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A Study Plan without the Studying

This post presents what I think is the optimal study plan for intermediate to advanced English learners to help you to make noticeable improvements in your English without spending an enormous amount of time ‘studying’. There are three fundamental components to learning a language, all of which need to be done consistently to make the most efficient progress;

Starting with Collecting I'll explain a bit more about the three components. Collecting is basically reading, listening and communicating in English, including taking part in lessons - anything where you can hear native speakers using the language. The internet is amazing for this - try podcasts, articles, videos, blogs, radio, films, books etc etc… My personal preference for this is podcasts where people discuss everyday topics, that way you get the content, but also the important language that we use to interact with other people.

Take in as much as you can, with the only limitation being ‘is it relevant to myself’ or ‘is it interesting to myself’.

In this time you should be actively collecting any new vocabulary in the form of single words, phrases, or sentences that you would want to learn to help your English - this is all new language that you will want to learn and to be able to produce naturally when communicating in English yourself.

Learning means that you actually learn and memorise all of the new language that you are collecting from the phase above as well as the language that has been identified or taught during lessons with myself. I find Anki flashcards the best way to learn this new language - click the following link for more on Anki flashcards. It's worth keeping in mind at this stage that you don't just need to know what a word means but also how to use it in a sentence, this is especially relevant with complex structures such as idiomatic language or certain grammatical structures such as I told him vs I said to him, so it can often be worth using Anki to learn full sentences instead of single words.

If you can't download Anki for free on your phone, then the following link shows you some of the other Flashcard app options, but for the rest of this post I'll keep referring to Anki.

Producing is simply communicating in English. This might be in freer conversation, or in a more structured form where a topic that relates to the language that you have learnt is decided beforehand. By using the language, you will be activating what you are learning. Activating means that your brain is being trained to be able to easily recall the word when it is needed and is simply done through repetitively using the language.

This part could be done with anyone who speaks good English, but the most efficient way to do this, get immediate feedback and corrections and to have this process structured and guided in a way that is meaningful is best done within a lesson.


Study Plan:

Now, how does this fit into your week?

Firstly, don’t try to set aside ‘study time’, I personally find it useless as I never do it and there is always something that gets in the way.

Instead try to build up exposure to English by doing more natural things with the language - listen to a podcast in English whilst cooking, read the news in English on the train, read a book in English - try to simply swap doing things in your native language with doing them in English so that you can find 30 mins per day to do this without needing any extra time. But… focus on picking up on new and interesting language and add it immediately to your Anki flashcards - the link here shows you how to add language to Anki.

Use Anki everyday, and make sure that when you are using it that you say words and sentences out loud as another way of activating the words in your mind. (this probably takes 10 minutes per day to work through your vocabulary on Anki).

Attend a lesson per week with myself for some targeted practice with activating language and teaching input.

That’s it. Take in as much English as you can adapt into your life, take out as much new language as you think will help your English to improve and then practice actually using it.

By repeating this simple process consistently I am absolutely convinced that you will be able to make real, noticeable progress in a short space of time!


Joel White

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