3 Fun Ways to Learn English on Your Own
June 27, 2017All, English Learning
by Lisa Rogers
From the moment we are born we begin to learn a language: our language. We begin with listening. We listen to our families talk to us, friends, the television, the radio, and to all the sounds in the world around us. As we grow up, we listen still, but we have learned. We learn from listening, from watching, from books being read to us and later our own reading. It is the same when learning a new language.
Learning doesn’t stop when class is over. That’s when learning gets more fun. Read on for 3 fun ways to learn and improve your English.
Music to My Ears
Music is one of the best ways to learn English and according to Pearson, The Beatles top the charts as the best band to learn from. Many people have a favorite song, one they listen to over and over again. It becomes a favorite because the music speaks to us (makes us feel good or thoughtful). The lyrics often have short, simple sentences. They teach not only vocabulary and pronunciation skills, but also grammar. As children learn with nursery rhymes, we can learn with The Beatles, Neil Young, Adele, Madonna, and the list goes on.
Want to learn more about tenses? The Beatles’ song Yesterday teaches Simple Past, Present Tense, and even some advanced grammar such as present perfect progressive. The present perfect progressive expresses an action that recently stopped or is still going on.
Yesterday, all my troubles seem(ed), so far way (simple past tense). Now it looks as though they’re here to stay (present perfect progressive). Oh I believe in yesterday (present tense).
Suddenly I’m not half the man I us(ed) to be. There’s a shadow hanging over me. Oh, yesterday came suddenly.
Friday I’m in Love by The Cure teaches Days of the Week as well as colors and ways to describe feelings. If someone has the Monday blues, they’re sad the weekend is over. Gray days can describe cloud cover or just feeling “blah”. Like many TV shows and movies, tracks (songs) are used to set the mood and this song is no different. It was used in the movie He’s Just Not That Into You and later covered by Dryden Mitchell of Alien Ant Farm in the movie, 50 First Dates.
I don’t care if Monday’s blue
Tuesday’s gray and Wednesday too
Thursday I don’t care about you
It’s Friday I’m in love
And Sunday always comes too late
My Favorite Things teaches General Vocabulary. Some fun exercises are to make a list of your own favorite things. This song is from the movie The Sound of Music starring Julie Andrews. It’s about a free-spirited nun who is sent to take care of a wealthy widower’s (a man whose wife has died) seven children. It is based on the true story of the Von Trapp family singers.
Raindrops and roses
And whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things
Snow Patrol’s Chasing Cars teaches second conditionals. The second conditional uses the past simple after the word “if”, then “would”, and the infinitive. While the song begins simply, the chorus is what lends itself to the second conditional. But, sometimes the story behind the song is just as fun as the song itself. The song title “Chasing Cars” comes from a conversation the songwriter, Gary Lightbody had with his father, about a girl Lightbody was infatuated (short-lived love) with. His father told him, “You’re like a dog chasing a car. You’ll never catch it and you wouldn’t know what to do with it if you did”.
We’ll do it all
On our own
We don’t need
If I lay here
If I just lay here
Would you lie with me and just forget the world?
Let’s Go to the Movies
Movies and television are another great way to learn and practice English. Also, since a lot of books have been turned into movies, you may hear some of the same words you were reading, compare dialogue and practice pronunciation. There are great movies for every level of English learner. Harry Potter is a great choice for beginners as the plot is well-known and the dialogue (speaking) isn’t difficult to understand. Other movies include:
E.T., the story of an alien who falls to Earth and is discovered (found) by a little boy, Elliot and his sister. It has lots of questions and answers, the characters speak slowly (E.T….phone…home…), and things are explained simply so everyone in the movie and you can understand what is being said.
Grease is a great movie for intermediate learners. Set in the 1950s, it tells the story of an Australian girl and American boy who meet and fall in love at the beach. Then when school begins, the Australian girl has moved to America and attends the same high school as the boy she met. This has catchy songs, a simple plot, and it helps learners distinguish accents both Australian and American.
Other movies that help you distinguish accents are Notting Hill, which is a love story about a famous American actress who meets and falls in love with a British bookseller in Notting Hill. Also, Love Actually is a combination of several love stories which happen at Christmastime in England. It can help you distinguish between the different British accents.
For more advanced learners, movies such as The King’s Speech which is about teaching the King of England to pronounce his own language offers great ways to practice intonation (meaning), pronunciation, and other ways to improve and perfect your English. And like, Grease, a musical movie such as My Fair Lady, helps with memorization. My Fair Lady is the story of a woman with a difficult to understand English accent being taught “the Queen’s English” or “proper” English. Some of its dialogue (speech) is easy to follow, some of it is not, but as the woman must repeat certain phrases to practice, so can you. My Fair Lady is a movie based on a play by George Bernard Shaw called Pygmalion.
Adventures in Reading
Books are another great way to learn English. They teach metaphors, idioms, grammar and vocabulary all while keeping you engaged with exciting plots and adventure. Teachers throughout American schools use books such as these listed below to teach grammar, writing, reading, debate, and culture.
Children’s books are a great place to start for both young learners and adults. These are well known in the US, so when you’re ready to practice your speaking skills, you’ll have something you can talk about. Fairy tales come from all over the world and are often translated into English. Written for children to tell a story with a moral (how to behave), fairy tales can also teach culture and history.
- Aesop’s (ee-sop) Fables is a collection of stories similar to fairy tales with such classics as The Hare and the Tortoise.
- Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne is the story of Christopher Robin, a boy and his friends; Winnie-the-Pooh, a bear and his friends Eeyor, a donkey, Piglet, a little pig and other friends.
- The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss is known the world over. Dr. Seuss’ real name is Theodor Geisel and his children’s books are beloved by children and adults alike. His short rhymes and colorful pictures are a fun, easy read. Other books by Dr. Seuss are Green Eggs and Ham and How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
- Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie is a story about a boy who never grows up. It was made into a movie starring Johnny Depp, called Finding Neverland, which is the story of J.M. Barrie, the author and his inspiration for Peter Pan. Sometimes, it can be fun to compare the movie to the book and you can check out the book for free here as part of the Literature Project.
These are just a few of the books which are fun to read for all ages. For other free books, check out the Gutenberg Project reading list.
These are just a few ways to make learning more fun. Many of the books have been turned into movies and the movies have music in them. So, combine (put together) some of these, make it a party, and invite your friends. You can even make games out of them such as making a song about your own favorite things, what you would do “if” you won a million dollars, or reading a book then watching the movie to see how much you understood.
But, the best way to practice and perfect your English is to speak it. However, the more you learn about English books, movies, and songs, the more you can share with your English speaking friends.
For some other cool lists of great music, movies, and books to learn English, check out the following links!