Learning to speak a foreign language requires a lot of hard work. The quantity and quality of time that you spend studying will be the most important factors of your success in learning English. You will need to study from two to six hours per week (more would be great) in order to make significant improvements and to feel that you have made good progress. Don't expect to become fluent in just a week or two. This page will give you some good tips about the best ways to study English.

1. Use Distributed Practice

The principle of distributed practice tells us that it is much better to study one hour everyday day, than to study seven hours straight during one day of the week. If you divide up your study time into many short periods, your concentration will be stronger, you will learn faster, and you will remember more.

Studying for short periods of time also allows you to use your time more effectively. For example, while riding on the train you might decide to learn three new idioms or practice changing sentences from past tense to present continuous tense etc. You don't even need a notebook or pencil to do this. Just mentally imagine yourself speaking English. Keep a list of words that you want to learn in your pocket and study them anytime you have a spare moment. If you can get in the habit of using your train time, your standing-in-line time, and your walking-down-the-street time in this way, you will be absolutely amazed at how fast your English will improve.

2. Study Out Loud

When studying a new vocabulary word or sentence, say it out loud. Research has shown that your memory will be more than twice as strong if you repeat it out loud several times (some students repeat it hundreds of times) rather than to just study it silently. This is a very important tip, so use it often.

3. Use Mnemonics

Mnemonics is by far the most powerful memory aid there is for learning new vocabulary. Instead of wrote memorization, the best way to remember a word is to create a vivid mental association between the new word and something that you are very familiar with. For example, if you were trying to remember the word "alligator" you might associate it with the Japanese word "arigato" because they sound a little bit alike. To make the association stronger you might imagine someone feeding the alligator a frog and then the alligator says "arigato". Try to make the associations as creative and unusual as you can because these associations will be the easiest to remember. With only a little practice, you will soon be good at making up odd stories and associations to help you remember new vocabulary words. After you use the word in your speech five or ten times, the strange story that you created to help you remember the word gradually disappears. At this point you will no longer need the association because your memory of the word will be almost perfect. Expensive courses in improving your memory all use variations of this technique. People who become very experienced at this technique can learn hundreds of new words in just a few hours! Amazing but true.

The following is a list of study activities that you may like to use for studying on your own. Some of these suggestions may be quite appealing to you while others may not. Choose several and construct a study schedule for yourself.

1. Guided Readers

Guided readers are books that have a limited level of vocabulary words in them. Books for beginners may be limited to as few as 300 words. Intermediate students may choose books with 1000, 1500, 2000, and 2500 words. Guided readers can be found at bookstores like Kinokuniya and Maruzen, and are published by companies such as Oxford, Heinemann and Penguin.

2. The Internet

There are many good websites that can help you learn English. You can find information and lessons on a huge variety of topics including grammar, vocabulary, dictionaries, games, idioms, pen pals, pronunciation, online textbooks, reading, tests, TOEIC training, writing, and others. The three web sites below are among the biggest and the best, and have thousands of useful links to help you find exactly what you want.





3. Self Talk

Self talk is one of the best ways to improve your speaking skills. Just talk to yourself out loud in English about anything you happen to be thinking of. You could describe objects in your home or describe what you are doing. Don't worry about making mistakes or poor pronunciation. It is good to practice with out the stress of an instructor correcting you all of the time.

4. Podcasts

Podcasts are audio files (usually mp3) that you can download from the internet. You can listen to them on your mp3 player or iPod. Here are two web sites that link to podcasts that are good for English language learners.



5. English Magazine Subscription

Both Kinokunia and Maruzen bookstores have hundreds of English magazines for sale. These magazines are usually expensive at the bookstores but you can purchase them much cheaper with a subscription. There is a magazine for every interest and every hobby, from model railroading to sailing, and from music to economics. When you read about something you are really interested in, you read deeply, and so you easily, almost automatically, become more familiar with sentence structure and vocabulary.

6. NHK English and The English Journal

A magazine and CDs in that come out once a month. Use your portable CD player to get listening practice while you are riding the train. A book accompanies the tapes.

7. Record Your Lessons

Listen to recordings of your lessons to help you review.

8. Vocabulary Notebook

Keep a separate notebook for new vocabulary words that you look up when you are reading.

9. Movies

Watching movies is an enjoyable way of studying English. Try not to look at the subtitles too often. Tip: old black and white movies often have the clearest, most easily understood English in them.

10. Flash Cards

Make flash cards of words and idioms and carry them around with you to study during your spare moments.
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