How to Improve Your English-Part 1

One of the most common questions any English teacher gets is “How can I improve?” “How can I get better?” Now, my first reaction is to just say…wait…keep going…keep doing what you’re doing…and it will happen. I promise. But, I know that’s not the answer they are hoping for. They’re looking for a magic bullet…which I don’t have…however I do have a few suggestions which have helped some people.

Keyword: some.

Okay, so just bear in mind that not all of these work for everyone.

#1 Find a Cheesy Soap Opera and Try to Watch It Every Day

Here’s why, soap operas have very familiar stories, whether they are in English, Spanish, Korean, soap operas…all around the world are basically the same. (lies, affairs, evil twin brothers, people in comas) You get it.

So when you sit down to watch, your mind and all of the English vocabulary that you’ve learned is basically ready, you’re prepared, you’re expecting to hear words likes ‘liar, cheater, passion.’

And the more you’re prepared the more likely it is that you will understand the story, which means you are more likely to pay attention, which means your listening abilities will improve.

The second reason I love soap operas for language study is that the stories always continue from one episode to the next. It never stops.

So, if you only understand 50% or 30% of everything they are saying in one scene, well, that’s okay, because you remember the situation from the last episode…you might not understand what the character is saying, but you know he is the bad guy so it can’t be good. This allows you to follow along, and like I said before, the more you understand, the easier it is to pay attention, the longer you will do it.

The last reason that I recommend soap operas for language learners is because of the acting…because…let’s be honest, it’s terrible. Luckily for you, one of the things that terrible actors do, is they tend to over-enunciate their dialogue. They speak too clearly, too formally…which is awesome for someone who is looking to practice their listening and build their vocabulary.

Also, most dialogue in soap operas occurs in very quiet places, with no background noise. Just a detail.

So, let’s review: Soap operas have very familiar stories, the stories continue from one episode to the next, and the actors speak very clearly in quiet places.

“But I like Big Bang Theory/Modern Family…can I watch that instead?”

Short answer: No. At least not for language study and here’s why.

Sitcoms (short comedies) have new stories every episode. You might know the characters very well, but the situation is always changing…which makes it fun to watch but really hard to understand. Also, comedy actors usually speak much faster and are more likely to use difficult to use slang or make difficult to understand references.

lesson includes

Listening

Reading

“Magic Bullet”

Form: Noun

Meaning: Something that solves all of your problems.

Use: Usually said when sarcastic, suspicious, or in disbelief.

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“Cheesy”

Form: Adjective

Meaning: Not stylish, uncool, cliche’ 

Use: Usually said to describe something that WAS cool in the past, but is now old fashioned.

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