Bonjour! Or should I say ‘Hello’ since we’re here today to talk about the English language and how to tame it so it doesn’t remain the moment you fear at an interview, that refrains you from applying to jobs abroad or even compromises your vacation plans. In case you guys don’t know what is pretty obvious about me: I’m French, and as a proper French student I got the least efficient English teaching at school which barely allows you to understand the lyrics of any boysband song (No offence One Directions, I love you). But, this is not an excuse to wallow in ignorance and lock your own doors right?
You guys often ask me on Instagram how I get to speak English so well and you’re surprised when I say I learnt by myself. Indeed, I never lived abroad (until now), none of my parents speak English and I never took private classes, I just decided to work harder than my classmates since I quickly realized I had international aspirations regarding my career in the future. So at the age of 14 I started practicing my English every single day, I would get exposed to the language on a daily basis so it becomes part of me and never gets a chance to fade away. Because that’s the issue with foreign languages, the minute you neglect them you forget most of the vocabulary and sentences constructions becomes blurry in your mind. I have to recon that I do love learning and especially languages, it’s probably the only thing from school that you’ll actually need in the real world (Which is why it’s such a shame we don’t get a legit education about that, anyway). Without further do, let me share with you the things that I did and keep on doing to get a good level of English!
I don’t think there’s a right order to follow for the different steps I’ll mention as long as you go through them but let’s start with reading since it’s the easiest. Without noticing we’re exposed to the English language no matter where we live: emergency instructions in transports, translation in museums, menus in restaurants, instructions and ingredients of what we buy ranging from cereals to video games. Take time to read those words and sentences, make sure you get the meaning of every word and understand how the sentence is structured so you can use it in a different context. When visiting an exhibition, don’t only take the flyer in your language, take the English one and compare the translation.
In addition to what comes to you, I’d recommend to start reading texts in English about anything you like, I personally spent hours on fashion blogs and websites learning the vocabulary of that industry that I love but if you’re more into airplanes, animals or even sports be sure there are people out there writing about it too. Also, obvious but efficient: books and magazines, as for websites there are tons of them going into any subject you might be interested in.
This step is kind of linked to the reading one since while reading all those English articles, stories and blog posts you’ll note down each and every new word on your way. If you’re like me you own tons of cute notebooks that you bought for that same reasons and ended up never using. So pick any of them and start your first vocabulary notebook (I say first since more might come, I’m currently filling my 5th or 6t one!). In here you’ll write any word or sentence you come across on a daily basis that you either don’t know or that you understand but don’t feel comfortable using it in a conversation yet. Sometime I read a well thought-out article with killing sentences and I’m like ‘Ho, I wish I was the type of person that says that’ so I note it down and learn it by heart. Because here is the other side of the process, writing the vocabulary and never coming back to it is pointless, you have to take 5-10 minutes every day to learn your vocabulary, this is the most schoolish part but there’s no other way to do so. I bet you experience boring time in transports every day so take advantage of it to learn your voc, I actually could say I learnt English in the Metro! Needless to say I’d be so honored if your first English words were coming from that post!
Here comes what I would call the funniest part since it’s mainly about entertainment. Understanding spoken English is as important as being able to read it since you can’t ask the person to repeat too many times and that’s what you’ll be facing in a professional environment. The thing is to get your ears used to the English language no matter the tone, the pace or the accent. In order to do this I advice to watch your series and movies in original version first with French subtitles if you really need them and then with the English ones which will help you to figure out the pronunciation of words you’re used to write or read. Also, I personally watched tons of Youtube videos (especially Vlogs) that teach you a very life accurate vocabulary. Slowly you’ll get to understand the lyrics of English songs and you’ll wish you never knew how basic they are lol.
Finally, let’s tackle the tricky speaking issue. I used to be so embarrassed when speaking English in class and we all tend to be very shy since afraid of making mistakes. Good news: mistakes won’t kill you! Trust me I’ve been spending the past 3 months in New York and I feel like my English is horrible, I make mistakes every day but who cares as long as people understand me?! Don’t overthink it, English isn’t our mother tongue so no one expects us to master all the ins and outs of it. Now remember those books, magazines, websites we mentioned earlier? Read them out loud! This will get you mouth used to new sets of motions and sounds. You don’t contract the same muscles from a language to another so that’s why you can’t skip that step even though you think you’re ridiculous, you’re not. So here comes my last piece of advice which is definitely not by the book but has been so helpful: describe out loud the situation you’re in and what you’re doing (of course this is more inner-environment appropriate lol). For example if you’re cleaning the bathroom you’ll be saying things like ‘First I’m taking out all the products from the shelve in order to have full access to it when cleaning with this new cleaning product that I just bought, it’s lavender scented and I’ll need to pour some in that blue bucket …’ other example when cooking your diner: ‘tonight we’re eating fajitas, it’s one of my favorite meals so let’s first cut this red pepper and cook it slowly in a pan, now I’m adding the spicy mix and I’ll move on to the chicken …’. See, it’s that simple, this will confront you to real life situations and you’ll realize you sometimes don’t know how to say very basic words that you may need when travelling abroad.
I think this is pretty it for my tips to learn English by yourself, it won’t be easy at first but don’t give up, once you start noticing your progress it becomes an addiction and you’ll want to learn some more. This takes relentless effort and dedication I agree (that’s how life works my friend) but you guys requested this post and here it is. I’m being very honest on how I got to the level I have now and hope this will help you as it helped me. Let me know if you found it useful and don’t hesitate to share it with you friends, the more people speak a common language the least conflicts come up from misunderstandings. We are an international generation, citizens of the internet and we can find a way to use communication as a solution to many issues we’re facing nowadays! Bisous.