Arranged from Person ELT Learning Journeys
Picking up a book… writing a pen-friend …or doing a language exchange in English are all tried and tested ways to keep improving and practicing your English over the summer months.
Nowadays you are never very far away from your computer or mobile device, even when you’re travelling on vacation. And chances are a lot of you will have a subscription to watch your favourite films and videos online. So don’t forget to give your favourite English-language movies a go in the original version.
Obviously this can be demanding and is not necessarily something I would suggest for lower level students, but there are many ways you can get support by choosing the films carefully, effectively using tools like the subtitles or breaking up your viewing into shorter chunks.
Change the language settings on your phone or social media to English
Ok, it sounds pretty minor, and it won’t mean that the content of the messages and posts you receive will necessarily be in English, but the useful language for navigating your device and social media will be in the target language and this is something everybody can handle pretty well (and if not you can always switch it back). An added bonus would be using your voice assistant which will now be in English too. A great way to practice your pronunciation. Does Siri (or Google assistant) understand what you’re saying?
Start communicating on social media in English
Don’t have time for a pen pal or language exchange? In today’s ever more connected world there’s a good bet that many of you have English-speaking Facebook friends or other social media connections who post in English. If you’re not already doing so (and you probably are) use these channels to communicate in English as often as possible. Or why not to set up a Whatsapp group for the summer to share your holiday experiences in English?
Of course this is another option you have with many messaging services like Whatsapp, but you could also try something like VOCAROO. Just record your voice online and get a link to share in seconds.
But what should you be recording? Well why not give a twist to that summer reading idea and create your own audio books? A novel might be a bit much to tackle of course, but a short story, a chapter, a poem or even a favourite paragraph are often enough.
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5 ways to watch video more effectively at home
One of the most common pieces of advice I will give students wanting to improve their listening (and quite possibly their vocabulary) is to “watch films in English.” But perhaps the question is: Does simply watching films in English translate into any real improvement in listening and vocabulary, or does it perhaps require a bit more effort than that?
1. Choose your content carefully
That latest Hollywood blockbuster action flick might seems like a good choice, but there are probably more special effects and car chases than actual dialogue. On the other hand, that academy award-winning drama might be too dense, and you would not like it. Obviously much of this will depend on your level and interest as well.
There are loads of other things to watch on TV but films.
THE NEWSprovides a familiar format with plenty of visual support and not only you might have already seen the same news in your own language, but the delivery of most news readers is carefully scripted which generally makes it easier to understand.
SITCOMare another good option. Once when watching a popular sitcom with a group of teen students, I immediately noticed how familiar the format was. There are plenty of pauses and canned laughter letting you know where the jokes are in case you missed them. The language is also fairly simple grammatically but also filled with many of the most common (and current) phrases out there, so you are generally getting pretty useful language as well.
But don’t stop here. A lot of this will be based on your interest.
How about a cooking show or reality? A nature or history documentary?
One thing’s for sure, we’re pretty spoilt for choice nowadays.
2. Use all the tech tools at your disposal
Gone are the days when you needed to plan your time to watch your favourite show. Most of you today have access to high-quality cable services which make it easy to search for your favourite content, record it, watch it repeatedly and even rewind and fast-forward. Turning subtitles on and off is also a possibility, (though make sure they’re not on all the time as this might detract from using other viewing skills like considering the context or looking for visual clues).
3. Watch things you’ve seen before
If you’ve seen Star Wars 10 times or more in your own language you should know the story (and most of the dialogue) inside and out. So why not watch it in English now? The familiarity with the text will help you pick up language quickly and easily as you are already primed for it. And even if you’ve only seen the programme in question once or twice, knowing the story will give you more confidence as you deal with the language.
4. Watch things in little chunks
Short video is often better for you as it holds your attention longer, so things like Youtube (there are even Youtubers who cater specifically for English language learners) and other videos you can access online are often preferable to films. But if you are going to watch something quite lengthy, there is no reason why you can’t split it up into chunks and watch it, say, over the course of a few days.
5. Take notes
And if you’re watching a shorter video or a bit of a longer film it will be far easier for you to focus on specific language. When a new phrase, word or grammatical structure comes up make sure you take note. Go back and listen a few times. Put on the subtitles if you need to and jot (note down quickly) the language in your notebook. So go ahead and turn on the telly, stick in a DVD or surf the net for videos, but don’t think that just being a couch potato and letting it wash over you will necessarily get you any closer to your goals of improving your English. In order for that to happen you’ll need to take a more active role as a listener and noticer of language.
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