6 Ways to Improve Your English Without Going Abroad

If you live in a country like Japan or South Korea where English isn’t the primary language, you might not see a real reason to learn English (other than to pass a test). Well, in today’s modern, globalized world, you’re going to run into English, whether you like it or not!

English is the language that connects nations, cultures, and people from all over the world. So, if you want to travel internationally, you’ll definitely need some basic English skills. I once had a couple of Korean students tell an embarrassing story. They went to Japan together, and they immediately ran into an awkward situation when they couldn’t fill out their arrival card in English. Another Korean stranger who had some basic English skills had to help them. This experience motivated my students to get serious about English class.  

You, too, might need English to avoid an awkward situation. Not planning to go overseas? You’ll definitely need English to navigate the world wide web.

As the universal language of the internet, English proficiency is necessary in order to do just about anything online. Want to shop internationally? You need to write your address in English! How about watch a new funny show on Netflix? Often, it’s going to be in English. Have you heard the latest K-pop songs? Even Korean pop has some English lyrics.

If pop culture doesn’t interest you, then maybe good employment does. English fluency is an important employability skill. With the advancement of technology, companies can easily work with and against competition all over the world. So, having English communication skills might help you to land that dream job.  

Have I convinced you why English is just so important yet?

The Problem

Whatever your motivation for learning English might, you will find it’s challenging to really perfect your skills in a non-English country. Living in an English speaking country will force you to practice your communicative skills every single day. It also gives you endless resources, such as television, movies, radio and libraries.

Luckily, English education and academies have been flourishing for decades in countries like Korea and Japan. You can take advantage of the variety of ESL programs and classes. You can even find English in your daily life on street signs and in advertising. But in a non-English country, you really need self-motivation to reach high fluency language levels.

Here are six tips for learning or improving your English in a non-English country:

  1. Incorporate English into your daily routine.
    Integrating English into your daily schedule is an easy way to improve your skills. However, this simple strategy is often overlooked. Students tend to only study English in the classroom. If you’re studying once or twice a week, it’s going to take a long time to see any major improvements.
    By focusing on English a little bit each day, your ability will be compounded over time. This could mean reading one English news article in the morning or something as simple as practicing a new vocabulary word each day. Your small efforts will add up to big changes.

  2. Stop thinking of English as just a class.
    Of course, taking a good English lesson will help your English fluency, but if you really want to be able to communicate, try to think of English in a broader perspective. If you view English as just a school subject, you’re likely to only think in English while in the confines of the classroom.
    Instead, find something that interests you in English- whether it’s a game, a pen pal, or a musical group- and let that motivate you to learn.

  3. Use English apps. Instead of scrolling through Instagram or Facebook on your daily commute, use your time to better yourself and better your English. By now, there are plenty of English language applications out there.  One of my favorites is Speechling.  Unlike other language apps, Speechling gives you the chance to practice your speaking and pronunciation skills. You record clips and receive feedback from an English speaking coach.

    I love this communicative activity that you can do from the comfort of your own phone. After all, if you want to learn a language, you must practice speaking it.
  4. Watch English T.V. and movies.
    This is a more fun way to improve your English skills. You might already be watching English entertainment, but you can start to do so in a more productive way.
    If you are a beginner, you can use subtitles in your native language to help you understand the dialogue.
    More advanced speakers can use English subtitles to reinforce understanding. To challenge your listening skills, turn the subtitles off completely.  If you hear any word you don’t know, write it down and look it up.

  5. Listen to English music.
    This is another fun way to improve your English without putting in much effort. By listening to songs, singing, and repeating, you’re practicing your comprehension and pronunciation skills. Even if you listen to music passively while engaging in another activity, you can pick up some new phrases or words.

  6. Don’t worry about being perfect. I cannot stress this point enough: if you really want to improve your speaking, English accuracy is less important than English fluency. Often times students are conditioned to think about grammar, which can be stressful. English grammar isn’t easy. But if you need to speak English in the real world, stopping to think about your grammar is going to make communicating very difficult. Furthermore, a lot of the formal grammar you learn in school isn’t even common in everyday conversation.

    So, to improve your English, just start speaking. Even if you make some mistakes, your message will still be understood. Personally, my Spanish didn’t improve until I decided to be more confident and just talk without forming the perfect sentence in my head. Over time, my speaking skills grew, and my grammar improved naturally. You can do it, too!

So, as you can see, there are a number of things you can do to improve your English in a non-native country. And you don’t have to just take a class. The most important thing is being interested in the language. So, ask yourself, what motivates you?


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