Subject Material

How to Improve Your English

Studying HardStudying Hard Your English grade is based on a number of different evaluations where several factors are assessed, most importantly the language, content and structure of your oral or written products. Here follows a list of tips on how to improve the language and structure of your English.

Grammar and Spelling

 Correct grammar is one of the keys of writing or speaking convincing English. If you have many
grammar mistakes, this will often change the meaning
of what you are trying to convey, and can cause many misunderstandings.

  1. Have you checked that the subject and verb are conjugated correctly in your sentences? (This has to do with concord, for instance, we say “they drive”, but “he drives”)
  2. Do you read English outside the classroom? Your spelling will improve automatically if you read many English texts, because you will remember how the words you read were spelled. Hopefully, this will help you to expand your vocabulary as well. We have a collection of short stories on NDLA, for instance Good Advice is Rarer than Rubies by Salman Rushdie. You can also find many classic short stories on other sites, for instance here: classicshorts.com/author.html  If you prefer factual texts,   start reading English newspapers online, like: BBC NEWS  or CNN Student News   Another tip would be to read some of the articles about culture and society in English-speaking countries that we have on NDLA, for instance Ireland - Introduction
  3. Spell TimeSpell Time Work with different types of online tasks to improve your grammar. Take a look at our collection of grammar tasks, start for instance with Choose the right form of "to be"   here . Another useful source is this site: spunkyenglish.com 
  4. Work with spelling through different activities. For instance, on this site you can practice typing in lyrics: lyricstraining.com . Also, see our collection of spelling and vocabulary tasks; a great place to start is perhaps Spot the Mistake 1 . There are also many sites where you can play different sorts of spelling games, just search for “spelling game” + English to find a quiz suitable for your level.

Vocabulary

Having a wide vocabulary in English means that you are able to use precise terms connected to the topics you are working with, and that you are able to use a range of different expressions and sentences to solve your task. How can you improve your vocabulary?

  1. The Colorful LibraryThe Colorful Library Before you hand in a text, check to see if you have used the same expressions many times. Look up the word or words in a synonym dictionary (Synonym Dictionary) to see if you could vary your language. You could also mark the word, right click and click on “synonyms” (if you are using Word) to find immediate suggestions. Here is an exercise that focuses on synonyms and antonyms: Synonyms and Antonyms
  2. Have you found the correct English idioms, or are you translating common Norwegian expressions? Focus on learning some genuine English idioms, set expressions and proverbs See related tasks in the link collection.
    • Idioms and Proverbs 1
    • Match Idioms
    • Complete and Match Idioms
    This will also improve and expand your vocabulary.
  3. When we are working with texts in class, make sure that you write down and try to learn any unfamiliar words. The best tip is to try to use them in sentences right away. You could for instance create a document called “vocabulary list” where you save new expressions and explanations.
  4. Check this list of academic words for examples of words that you could use in written English tasks: wordlists.htm
  5. You may of course try to expand your vocabulary outside class as well; find the lyrics and try to translate some of your favorite songs, read novels in English and read English websites in general.
  6. Another way of expanding your vocabulary could be to switch the language settings on your computer, your cell phone or programs that you often use.

Pronunciation and Intonation

In order to improve your pronunciation and intonation, you have to speak and read aloud a lot. It would of course also help to listen to native speakers, for instance in songs, TV series or recorded texts.
iPod CatiPod Cat

  1. Always try to read the texts we are working with in class, aloud, by yourself, either before or after class.
  2. Listen to recorded texts about different subjects and pay attention to pronunciation and intonation, for instance on this page: englishlistening.com  .
  3. Look up words you do not know how to pronounce in this dictionary before important presentations: How Do You Say... 
  4. When you are watching movies, always use English subtitles.

Structure

Yes You CanYes You Can Structure means the way you manage to solve and present a task, either an oral or written assignment. Read the task you have been given before you hand in your text or hold your performance and check if you have done the following:

  1. Have you covered all parts of the task? Are the different parts balanced, or do you spend more time/space on certain parts of it?
  2. Have you stuck to the requirements when it comes to length? (For instance, if you are supposed to write a certain number of words/pages or that your presentation should last for a certain period of time)
  3. Is your text or presentation clearly divided into introduction, middle and end/conclusion?
  4. If it is a written task, is it divided into logical paragraphs? Are the different paragraphs connected to each other? Have you used Linking Words ?
  5. Have you included a list of sources at the end of the text?

Further reading

  1. Tips from How To Improve Your English   
  2. Activities to improve your English EFL. net. Improve Your English  
  3. UsingEnglish.com - 70 Ways to Improve Your English 
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