1. English is not mathematics
English is a very illogical language (look at how words are spelt and pronounced). Although there are some rules how to use it, there are a lot of exceptions. If you try to learn English like learning maths, you'll get frustrated and confused when you read or hear something that doesn't make sense.
The best way to improve your English is to copy. You should copy the phrases, words and sentences that native English speakers use. That's how native speakers learnt the language and how you learnt to speak your own language too.
2. Learn things that you want to or need to use
The most effective way to quickly learn and understand something is to focus on vocabulary or grammatical structures that you know you have problems with or you need or want to learn. Don't read through a English grammar book from beginning to the end. It is better to use it as a reference, something to check when you are confused/unsure about a grammatical structure in English.
3. Use context to guess meaning
One of the most important things that you need to do to improve your English more quickly is to use the context of a sentence or article to learn the meaning of a word or phrase that you don't know. English is such a large and complex language with over a million different words and phrases/expressions, many of which have more than one meaning.
Learning to guess meaning through context is a very important skill to learn. This is how native English speakers learn and understand the meaning of different words or phrases in English.
4. When you learn something new, use it in a sentence
When you learn any new word, phrase or grammatical structure, it is very easy to forget it. The best way to remember their meaning or use is to use the new word, phrase etc..., in a sentence of your own words as soon as you learn it. This will help you to remember.
5. Only use a word in the same context you hear or read it in
One common mistake that learners of English make is to learn a new verb or word in English, translate it to their own language and then use that English verb or word every time they would do in their own language. This doesn't work. A verb or word which can be used in many contexts in another language, cannot always be used in all the same contexts in English. So, it is important that you only use verbs or words you learn in English in the same context as you hear or read them in.
6. Join a course and get a teacher
Although you can do a lot to improve your English yourself (like using Blair English). If you want to improve quickly, there is still no alternative to having a teacher. Either online or in a language school, good teachers will be able to make you both understand things quicker and give you the opportunity to practise your English.
Don't do courses which promise that you'll speak perfect English in 100 days, it's not possible I'm afraid.
7. If something sounds bad, it's probably wrong
I'm sure that you have already spent a lot of years learning and using English. In this time, you will have read and heard thousands of different words, phrases and sentences. Although you can't remember all of them, they are still in your memory. If you see/hear something that seems wrong, most of the time you will probably be right. So trust your instincts.
8. Don't worry about making mistakes
One of the worst things that a person learning English can do is to not try speaking in English because they are afraid of making mistakes and sounding stupid. You can only improve your English by practising and learning from your mistakes. My students who try to speak in English as much as they can, always improve their English quicker than those students who are too afraid to speak and sound stupid.
9. Listen to the radio or podcasts in English
Most English learners have problems with listening. The only way to improve your listening, is by listening to things in English as much as you can. And with the internet there lots of radio stations and podcasts in English that you can listen to both for free and when you want.
Get into a routine of regularly listening to things in English when you are doing something else (like walking the dog, travelling to work or doing housework). By listening when you are doing something else, you will be more relaxed and you will understand more.
Unless you are studying for an exam in English (e.g. FCE, CAE etc...), you should only listen to a subject/topic that you're interested in (e.g. football, business, fashion etc...) and that you already have some knowledge of in your own language.
Don't worry if you don't understand everything. It will be difficult at first, but in time it will get easier and you will understand more and more. Listening to podcasts and the radio will improve both your listening and pronunciation in English a lot more than watching movies and TV programmes in English.
10. How words are spelt and said can be different
In most languages, words are written/spelt how they are said/pronounced. Unfortunately, English is not one of these languages. Letters in English words can be pronounced in many different ways or can be just not even pronounced at all when a word is said (e.g. island). It's important to realise this.
There are two ways to help you with your pronunciation. The first way is to learn the 'phonetic alphabet' (an alphabet which translates a word in English to how it is actually pronounced). The 'phonetic spelling' of a word in English can be found in any good dictionary next to the word.
The second way (and for me the best way) is when you learn a new word always listen to how it is pronounced by writing it in google translator or a good online dictionary. When you listen to the pronunciation, don't look at the word (it will confuse you) and then try to pronounce it yourself.
11. Practice, practice, practice
Like with everything in life, the only way to really improve your English is through practice. Some things are better at improving your English quicker than others. So, I recommend that you do one or more of the following things for at least 5 to 10 minutes every day:
- Listen to a short podcast in English (e.g. while going to work)
- Play a video game in English
- Write a comment in English on a forum/social network/blog
- Read an article in English on the internet or in an eBook
To help you improve your English reading and vocabulary quicker, you can buy one of the eBooks we have created to do this.