For Tamara, an assistant director from Tbilisi, who recently asked me how to improve her professional English.
Let’s say you work in a specialised field, like movie direction, and you were invited for an international project, working with an international crew.
However, you do not speak English well enough yet. It is hard to be yourself, if you feel insecure about the quality of what you’re saying or your ability to understand others.
Well, I’m writing here to say it probably not that bad, but also suggest two ways that I think are the most effective in improving this. Disclaimer: I invented one, and I borrowed the other from effective polyglots.
It’s not as bad as you think
Most people empathise with you or simply don’t care. Either they’re already impressed enough with your language skills, and will admire everything you say. Or they will just think about getting something done, and as long as they understand you they’re happy. (Me personally, I like to play a language parent: I will confirm I understood you by repeating what you said the correct way. If I do that with 1 out of 10 sentences, you probably said 9 flawlessly. It’s nice cause I confirm I understood you, and you hear the right thing immediately). In any case, probably the problem is more how you feel than how other people feel. Nevertheless, your feelings are real and just as important, so let’s see what we can do.
When you’re a specialist, in Tamara’s case an assistant director of films (for example of this magical love story), you need specialised expressions. Sitting in an English classroom and learning about generic grammar and stories will not help you much. A private teacher would be the best help, but remembering what they teach is hard. Wouldn’t it be nice to leave every lesson with 40 new phrases or corrections of mistakes? And having them available in a system that helps you practice them step-by-step, without wasting time.
That’s why we built the Lingophant app.
Just ask a teacher how to say the things you need in your daily work, and have them record it. They can send you a link, and you can practice them, and learn 40 new phrases every week. The best thing is that you will practice with the voice and accent of a real person telling you exactly what you want to say. You learn a real accent and melody, practicing to say it as similar as possible. And then when you need it in your work, you just know that what you’re saying is 100% correct.
How to find a teacher:
- Go to iTalki.com and find an (English) teacher for like 10$ per hour. British or American, it depends on you and the price.
- Just directly book a lesson on Skype, with a message introducing yourself and explain that you want to learn how to say things for your work. Say that you want to use this app Lingophant that they can download from the App Store. And add the link to the following video to explain how it works: https://youtu.be/ARgHrzu-MqY.
- Have your first lesson and decide beforehand on one topic or situation you want to feel more comfortable in. Start with some smalltalk, ask them to record phrases, also when they themselves think something is worth it and without you asking for it.
- End the first lesson a little it earlier, and ask them to look through the phrases and create a phrase set for you as soon as possible.
How to practice efficiently:
Then you should receive a link with which you can download and then practice phrases.
There’s research that shows that self-testing is one of the most effective ways to remember information, no matter what learner’s type you are. That’s why when you tap practice, our app will select up to 21 random phrases.
Find a time or mode that works for you: In public transport, during breaks at work, when sitting on the toilet, or take a walk to practice and move.
Just always have your headphones with you. And follow these steps:
- Listen to all phrases at least once (there’s a button at the top for that).
- Then go through them one-by-one and be strict with if you knew them.
- If you get bored, or need to look around, go to the listen-to-all mode.
- Continue until you’ve swiped all phrases to the right.
How to practice listening:
In general, just watch movies and series in their original language, with subtitles, and stop to look up words that you don’t know yet.
For this you can use the Language Reactor Chrome extension, which allows you to pause a YouTube or Netflix video by hovering over a word and see its translation. This way you will listen to lots of new words and expressions in context, much more than you will ever listen to during in a lesson. And you will get used to understanding natural speech.
How to practice grammar:
Well first of all, you can ask the teacher to record corrections of mistakes you make. And then you practice the correct way, remembering that you’ve said it wrong the last time.
If you feel really insecure about grammar use and want to absolutely perfect your grammar, it makes sense to ask your teacher for your biggest grammar problems. Ask them to take notes during the lesson and tell you afterwards. Or you send them a text you’ve written, and ask them to mark the most common mistakes you’ve made. Then you practice the top 2-3 every week.
The single best resource for this is Murphy’s, a book which has an overview of the complete grammar. Every unit has explanations with examples and exercises to make sure you’ll remember. Hint: You can find a digital copy through z-lib.org for free.
If you follow these steps, you will definitely improve your English.
I’ve really been thinking about this for six years and I think this is absolutely the fastest way. I don’t want to waste my time, or anybody else’s time, so I’ve been a bit shy with promoting it. But it worked brilliantly for me. What’s nice is that you can even translate your humour into the foreign language (how do I say this in English). I’ve recently spent five days in Kyiv, and although I have only had twelve lessons in Russian, I knew enough to talk to people and make people laugh out loud regularly.
It really doesn’t make sense that a doctor learns the same as an artist. We learn by doing, so it is important to feel comfortable speaking as quickly as possible. And even as a beginner or advanced person,
I hope I’ve shared my approach to language learning clearly enough here