6 ways to improve your English proficiency

Mastering the English language will open many doors for newcomers to the United States. It will provide a better sense of your new home, including the culture, the people, and your future as a new American. Proficiency in English also makes everyday activities like using public transportation, reading signs, shopping, and eating at restaurants much easier to navigate. 

Your grasp of the English language also makes you more employable. To compete in the global market, employers often seek out multilingual job candidates to fill open positions across various fields. Effective communication can also facilitate easier integration into your community, the ability to make new friends, and can enhance your new life in America. Improving your English proficiency is often accomplished by developing your listening, reading, writing, and speaking skills. Here are 6 tips to help further your English proficiency. 

1. Read

Sample a wide range of English-language newspapers. In keeping updated with current affairs, you will also expand your vocabulary and gain familiarity with how words are spelled and used. English books of all genres can also help to familiarize you with phrases and expressions. Set a goal to learn the meaning of a new phrase every week and try to use them in everyday conversations to get used to the different expressions and idioms. 

Reading English books out loud can also help improve your vocabulary and your understanding of English grammar. Books, magazines, and newspapers provide an abundant source of practice materials for reading out loud and becoming more comfortable speaking the language.

2. Watch

Watching American movies and TV series can help expand your English proficiency while also giving you a good sense of American culture. Having subtitles on will help you hear the English words and understand their spelling, as well as familiarize yourself with colloquial and conversational forms of American English. Subtitles are also helpful if the characters speak too quickly while also giving you a better sense of pronunciation. Keep in mind what English movies and TV shows you are watching as American accents and styles of speech are very different than in the UK. 

Rather than watching other people speak English, try recording yourself as you practice. This can help you catch errors, improve pronunciation, and boost confidence. All you need is the camera on your phone or computer to start recording. Give yourself a goal of how often you will record and set guidelines on what you will talk about. For example, try recording yourself teaching something new or discussing something you’ve learned that week. Or review your favorite movie or TV show. Then, go back every couple of weeks to see how you’ve progressed. 

3. Listen

Passive listening can help train your ears to the sounds and pronunciation of the English language. For example, listen to English music in the background while doing your daily tasks. Even if you’re not actively listening, you will still be training your ears to certain English sounds. 

Hear an English song that you like? Find out the meaning of the song lyrics and look up any words or phrases you don’t know. Then, play the song again and try singing along as you read the lyrics. Play the song over again until you feel comfortable to start singing along without reading the lyrics. Each new song you learn will help improve your understanding of English words and phrases. Research shows that adults who sang in a new language rather than just speaking it performed better on language tests. 

If you’re someone who likes to review your progress over time, consider using a voice recording app when singing, reading out loud, or saying whatever comes to mind in English. Give yourself a goal of recording yourself every day for five minutes, then listen back for any mistakes. There are many free voice recording apps available online to help you record your progress. 

In addition to listening to songs and recording your voice, podcasts can offer a wealth of resources and tools to help you practice your English. 

Some popular podcasts for learning English include:

  • ESL Pod – Daily English lessons with dialogues and stories using conversational American English. You get detailed explanations of how to use each fundamental expression and idiom.
  • Real English Conversations – Improve your listening skills and expose yourself to English used in everyday speaking. Hear expressions, phrasal verbs, and new vocabulary in naturally spoken audio lessons.
  • Speak English Now – Learn English with the Question and Answer (TPRS) and Point of View techniques while learning about English culture and language. 
  • All Ears English Podcast – Learn how to use everyday English vocabulary and natural idioms, expressions, phrasal verbs, and how to make small talk in American English. You’ll also hear tips on American culture, customs, etiquette, and how to speak with Americans. 
  • Espresso English – You’ll learn English grammar, vocabulary, phrases, idioms, and more. Espresso English lessons are clear and practical, making it easy to learn the language quickly and effectively.

4. Write

One of the best ways to help you remember English words and phrases is to write them down in English. Try keeping a journal and writing down a few words about your day in English. This is also a good way to help record your progress and identify any mistakes. You don’t need to write them down with a pen and paper; an online journal or note app can help do the trick. 

As an alternative to writing about your day, list words and phrases you hear throughout your day. Write down every time you hear or see a word you’re unfamiliar with. Then research the word’s definition, pronunciation, and synonyms and phrases for when the word is used. Give yourself a goal of writing three to five new words daily. Even if you only have time to learn one new word a day, by the end of the year, that’s still 365 new English words. 

5. Speak

In addition to reading, listening, and writing English words, speaking the language will make you feel more comfortable conversing in English and improve your pronunciation and grammar. If you’re not ready to practice with another person, consider speaking in front of a mirror. 

In front of a mirror, practice quoting a scene from an American movie or TV show or a joke from your favorite stand-up comedian. Memorize a few sentences at a time and look up any phrases or expressions you don’t know. Then, practice regularly using the phrases in sentences until you feel comfortable. Need some suggestions? Here is a list of the 10 best monologues from American television

If you’re not ready to memorize a speech, start small with a quote or a few lines. Social media is a great source for gathering popular quotes and sayings. Another benefit of social media is the exposure to popular expressions, phrases, and idioms you might not find in a book or a song. Another option to help practice your English proficiency is answering thought-provoking questions. The website, In English with Love, offers free comprehension and discussion worksheets based on short videos designed to help you become a more confident English speaker. 

If you’re nervous about pronouncing new words correctly, online dictionaries like Macmillan and Merriam-Webster can help. Use the speaker symbol to hear the word spoken out loud. You can even use Google by using search phrases such as “How to say…” for an audio recording of the English pronunciation. English pronunciation tutorials on YouTube can also help to teach you the many aspects of American English pronunciation. 

6. Practice

Practicing your English with mobile apps can be a convenient way to stay on top of your progress. Always available on your phone, apps provide easy access to learning new words, completing quick language exercises, and making learning a new language fun and engaging. 

Some popular English proficiency apps include:

  • Elsa – An AI-enabled speech tutor to help you study English. Practice speaking English and learn the American accent quickly. 
  • FluentU – FluentU brings language learning to life through language immersion with real-world videos.
  • HelloTalk – Learn a new language through conversations with native speakers. 
  • Tandem – A language exchange app on iOS and Android that connects language learners with native speakers. 
  • Preply – Preply is a language app where you learn fundamental skills by taking private lessons with online tutors.
  • Duolingo – Learn a new language with bite-sized lessons based on science. 
  • Memrise – Short Lessons. Real-life phrases. Get everything you need to go from learning to speaking, fast. 
  • Babbel – The comprehensive learning system combines effective education methods with state-of-the-art technology.

Learning a new language takes commitment and regular practice. Determine your best learning method, whether by memorizing, reading, speaking, or other ways, and aim to practice every day. Set realistic, regular targets. A goal for one week may be to improve your pronunciation. Focus on that for a certain amount of time every day. Be clear about your goals and how you plan to achieve them. 

Many people succeed with an accountability partner who can help them stay committed. If you have someone who knows what you are trying to achieve and understands what you need to do to get there, you are more likely to be incentivized to stay on track. An accountability partner can be anyone who will support you and work with you to achieve your goals. It is helpful to have a plan for how you are going to improve your English and keep track of your progress. Creating structure to your plan will help you to feel more confident and relaxed throughout your English language journey. 


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