How to Study English – Outside of School

I’ve taught many students over the years and most of them ask; how can I learn English fast?

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There is no get it quick scheme or magic button to be pressed, this journey is going to take hard work, dedication and lots of coffee. But with tenacity and optimism, and the right set of goals, learning English should and can be, fun and exciting.

Remember your goals and focus on what is important. If you make mistakes that’s good, but if you lose motivation, you need to spice things up a notch.

So here we go; three methods to help you with your English studies.


Routine is the Key

I kid you not, this is the most important.

If you stick to a routine and allow your body and emotions to focus on a routine, then surely your ability to learn English should also follow suit, no?

When you wake up in the morning, if the first thing you do is check Facebook, you’re automatically creating a habit that will lock in and you will continuously do that for the following three months.

Take Facebook out of the equation and set an alarm to do 30 mins of English grammar study and your mind and energy will become attune to waking up at a certain hour. It will start to feel less like a chore and more like a habit.

Creating healthy habits and sticking to them is essential with any task, especially with language acquisition.

TIP: So many people forget to have a notebook and pen beside the bed. Also, replace your mobile with a proper alarm clock. That way you are not obliged to pick up your phone. Use the pen and paper to write down as many phrases from the previous day to help trigger memory recall the moment the white analog clock goes off.


Sticky Notes are Your Best Friend

This is a little something that I picked up on my travels in South Korea. I had been a teacher for nearly three years at the time and the simple premise had never once crossed my mind.

All you need is a decent couple of hours and a few pads of sticky notes. A pen will also be required.
Go around your house and label everything, I mean everything, with sticky notes written in English.

When you go to the cupboard to get a can of beans, you’ll not only have a visual representation of what the word is but the spelling and correct article use as well.

TIP: Instead of writing the singular word, take the extra time to write plural forms and the correct articles, prepositions or phrases that go with that word. 

We instinctively know what our household items and spaces are called, yet in other languages, they can be so diverse. Instead of learning them on an App or in a Classroom, simply apply them to your new routine. After a few months, you’ll have learnt everything in your house in two languages.


Get Going on Grammar

I cannot stress this enough. Grammar is crucial when learning a language. I’ve taught many students in my time who are excellent speakers, but their grammar needs work. Although they were confident in what they were saying, to people who are not familiar with listening to grammatical errors, the sounds and sentence structure sounded off and strange.

Your first few weeks should be studying grammar, every day for a least thirty minutes to really get the key concepts down.

TIP: Write down each grammatical tense on individual pages in a notebook. The top of the page should have the tense you are learning followed by what it is in your native language. The second part should be the language you are trying to learn and the third part needs to be at least five examples.


In Summary

I know most readers, much like myself at times, like to scroll to the end to get the main points of the story, rather than reading line for line.

I cannot stress enough how important reading and re-reading will be when learning English. It is a great way to visually see how grammar is constructed and any words that you may be unfamiliar with, as I am sure there will be many you can highlight or underline.

However, for those of you who don’t like to read and merely want the quick notes here they are;

  • Change up your routine and morning habits. If you start the day strong, then the rest of the learning process will be a breeze.
  • Use sticky notes everywhere. They’re inexpensive and a great way to visualise vocabulary.
  • Don’t skip the grammar. This is the foundation of English and will provide great support.

I wish you the best of luck on your language journey. Please keep in my that the case study in this story is based on one student’s experience and the same results may differ for you.


Sam Taylor is an Academic English teacher at Lexis Sydney – Manly Beach Campus.  Lexis Sydney offers General English, IELTS Preparation, Cambridge FCE, Cambridge CAE and Cambridge CPE in our beachfront Manly campus.  

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