Creative ways to practice your English (at home)!
Whether online or in a classroom, students always ask their teachers the same question “How can I practice my English at home?”. This is not only a great question but an important one.
At Kaplan we want our students to leave their classes feeling confident and excited about taking the knowledge they’ve gained and studying individually in their home country. Now, with virtual classes and lockdowns across the globe, there has never been a better time to get creative with practising your English at home. The best part? You don’t even have to leave your sofa!
PractiCe your speaking skills
Students often tell me that their conversation skills are the quickest to disappear when they stop coming to class. Of course, speaking in your native language all day doesn’t help but don’t worry I have some tips to help you.
Record your messages to your friends and family
Stop writing down your texts and instead use your microphone to record your message on WhatsApp (or any other messaging app you’re using). I regularly see students recording quick messages to their friends in their native language so why not try it in English? Even better, ask your conversation partner to record their replies and you can practise your listening and understanding skills too.
Record yourself making a speech
Speaking of recording, this is a really good way to check your fluency and pronunciation. Pick a topic (anything will do – food, fashion, photography, it doesn’t matter!) and try to speak for 60 seconds without a break. This sounds much easier than it is. You’ll soon notice how many times you say ‘erm’ ‘ah’ ‘err’ or repeat the same vocabulary. You can then determine weak points, and where you might need to brush up on expanding your vocabulary and words which join sentences and thoughts together. A top tip here is to note down what pronunciation you think might be wrong, then use the audio feature on an online dictionary website to check.
Kaplan Challenge: Tongue Twisters
English tongue twisters are an excellent way to practice your pronunciation. For example, try this one:
She sells seashells by the seashore
Here, you have to really focus on the difference between /s/ and /ʃ/. Check out your school’s Instagram page for our weekly tongue twister challenge every Friday. Why not start with these?
Virtual conversation class
Even in isolation, you can still join our fun and friendly Kaplan teachers for a conversation class to practice your speaking. This is the most authentic way and guarantees that you will speak! Plus, your teacher will correct you and suggest new vocabulary and phrases you can use.
Practice your reading skills
This is perhaps the easiest of all the skills to practise at home. Although libraries will now be closed
Whether you’re a current Kaplan student whose tried reading English books from your school’s study center, or someone stuck indoors who wants to improve their English. However, libraries are closed and accessing physical books these days might be difficult. Here are some tips to help.
Read short stories
Challenging yourself to read a whole book in English can be a daunting task. My advice is to start with something smaller, like a short story. The British Council website contains great stories written specifically for ESL students. If stories aren’t you cup of tea, don’t worry! There are thousands of poems, news articles, magazines and even recipes that you can try.
Read travel guides
By the end of the year, we will all be desperate for a holiday to stretch our legs and relax our minds! What a better time to start planning. I personally like Lonely Planet for inspiration and recommendations. It’s important not only to read to practice your skills, but also for leisure, so read something that makes you happy!
Practice your writing skills
For most students, writing is the skill they like to practice the least. Is it too boring? Does it take too long to do? Are you stuck for ideas? The trick to practicing your writing is to make it a regular part of your routine. Here are some ideas how you can do that:
Send long emails to your friends and family
Speaking with your friends and family is essential now more than ever. To practice writing, I normally suggest sending letters to a pen pal. To stay on the safe side, make it virtual by sending a long, detailed email to your friend or family member once a week. By choosing email, it encourages you to use a more formal style and to include more information than you would on a text.
Write a recipe
Choose a dish you like making (preferably one with limited ingredients) and write a detailed recipe. This is also a good opportunity for you to recap food and cooking vocabulary. If you want to practice speaking, you could also record yourself making the food.
Turn vocabulary into stories
This idea is one I use in the classroom. It’s good for revision, fun and creativity. Take the new vocabulary you learnt from class today (or your own study session time) and write them all down on a piece of paper. Slowly start to create a story by joining the vocabulary together. You never know, you could create a masterpiece!
Practice your listening skills
Being at home does not mean you can’t practice listening. There is an abundance of listening material on the Internet.
Listen to news from around the world
If you type BBC into Google you will automatically get English news BUT if you add a country on the end for example www.bbc.co.uk/wales or www.bbc.co.uk/australia, you’ll get news from around the world. I suggest watching and listening to their videos and practice hearing different accents. Some will naturally be harder than others to figure out but keep at it and watch your skills improve.
If reading books is not your style, then listening might be. Why not try a 30-day free trial for an audio book. Listening to a native speaker read your favourite story can really help with your pronunciation. You’ll be familiar with the story and know what words to expect so having a native speaker read it to you will help a lot. Plus, because of the emotion in the speaker’s voice, may even help you understand the story better, too.
It goes without saying that listening (and watching) TV shows and movies is a great and natural way to practise listening. However – don’t watch the show with the subtitles on. You may think that it’s helpful, but it’s not. Subtitles help practice reading, not listening. Find out the top Netflix recommendations to watch.
If you’re looking for something a little more out of the ordinary, you could try a podcast. I personally love podcasts as I can listen and do another activity at the same time e.g. cooking, cleaning, running, you name it! Find out some common podcasts for differing language levels.
The not so obvious
My final tip might be something you’ve tried to and then immediately regretted. Change your phone settings to English. It’s a bold move but will force you to read, listen and understand basic English in your everyday life. It does require a bit of concentration but why not give it a go!
Hopefully these tips and tricks will give you some initial ideas about how to continue practicing your English every day from your home. Good luck!
This content was provided by Ellen Glazebrook, an English teacher and the Social Program Manager for our London Leicester Square school.