Five things you can do to improve your language & study skills.
With all our students at the University starting back on classes this week we thought you might like a few ideas to use for a New Year’s resolution. Whether you want to improve you language, (we’re guessing English, but these could work for almost any language) or become a better student, or both you should find something on this list to help.
- Listen to the radio, podcasts, web radio or even the TV, if you are in a nosey mood you can even eavesdrop on the bus. This one is language based, and aural (listening) based. The wider the range of contexts, voices, accents and modes of speech you are familiar with the better able you will be to focus on your listening when you need it. The best thing about this is it feels easy, and makes listening fluency feel easy as well. As Kevin Bacon would say it’s a ‘no-brainer’! TV and video can also help you improve here, especially when subtitles (in your 1st or target language) are available, but the images can also distract you and allow visually dominant thinkers to rely on the eye not the ear.
- Keep a pocket notebook, or use an app for your phone. Everyone’s day is filled with meetings, trips to the gym, social events, meals to cook and eat etc. but it also has odd moments where you are waiting for those things to happen. This is when you pull out your notebook and start writing, (we admit it may not be as distracting as Angry Birds on the phone, but you can’t actually get marks for lobbing fowl at things). Writing well and easily is basically writing often. Just like speaking, if you don’t use your written language until you need it, it will not come quickly or easily when you do, (especially if you are under stress, like writing an essay). You can write down whatever comes into your head, make observations about, food, the weather, fashion, your class, or literally anything.
- Read. This is a simple one, there is a wide variety of evidence supporting reading as the best way to develop vocabulary, but it’s much more than that. This is also another thing that is very easy to do. In the modern world we are surrounded by text, much of it in English and much that we are supposed to read. You don’t need to lug books around with you,there are any number of free e-books if you have a smart-phone/tablet/e-reader. Don’t worry about what you read: magazines; ‘trashy’ romances; pulp sci-fi etc. are all fine, some old fashioned thinking might say you should read the ‘classics’ but studies have shown as long as you are reading, and you are interested to continue reading you will improve your reading at more or less the same rate.
- Speaking, you can probably guess a theme from the last three, yes practice makes perfect here as well. Some studies indicate that you can improve your social speaking with as few as ten interactions a day. It may sound like a lot but it’s not an interaction here: is the few words you exchange with the bus driver buying a ticket, or asking how close to X the bus stops or how long it takes to get to Y; it’s brief exchanges on the weather with fellow passengers, it’s going to the coffee shop not the machine; the teller as opposed to the bank machine and the cashier as opposed to self-check-out.
- Focus on your subject, our first academic one, hopefully you chose your subject at Uni because it interests you, or at least aspects of it interest you, we may not love all of our studies all the time. Pursue that interest. Could one of those magazines be a journal in your field? Could a pod cast come from I-tunes U or TED etc.? The wider your engagement with your field of study, the more extensive your research the more likely you will be able to jump into projects and not need to think about them before you start. This will also feed back into the other skills. It will make lectures, seminars and tutorials easier and more fun reading and reports become much easier, and you will likely do better on the assessments, if that’s something you worry about.