Many people are studying English since it is the international language. However, many people do not know how to study/learn languages! Maybe you have been studying English for years now but you are not happy with your progress. Do you feel stuck, where you cannot speak English even though you are good at grammar? If your answer to this is yes, then you are likely making these mistakes that are hurting your English studies.
1) You think tests are king!
Instead of focusing on really learning the language, you simply focus on passing English tests. Depending on the type of test this can be good or bad. Tests that do not assess output skills (speaking & writing) very well will make you focus on only the input skills of a language. A great example of this is EIKEN, a language proficiency test in Japan. Many people pass the higher grade levels of this exam, but they cannot speak at the grade level that they passed because the test focuses more on input and not so much output.
Also remember learning a language is a journey! Just because you pass a test does not mean your journey finishes.
2) You focus too much on grammar.
This is a big problem where I teach in Japan. From an early age, Japanese students are mostly taught English through the grammar- translation method. Here again output skills are not practiced. You can know all the grammar in the world but it does not mean you can use that grammar in conversations. The evidence is clear on this from research in ESL/EFL. You need to practice your grammar in context. Take the grammar and use it in real life situations where you practice the grammar while speaking! Use the grammar, do not just read about it!
3) You study grammar and vocabulary only once.
Review review review! You are not a robot. You cannot simply input data once and then you are done. One proven technique supported by research in psychology is called "Spaced Repetition". Vocabulary you do not know well is often reviewed, while vocabulary you know very well is rarely reviewed. I use this technique myself when I study Japanese vocabulary/kanji using a paid web service called WaniKani.
One free spaced repetition software you can use is called Anki. You can make your own flashcard decks or choose from pre-made vocabulary decks. Click the link below to go to Anki's website.
If you want to learn more about what is spaced repetition and how to use the technique I recommend you click the link below.
4) You are too hard on yourself
We have all done this. You say to yourself "Damn it! I am soooo stupid! Why can I not understand this??????" or you make a mistake while talking and you think "oh that was embarrassing, they must think I am stupid". Another example is when you fail a test or get a poor grade on an assignment. We all have that voice in our heads that tells us bad things about ourselves. Do not listen to that voice! Stay positive! If you listen to your negative thoughts too much, you will give up and stop learning English.
Remember learning a language is tough and it takes a lot of time and effort. You cannot become fluent and articulate in English overnight. It takes time, and making mistakes is part of learning. If you don't make any mistakes then you probably are not challenging yourself or not trying at all.
Build your confidence, do not destroy it.
Read about how confidence is important in a previous post I wrote.
5) You spend time with friends who only speak your language
Practicing your English only in class is not enough. In fact, practicing your English outside of class is more important. If you are Japanese and you only hang out with Japanese people, you will speak Japanese not English. To improve your English you need to use it, therefore it is important to have English speaking friends. Not only will you learn and practice English with them, but you will also learn about new cultures. Simply put, having English speaking friends makes learning fun and increases your motivation to continue on in your language learning journey.
This is why I offer a free weekly language exchange, where you can talk with me and or other people. You can chat in English while sharing your language as well! I also would love to practice my Japanese!
Click this link to learn more about it and register.
So there you have it! If you are making these mistakes now is the time to stop them. If you are new to learning English, then you are lucky! Do not make these mistakes and you will save yourself a lot of trouble. Lastly these mistakes are not just for English learners, rather they are for all language learners. Believe me I have also done some of these mistakes while learning Japanese.
Like life, learning a language will have its ups and downs but what's important is to keep going and keep fixing those mistakes.