English Learning Methods

General advice for English Learners

  1.  Be confident when speaking English. You should always try your best, but don't judge yourself too harshly because you do not sound like a native speaker. And don't be afraid to speak up just because you think you are not fluent enough. When you do not have enough confidence, think about whether you will judge your American friends based on their Spanish or Chinese level.

  2. Remember that improvements takes time, especially for language learning. Do not give up because you are not making a huge progress in a short amount of time. As long as you are immersed in a English-speaking country, your English will naturally improve.

  3. Practice! Practice! Practice! Speaking and writing needs the most practice. There are lots of opportunities, including class discussions, conversations with friends, essay writing, Model UN, speech competitions, debating, creative writing, etc. If you do not take the time and effort to practice, you will never improve.

  4. Spend time learning English every day. You do not need an extensive amount of studying, but doing something small every day will help you naturally improve in the long term. This can be memorizing words, reading books, or practicing pronunciations.

  5. Do not hesitate to reach out for help! You can always talk to your friends, teachers, host parents, and other international students who have more experience. If they are willing to help, tell them resources you need and things you do not understand. There are also lots of learning resources online.​

Vocabulary

Vocabulary is important for English learning. Without enough vocabulary , it is hard to effectively communicate your ideas or understand others’ words.

Ways to improve:

  • Set a goal and memorize words every day. It is hard to increase one’s vocabulary dramatically in a short amount of time, but memorizing new words for a long time can make a big difference. You can memorize 10, 20, or 50 words every day, depending on how much time you have.

  • The sources of these vocabularies can be from the English or history book you are reading. You can highlight the words that you do not understand, and memorize them after. The advantage of doing so is that you will master the most frequent words in English and history studies.

  • You can also find word lists online and memorize them. Since Chinese students are required to take the TOEFL test and the SAT test, it is useful to memorize the vocabulary list for TOEFL, and then move on to study the more difficult words for the SAT.

When studying the words, there are some areas to focus on: 

  • Spelling

  • Meaning -- you should know the most frequent meanings of the words and some common phrases

  • Pronunciation -- you should be able to pronounce the words and recognize it when hearing the word. It is helpful to listen to the pronunciation using an online dictionary

  • Usages -- you should know the common usages of the word and how you can make a sentence

  • Synonyms & antonyms -- learning about these can make it more effective to increase your vocabulary, as you are learning new words and reviewing and connecting words that you already know

  • You can make your own vocabulary notes on Goodnotes or Google doc. Write down the above information and your own sentences. You can always go back to your vocabulary notes to review.

  • Examples: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1gi7r3D-Cy2WBT4kx7IIp3hi3-HiQAkMnEjKSC2VG1ks/edit?usp=sharing

    Resources:

Reading and writing

Reading & Writing is helpful for learning English. As you read more texts, you will be more familiar with the grammar, common usages of the words and phrases. You can also improve the speed you comprehend information in English. As you write more, you will be able to write more like a native speaker at a faster speed, and memorize and practice the words and grammar you learn.

Ways to improve:

  • Find the stories or books that you are interested in, and read the English versions of them.

  • Look for elementary school or middle school English books and read them. These books are generally easier to read, but contain a lot of common uses of phrases and words. 

  • No matter what you are reading, make sure they are written by native speakers. Do not read other Chinese students’ essays, as they may contain the same mistakes you are making.

  • When you finish writing an essay, ask a teacher or a native speaker to proofread for you. Remember to avoid the mistakes you make and notice how they might cover the same content using different words. It is always helpful to take notes.

  • Learn English grammar thoroughly. You might learn grammar in your English classes at school, but they are not enough for non-native speakers. Find a grammar book or a grammar lesson online, study it thoroughly, and take notes. You might occasionally forget some of the principles, but knowing that these principles exist is important.

  • When reading, take notes on the words and sentences that you can use in your own writing. Try to put them in your essays to practice or recite some of the most helpful sentences

Examples: https://docs.google.com/document/d/13jZ-DSTeXvnB7n2bSwtZVNZ9U2by43PABCdBkAltYvU/edit?usp=sharing 

 

Book recommendations: how to read literature like a professor & how to read a book

 
 
 

Listening and speaking

Speaking & Listening can be a difficult task for Chinese students, but they are essential for everyday conversations and class discussions. It is hard to improve in a short amount of time, but as you spend more time in the United States and take the time to practice these things, you will gradually and naturally become better.

Ways to improve:

  • Learn pronunciation thoroughly, Find an online lesson and practice with it. There are a lot of subtle mistakes that Chinese students make when speaking English, and it is hard to identify and correct all of them. So the best way is to try to forget what you have learned before and study from scratch.

  • Practice the pronunciation as often as you can, until you can naturally pronounce like a native speaker.

  • Watch TV shows or talk to your friend more, and take note of the slang. Try to incorporate them in your words next time you talk to someone.

  • Talk to any native speakers about any topics they want to talk about. If possible, ask them to correct your pronunciation and use of words.

  • Some other advice:

    • Practice is always the only way to improve. There are tons of resources on the Internet, and they might suggest different learning methods. Try to find one that works for you, stick with it, and practice. Do not waste time switching between methods or reading the articles but not taking action.

    • Use the resources around you well. You can always ask your host family, humanities teachers, and friends for help.

    • English might seem intimidating at first, but as you get used to the language environment, you will gradually be able to appreciate its unique beauty, just like you do for Chinese literature. 

    • Do not be afraid to speak up or write something, no matter what level your English is at. Using the language more is helpful for improving.

 

Learning English for academic purposes

Reading:

Reading method for English and history classes:

Level III: The method that best prepares you for class discussions and the most helpful for long-term English learning:

  1. Read the Chinese version of the book to get the main idea

  2. Read the English version of it and follow the annotation methods below

      Annotation: 

  • Highlight sentences you can use in your own writing and write them down in your notebook

  • Highlight terms and phrases you do not understand, look them up and write them down in your notebook

  • Summarize the main idea of each paragraph 

  • Highlight important information about the plot, character, theme etc.

  • Highlight quotes you want to talk about during classes

  • Write down your thoughts and questions: personal connections, opinions, comprehension, details/technique, deeper meaning/theme

  • Reread the English version along with all your annotations

Level II: The method that best prepares you for class discussions:

  1. Read the Chinese version of the book to get the main idea

  2. Read the English version of it and follow the annotation methods below

      Annotation: 

  • Summarize the main idea of each paragraph 

  • Highlight important information about the plot, character, theme etc.

  • Highlight quotes you want to talk about during classes

  • Write down your thoughts and questions: personal connections, opinions, comprehension, details/technique, deeper meaning/theme

  3. Reread the English version along with all your annotations

 ​

Level I: The method that keeps you up with your classmates:

  1. Read the Chinese version of the book to get the main idea

  2. Read the English version of it and follow the annotation methods below

      Annotation methods: 

  • Highlight quotes you want to talk about during classes

  • Write down your thoughts and questions: personal connections, opinions, comprehension, details/technique, deeper meaning/theme

  3. Reread the English version

How to understand the background of a book:

When you are first introduced to a book at school, you should research about these themes: race, religion, gender, class at the time when the book was written and the background of the author.
 

Essay:

Book recommendation: On Writing Well

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to write an analytical essay: https://writingcenter.fas.harvard.edu/pages/strategies-essay-writing

Strategies for writing from Harvard College Writing Center

https://writing.yalecollege.yale.edu/components-successful-essay

How to write essays from Yale College Writing Center

https://poorvucenter.yale.edu/sites/default/files/files/Introduction%20Analysis2.pdf