2.9: Take a Total Approach

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Listening, speaking, reading and writing in English will help you improve your vocabulary and knowledge of structures (grammar).

Reading, listening, writing and speaking help you develop a broader vocabulary and increase your exposure to the language.


Reading can improve your focus and memory. It’s good exercise to learn new words and enjoy reading about things you are interested in. But don’t overdo it and chose texts that are suitable for your level of language proficiency. To improve your reading we suggest doing it in byte-sized chunks. To this end, we have created a reading and listening module which allows you to do so. Here is the link:

Reading and Listening: The Bite-Sized Idiomatic Approach

Here are some good links if you are interested in following the news in English:

Voice of America (http://learningenglish.voanews.com/) provides news for learners of English.

The Times in Plain English (http://www.thetimesinplainenglish.com/) provides interesting news articles in plain English suitable for learners above the B1 level of proficiency.

E-News (https://www.enewsdispatch.com/) provides weekly news articles focused at learners at different levels of proficiency.

Entrepreneur Online Magazine (https://www.entrepreneur.com/) is an excellent news resource for learners above the intermediate level of proficiency.

What reading resources will you use? How often?



Watching movies in the original with subtitles is a great way to learn English while doing something you enjoy. You will be exposed to different accents and listen to what English speakers sound like in the real world. Watching movies in the original with subtitles is part of the reason why Scandinavians and Dutch have such a good command of the English language.

There are many streaming websites where you can find movies in the original with subtitles. Some TV channels also provide you with the option of watching movies or shows in English. Take notes of new words, listen again if required and try repeating the words.

If your English is at the intermediate level of proficiency (B2) you might also consider listening to an audio book. Books typically use a wider range of vocabulary than everyday speech, so they’re a great way to learn new words provided that you are not too far our of your linguistic comfort zone.

The readers for audio books also speak in a very clear way, so they’re a great way to practice your listening skills. As with movies, take notes of new words, listen again if required and try repeating the words.

Librivox (https://librivox.org/) is a website of free audiobooks maintained by volunteers from around the world. The site has a steadily increasing number of books to chose from.

Project Gutenberg (http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Gutenberg:The_Audio_Books_Project) provides a free collection of audiobooks some of which are computer-generated while others are read by a person.

• There also are paid websites such as Audible (http://www.audible.com) which is owned by Amazon.

Another great way to practice is to listen to your favorite music. Try to transcribe (write down) the lyrics. Then compare your notes to the real lyrics online. Hearing they lyrics to song can also be challenging for native speakers. But once you have worked out what the singer is saying, it gets stuck in your mind and you will be able to remember it for a long time.

Listening to something again and again is an easy way to remember phrases in the English language. If you’re listening to music, try signing the song yourself. You can find many of your favorite songs on YouTube. (https://www.youtube.com/) You can also listen to internet radio in English on accuradio. (http://www.accuradio.com/)

You can combine reading with listening, by using a free text-to-speech program like Balabolka (http://downloads.techradar.com/downloads/balabolka) or Natural Readers (https://www.naturalreaders.com/). Simply copy the text from another source and listen to one of the many speakers on Balabolka pronounce it.

What listening resources will you use? How often?



Writing in English is important for anyone who needs to communicate in writing. If you need to do so, you can practice this skill with our Plain English writing program.

If you do not need to write in English, now or in the foreseeable future, there is no need to spend a lot of time doing something you don’t really need. Typically most conventional learners of English in Europe have better writing than speaking skills because the focus of language teaching in schools and universities tends to be on the former.

Learners with dyslexia have difficulties with reading and writing and are disadvantaged by language courses in which progress is primarily determined on the basis of reading and writing examinations. Ideally, you should choose courses in which your oral proficiency is the primary criteria for success.

If you have writing difficulties and need to write regularly, we recommend

• creating writing templates and;

• using a free spell check program such as tinyspell.com (http://www.tinyspell.com/) or the one included in your desktop program.

Do you need to improve your writing? If yes, what resources will you use? How often?



For most language learners, speaking is the most challenging skill. Communication is a two-way street and to be able to speak, you also have to be able to listen and understand what the other person is saying. Native speakers, in particular, may make it difficult for you to follow what they are saying by using difficult language or jargon.

Speaking is a great skill for language learners because it requires you to recall vocabulary and language structures quickly. You can use various memory techniques to learn new vocabulary. Eventually, however, you will have to know your words so well that you can produce them in conversation. Moreover, the art of conversation can be difficult even if it is in your native language.

To practice your conversational skills, you can take a language course, join a language tandem or build a network of personal or professional contacts with whom you communicate in English.

When you learn a new expression, word or phrase in an audiobook, song or movie, write it down and repeat it. If you come across a word in a book or article, you can also use a free text-to-speech program like:

Balabolka (http://downloads.techradar.com/downloads/balabolka) or
Natural Readers (https://www.naturalreaders.com/)

Listen to the computer pronounce it. Then record yourself pronouncing the word or expression using your phone or your computer. Play it back and listen to your accent and pronunciation. Correct any problems you notice and try again. If you practice this over a longer period of time, you can track how much you are improving.

If you don’t have many opportunities for conversational practice, another great way to improve your speaking skills is to listen or read a news in English (see the list above) and to try to summarize and explain the story in English. You can also do that with stories that interest you and that you have read in your native language.

How can you speak more English? How often can you practice?


Combining It All

A very effective way to learn a new language is to combine writing, reading, listening and speaking. You can do this by, for example, labeling the tools or appliances which you use at home (in your house and garden) or at work and attaching a sticker or label to them.

1. Begin by researching the word in English, then enter it into Balabolka to see how it is pronounced.
2. Create a label or sticker and attach it to the object.
3. Whenever you see the object, pronounce the word
4. Create a sample sentence using the word.

With this technique, you will very quickly expand your vocabulary.

Create 20 stickers for objects that you have at home or work and regularly use but do not know how to describe in English. Label them and create sample sentences.


< Back to 2.8
Types of Strategies
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More Vocabulary Learning Techniques