letter groups.
The challenge of the game is to find the mystery words by deciphering the clues and combining the letter groups to find the right answer. It is a fun, and interactive way of learning the right grammar, and its correct usage.
3. How to Improve Your Spoken English
No matter how well-versed you are with the language usage or grammar rules, your spoken English and confidence become your first impression. Be it an interview, a conference, a presentation, or a reunion with school friends, you need the right confidence, and verbal skill set to speak in front of people without hesitation. Good communication skills are one of the major prerequisites to any kind of professional role you wish to pursue.
Now, I am sure you don’t want to be the one sitting quietly in a group, flooding with thoughts and opinions inside, but unable to put it in words. So, how do we get out of this situation?
Let’s discuss few ways through which you can improve your spoken English:
Speak to Yourself – Have you ever imagined a conversation in your head about an important event? Be it a social meeting with friends, or an internship interview at your dream company, the best way to go about it is to try to create a situation in your head and speak to yourself in the mirror, with the intent of conquering the event. Don’t stop even if you get stuck, instead focus on the idea of expression more than words.
Don’t Focus on Grammar but Fluency – I know it seems contradictory, but whenever you are trying to bring in fluency, never focus on grammatical errors. Don’t fear to say the line just because you might make some tense mistake there, this would break the flow and the confidence thereafter. You can fill in the grammatical errors with time. Just try and speak confidently, and you’ll be understood.
Practice Tongue Twisters – Tongue twisters are the series of difficult words, which you have to say in one go without giving a break. This not only improves your fluency but also helps to improve your accent and pronunciation.
Recommended Read: The Art of Public Speaking: 6 Effective Ways to Improve It
Some Online Applications to Improve your Spoken English
Enguru – Learn Spoken English – Kings Learning, a Bangalore-based startup provides English language training to students and professionals. The focus is to help people practice conversational English in a workplace setting. You can Study without worrying about your data usage. Once you have the App it works completely offline.
FluentU – FluentU is a great platform to learn and hone your spoken English skills. It breaks the conventional way and brings in the innovative way of language learning through real world videos. You can use the FluentU website or you can also download the FluentU application on your phone.
Hello English – Hello English by Culture Alley is the number 1 ranked free Educational App. This is the most recommended app which provides you with interactive games and lessons with conversational English, grammar topics, vocabulary and more.
4. How to Improve Your Reading
Reading is one of the most conventional, yet the most useful way of improving your English language. Reading, like every other skill, can be perfected with practice and patience. It is one universal way to improve all other dimensions of English language like grammar, vocabulary, and language usage. Regular reading habits will strengthen your word power, improve your grammar, and help you to compare and differentiate between good and bad writing.
Here are a few tips how to develop a reading habit for good.
Start Easy – As a beginner, don’t rush too fast to read books which are a little difficult to understand. Give yourself sufficient bracket of time to read a whole book, be it as long as a couple of weeks at the onset. Begin slowly, with a genre you like, maybe the magical saga of Harry Potter, or an adventurous book like Gulliver’s Travels. Your interest will pull you through the entire book, making your reading time enjoyable.
Understand the Purpose of reading –If you are just skimming through the chapters, reading too fast at the cost of comprehension, the purpose of learning is defeated. Make sure whenever you read, you are able to comprehend the meaning intended. Reading can be an advantageous skill only when utilised in the right manner. With time, the reading speed, grasp, and comprehension will all come at the same pace.
Summarise at the End – Once you complete a book, try to summarise the intent of the book, and make a few pointers in accord with your understanding of the book. This will help you channel your writing skills along with reading skills.
There is no as such specific online application for developing the habit of reading. One may, however, browse websites, google topics, articles, Quora answers, subscribe to blogs, or download books – the possibilities are endless. One just needs some discipline while reading, and with time they can overcome the challenges associated with learning English.
5. How to Improve Your English Language Usage
It is not always about how fluently you can speak, or how grammatically correct you are, you also need to understand the proper usage of words in sentences. We often overlook the relevance of this part of learning.
Usage is essentially about individual words, and phrases, which sometimes they are connected with grammar mistakes. For the learner who is looking for patterns in language, this can be annoying as it has to be learned case by case.
As a general rule, one must remember that If the mistake fails to comply with the generalizable rule for all members of that word class, then it is a grammar mistake. Otherwise, it is a usage mistake.
For example –
Incorrect Usage: I don’t hope he will come
Correct Usage: I hope he doesn’t come
Incorrect Usage: What is the reason of your lateness to office?
Correct Usage: What is the reason for being late to office?
There are many applications for improving your grammar and practising on grammatical errors in your English language usage, but there isn’t any particular app or website for usage errors. You can practice proper usage by following ways:
- You could refer to good dictionary/usage manual to correct your usage
- You can refer to these 2 books in this regard: Swan’s Practical English Usage and the most common usage mistakes by Paul Brians.
Hope this article helps you in your endeavour to improve your English language.
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