Johanna Stirling's English Language Garden for teachers and learners of English as a foreign language

Home | News | For Teachers | For Learners | About | Contact | Sitemap | Spelling Blog

How to Improve Your English - Advice for Learners

Learners often ask how they can improve certain areas of their English. Here are some ideas.

How to Improve Your Speaking 

How to Improve Your Pronunciation

How to Improve Your Vocabulary

How to Improve Your Speaking 

  • If you are in a school or workplace with people of different nationalities, try to make friends with those who speak other languages.  Many people find it difficult or embarrassing to speak English with others who speak their language, but if your friends don't speak your language you have to speak English! 

  • If you know any English native-speakers, talk to them whenever you can.   You can start conversations by asking them questions.  Then they will answer and perhaps ask you questions too. Then you are having a conversation!  Or perhaps you could do an exchange - an hour speaking English followed by an hour speaking your language so they can practise that.

  • If you are in an English-speaking country, are there any clubs or evening classes you could join?  What are you interested in?  Ask somebody at your school or workplace to help you.  It's a great way of meeting people with the same interests and practising your English too.

  • Speaking practice is very important but it's also important to know enough of the language to be able to express yourself. Try to watch English language films or TV programmes. Write down expressions that people use in conversations or certain situations. Notice how they say them (pronunciation, other words used)? What is the relationship between the people talking and what is the reaction of other people when these expressions are used. This will help you to know how formal/informal and polite/impolite it is.

  • Speak on the web! You need a computer with a microphone and internet access. Go to one of these sites to practise your speaking:

How to Improve your Pronunciation

  • When you are in your country with your friends do you ever imitate how English people speak your language? (I'm sure you do!).  Try imitating English people when you speak English too.  Notice what the differences are in your pronunciation.

  • Find a book that has a cassette with it.  Read and listen at the same time.  Notice any interesting pronunciation.  Now do it again but this time try to read it aloud yourself at the same time as the recording. You can do this on the internet too. Try this site from the BBC Worldservice.

  • When you are in your English class ask your teacher to repeat words or sentences if the pronunciation is difficult.


How to Improve Your Vocabulary

  • English has a very big vocabulary so you can't learn it all.  You need to learn words that you think will be useful for you.

  • If you go to English classes listen to the teacher's or other students' explanations.  If you don't understand, ask them to repeat or explain another way. Don't just look in your dictionary all the time.  The teacher will explain in a more memorable way and if you are busy with your dictionary, you may miss something important.

  • Write down new words you learn .  You could just write a translation, but also try to draw a picture or write a definition in English.It's a good idea to write an example sentence, and any notes that help you to use the new word.

  • Learn a few words everyday and give yourself a test every week!

  • Try to use words you've just learnt.

  • Reading and listening will help your vocabulary, but don't choose anything too difficult.  Find a book or CD that is graded to just a bit higher than your level.  You should know most words but not all.  If you try to read or listen to something that is too difficult you won't understand enough to be able to guess the meaning of the words you don't know.

  • You should be able to find crosswords and other puzzles for practising vocabulary if you like this sort of thing.






Please help me to raise money for The Afghan Reading Project. It won't cost you anything. If you go to or through a link on this site (like the one above) Amazon pay a commission on anything you buy. All money raised will go to The Afghan Reading Project . So why not bookmark this page and call it 'Amazon' - then you won't forget. Thank you.


Creative Commons License
The English Language Garden by Johanna Stirling is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.