Here are some vocabulary, grammar, reading, writing and speaking tips for you to improve your English anytime.

Vocabulary Tips

  • Use a notebook to organise your vocabulary. Decide how you want to sort out the words:

- parts of speech (put all the adjectives together)

- topic area (food, crime)

- function of the language (making suggestions, complaining)

  • Include vocabulary that interests or amuses you. Write down phrases you hear on television or read and note the context they were in.
  • Prepare cards with new vocabulary and then use the cards to test yourself. Write the English word on one side and the translation in your language, or a definition in English, on the other. Look at the English word and try to remember the translation or definition. Revise the cards you find harder to remember more often!
  • Looking for paperless ways to revise and remember new language? Add new words with images, definitions or other information to a digital flashcard app if you use a smartphone so you can review whenever you have a moment. You might also want to label or tag images or posts in English if you use social media.

Grammar Tips

  • Reading and listening to natural English will expose you to a lot of new grammar in a natural context.
  • Find magazines that interest you, watch films in English and read simplified readers with audio, or do the crossword in the newspaper.
  • Try and work out rules for yourself before checking in a reference book. If you try to work things out for yourself first, this will help you remember them better. It is also good practice as you won’t have a reference book with you all the time, so you’ll often have to guess the meaning of unknown words.
  • Don’t just learn the translation. Practise using the grammar and vocabulary you learn in the right context in written and spoken sentences.
  • There are many words in English that go together. Try to learn words together with their partners and not words on their own, e.g. phrases 'brush up your English', adjectives or verbs with prepositions 'interested in', 'listen to', and verb and noun collocations such as do your homework'.

Reading Tips

  • If you enjoy reading about fashion in your language, read about fashion in English too. You will already understand some of the vocabulary and ideas and have a good background knowledge. Conversely, if you hate films and never go to the cinema, reading an English-language film review will probably not be a useful exercise for you because you won’t enjoy it.
  • Think about the process of reading. When you skim read, you just get a general idea about the content. If you are looking for something particular, like the name of your team on the sports pages, you scan the text for more detail.
  • Reading one article every day is better than reading a whole paper only once a fortnight. Ask your teacher to recommend suitable materials.

Writing Tips

  • Record yourself reading a short text aloud and then use this later as a dictation i.e write down what you hear.
  • Brainstorm ideas when deciding what to write. This means putting every idea you have on to paper in note form. Once you have a lot of ideas, you can sort out the good from the not so good, but initially it is useful just to get as wide a variety of ideas as possible.
  • Keep a diary of your thoughts and ideas. Write down how you are feeling and what is on your mind at the moment. Write freely and don’t worry about making mistakes. 
  • Find a penfriend and write letters to him or her. Penfriends can be a relative or someone you’ve never met in another country or simply a classmate you keep in touch with by letter as well as see in class. Use e-mail as a quick way to keep in touch.
  • When you have a piece of writing checked by a teacher, make a note of the mistakes you have made. We all have particular, “personal” errors we frequently make. Write up a checklist of these mistakes so that you can go through your next piece of writing before you hand it in to make sure you haven’t made the same mistakes again. For example: good at (not in), occasion (not occasion).

Speaking Tips

  • Watch a native English speaker’s mouth on television. Note what shapes they make and try to copy them. Listen out for characteristic 'English' sounds and copy them too. What noises do they make when they are thinking? How do they take turns to speak? What happens to their voices when they get angry or embarrassed? Do they only smile in certain situations or with certain people? All these things are just as important as the words they use.
  • Meet regularly to talk in English. If you are preparing for an oral exam/interview, ask one friend to practise the interview with you and another to listen and give you constructive feedback on your performance. Then swap roles. Keep your conversations on topics you are familiar with. If you don’t know what to say, change the subject or keep quiet until you feel you can contribute easily again.
  • Take a card and speak about the topic for two minutes. Record yourself and then listen, checking for things you could improve. Next time you take the same card, can you speak more confidently?