My method for improving your English

In today’s society, knowing English is one of the basic skill that everyone should have. It has become the universal language, almost everyone knows a few English expressions. If you’re like me, and you’re into technology or into travelling, you’ll need a good level of English to either communicate with others or to keep up to date with tech news.

In this article, I’d like to explain my method for taking your English to the next level. It may not be the best method, but I’ve been using it more than one year, and it has given me good results. Also, it takes only 15 minutes a day so, why not give it a try?

Getting stuck is normal

When learning new skills, it is normal to get stuck and don’t know how to continue progressing. This happened to me about a year ago, so I started to research “how do polyglots learn languages”.

I found a video from Xiaoma who is a guy very passionate about languages and who speaks a lot of them fluently. In the video, he tried some of the most popular apps and websites for learning languages and gave his opinion. His overall opinion was that although some apps were good, they were not the best efficient way to learn a language. He also mentioned a tool called Anki as a more time-efficient method. At the moment I didn’t know what Anki was, but after a few google searches and more than a year trying it, I developed my own method based on it.

The method

The method that I’m going to explain works the same for all English levels, but you have to remember that the less English you know, the harder and more uncomfortable it would feel for starters. Don’t let this overwhelm you and just keep studying, you would start understanding things with time.

As I mentioned previously, my method is based on a tool called Anki which is just a flashcards’ manager. In case you’re not familiarized with flashcards I’ll start by explaining how they work.

Flashcards

Flashcards are a method for remembering information efficiently. It’s based on spaced repetition, which is an evidence-based learning technique that is adapted to how our memory works.

The method is simple, it consists of a group of cards with 2 sides, in one side you’ll have a question and in the back you’ll have the answer. The idea is that you study by seeing only the question side of the card, and you have to recall in your brain the answer. Depending on whether you have been able to know the answer or not, you will repeat the card more or less often. The formula for when to repeat the card it’s personal, and we don’t have to worry about it because Anki would do this calculus for us.

Anki

Quick recap, Anki is a tool that manages your flashcards and distributes them in time according to how easy or hard they are to you. It’s like having a personalized learning plan.

Let’s see how it works. In Anki you have decks which are groups of flashcards, every day you would be presented with X number of new cards from the deck. You have to go one by one and decide whether you find them hard, good, easy or you want to repeat them again.

When we talk about decks, you can build your own one, or you can use the ones made by the community. In fact, Anki isn’t just limited to learning English, you can use it to memorize any piece of information you want, from anatomy to physics and geography.

The decks that I personally use are two, one for vocabulary (that contains over 4000 words) and one with grammar exercises (with 145 units and advance grammar). I’m not going to explain here how to install Anki in detail but you only need to register in the official page and download a desktop or mobile client.

In Anki consistency is key, so it’s important that you review all your pending cards daily, it will take you ~15 minutes. Also, you will be learning new concepts in a daily basis, which is healthier for me than spending +4 hours sat down studying.

Now, if you follow my method you will have covered 3 of the 4 main areas of language learning, reading, writing and listening. For the fourth one, which is speaking, I have no solid advice other than speaking with friends or joining some local English club or meetup.

Other tips and resources

Apart from the whole Anki thing, I’m going to list some other tips or resources that I personally use that could help you too.

  • Set the language of all my devices to English so that I will be exposed to more English vocabulary and expressions.
  • Watch all the series and movies in English with subtitles in either English or Spanish, that’s your choice. You can also follow english speaking Youtubers.
  • For translating texts, I use DeepL instead of Google Translate, in either case try to use it as least as possible. Also, for single words or expressions, I like to use WordReference because it explains multiple meanings for the same word.
  • Reviewing my Anki cards every day, seriously, it only takes ~15 minutes.

  • If you find yourself failing the same Anki cards, stop for a moment and go study that concept that you’re failing until you understand it. A good resource for that is the Grammarly Handbook.
  • Install the LanguageTool browser extension, it basically does spell checking in every text box within your browser. Really useful when writing emails in English or editing your LinkedIn profile.

That’s everything, if you follow some of this tips you would feel how your English levels starts getting better and better.

As always, thanks for reading.


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