These are the 40 top things that you can do to improve your English
1. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Nobody is perfect and actually mistakes are the best
way to learn something new. Be confident, even if you make mistakes.
2. Surround yourself with English. Put yourself in all English speaking environments and
listen close! Watch TV in English, listen to English music, and talk as much as you can in
3. Practice, practice, practice. Make a study plan. Decide how much time per week you
want to study English, and force yourself to do it. The more routine your English practice
becomes, the more likely you are to practice frequently.
4. Practice all four core skills: Reading, Writing, Speaking, and Listening. All of these are
necessary to improving your English.
5. Keep a notebook with you and write down any new words you learn. Try using them
when talking to people in English.
6. It will be easier to learn vocabulary if you remember a sentence with the word rather
than only the definition.
7. Don’t only study for tests, study for daily life! Give yourself goals outside of school.
8. Create an atmosphere in which you want to learn, not just because you have to. Remind
yourself why you want to learn English.
9. Get help! If you don’t understand something, do NOT be afraid to ask someone.
Teachers, classmates, and friends are all there to help! They will want to support you in
learning English. If you never ask, you will never know!
10. Don’t be in a hurry to move up levels at school. Concentrate on fully understanding
everything in your current level. Moving up is not the goal, learning English is!
11. Watch TV and DVDs. You may have grown up hearing that too much TV was bad, but
when it comes to English, TV is great practice for listening skills and understanding
difficult slang or idioms that are common in conversation.
12. Read graded readers, or Penguin books of various levels. These books are entire novels
modified to fit various English levels.
13. Read for general meaning first. Don’t worry about understanding every word, you will
miss the point of the reading! Once you understand the main points, then go back and
look up new words.
14. Before pulling out your dictionary to look up a new word, first think about it in context.
Read or pay attention to the words around it and try to understand the word first before
double checking with a dictionary.
15. English, unlike some other languages like Japanese or French, uses word stress. For
new words, try to count the syllables and find out where the stress (or emphasis) is in
16. Learn prefixes (dis-, un-, re-) and suffixes (-ly, -ment, -ful), as these will help you figure
out meanings of words and also help you build your vocabulary.
17. Use English at ALL times. It’s as easy as that!
18. You can’t learn English from ONLY reading a book, just like riding a bike- you don’t know
how until you just do it!
19. On that note, the best way to learn natural grammar is through talking.
20. Keep a journal in English about your experiences in the US. This will help you with
writing while also being able to see the improvements in your writing throughout your
time studying in the US.
21. Sing your heart out! Learn English songs and sing along with them! This will help you
improve fluency and intonation… ready for Karaoke?
22. Dictation. While listening to music or TV, try to write down what you hear.
23. Nobody likes to hear their own voice, but recording yourself speaking English will be
extremely helpful in accent reduction.
24. Don’t become too reliant on your dictionary. Your dictionary should be an aid, but not
your teacher. Try to guess the meaning of the word before checking on your dictionary.
25. Don’t give up! Learning English can be frustrating! Keep working hard, keep trying, and
you’ll keep improving!
26. Have fun!! You’ll learn MUCH quicker if you are having fun doing it. 🙂
27. You are never too young or too old to start learning English. Don’t make excuses!!
28. There are many types of English: British, American, South African, and so on. None of
these are wrong, nor is one better or worse than the rest. English is English! It will be
helpful, however, to practice listening to every kind of English accent.
29. Phrasal verbs (two word verbs) are VERY common in English. There are hundreds of
them! The more you focus on their meaning, the more you’ll be able to guess the
meaning of new ones and recognize the patterns.
30. Don’t worry about a bad test score. Passing or failing an English test does not correlate
with one’s ability to communicate in English. Just keep working hard!!
31. Get used to the ‘schwa’ sound, or an unstressed and toneless neutral vowel sound that
sounds a little bit like ‘euh.’ It is the most common vowel sound in English! Think the ‘a’
sound in about, or the ‘u’ in supply.
32. Learn the differences between formal and informal language. It’s better to use slang and
casual conversation skills with friends and in most situations, but not in a business
meeting or interview.
33. Textbook English is normally a lot different than how people actually speak. Watching
TV and listening close to surrounding conversations will help you to grasp a better
understanding of “casual conversation.”
34. Make use of the internet! There are tons of English websites and English games. Try
BBC Learning English or watch TedTalks videos!
35. When talking, we usually link words together so that two words sound like one word. For
example, any word followed by a word starting with a vowel sound will be connected
36. Learn from your mistakes! If you keep making the same mistake, practice, practice,
practice!!! Keep practicing the mistake until it is no longer a habit.
37. While it can be comfortable to hang out with only people from the same country as you,
try to make friends from other countries! This will force you to speak English and also to
enjoy a more culturally rich experience while studying abroad.
38. While taking your courses, be prepared for class! Do your homework, practice outside of
class, your teachers assigned it for a reason!
39. Find a comfortable, peaceful place to study quietly. Distractions will keep you from
remembering the things you have studied.
40. And finally…… Study English at Hollywood College!!!
So you’ve decided to come study English in Los Angeles! I think you’ve made a great decision! Los Angeles is a multi cultural city with a great location in the US near beaches, mountains, and even the desert all within a few hour drive! Before you come to study English the the USA, it’s important to learn a few things about American Culture.
America’s population is extremely diverse. In cities like Chicago or San Francisco, 1/10 of residents were born in a foreign country. In the two biggest cities, Los Angeles and New York, more than 20 percent of the population was born in another country. In every big city in the US, you will find people from almost any country in the world. Terms like “Asian American,” “Italian American,” and terms to represent other various ethnic heritages are common.
When it comes to religions, America’s population has Catholics, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Atheists, and every other religion you could think of. What about in Politics? We have Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Socialists, etc… America has very rich and very poor, very conservative views and very liberal, and thousands of various jobs. So with all this diversity, who is to say what is really “American”?
Americans typically do not view themselves as a good “representation” of what it means to be “American.” We usually see ourselves as individuals who fit into the melting pot of cultures in America. While, Americans do have many stereotypes for the various cultures in our country, we have a difficult time choosing what exactly is “American.” However, there are some cultural norms that I will share today.
Because most Americans have a difficult time putting a label on what is “American Culture,” many people pride themselves on their individualism. Most Americans have been raised with the idea that they are separate individuals with their own responsibility for their life. Most are not raised to feel a close-knit connection with other groups, and are proud of their own individualism.
Most Americans do not display the same level of respect as other cultures. American culture is not as traditional or family-oriented as many other countries and children often feel it is parents responsibility to care for them. Once reaching adulthood, many Americans lose close ties with parents and view themselves as an equal and individual person apart from their families. However, because American culture is so varied, this is not true for all Americans and is only a generalization of many.
Privacy and Personal Space
As most Americans put a large importance on Individualism, privacy is also a big factor of the American lifestyle. Many Americans assume that people “need some time to themselves” or “time alone” to think about their own life. Most Americans will not understand foreigners who always want to be with another person, or who don’t ever want to spend time alone. Personal space and privacy are important to many American’s lifestyles. Try to avoide physical contact while speaking, as this may lead to discomfort. Touching in any way (arms around shoulder, touching face, holding hands) is usually too intimate for American friendships. When meeting someone, shaking hands is acceptable and sometimes a hug to say goodbye is acceptable for a close friend.
American Culture is built upon the idea that “All men are created equal.” Many Americans hold a deep belief in this concept and let it guide their daily interactions. However, this idea sometimes isn’t fully implemented in rural, or countryside, communities. Sexism, racism, and other discrimination still can be found within America, though it is slowly becoming not acceptable. Social order is not formally admitted in the US, instead people will use their tone of voice or subtle signs to acknowledge status amongst themselves.
Directness and Assertiveness
Americans are not raised to mask their emotional responses and as a result are much more open about their emotions in public. Americans usually consider themselves to be open and direct in the way they deal with people. They will often speak directly and open about things they dislike. In situations they believe should be different, Americans use “constructive criticism,” which spins the negative comment with a more positive connotation. Even if they don’t speak what’s on their mind, they often show it through body position and gestures. Americans in general are not afraid to speak up or ask questions, and foreigners are expected to act the same.
The notion of equality leads Americans to be very informal in their behaviors and relationships with other people. Americans are very informal in speech; often using slang, first names, and informal gestures. On campuses, the dress is very informal- do not be surprised to see students wearing pajamas to class! Also, the relationship between professors and students is informal, equal, and often more like a friendship than what a foreigner might expect to be a student/professor relationship.
Time and Punctuality
Americans generally organize their life activities using schedules. Punctuality and adhering to schedules is usually extremely important to most Americans. The phrase “Time is money” is a common expression that many Americans use. For these reasons, Americans may seem hurried- always running from one thing to the next. They may seem like they can’t relax and enjoy themselves, or that they are always rushed. It is important for you to arrive on time to appointments, meetings, or class. Sometimes you will not even be allowed to enter class after the specified start time. Many Americans frown upon tardiness and will become aggravated or upset. If you are going to be late to or miss an appointment or event, you should contact the others involved ahead of time to let them know that you will be late or be absent. This is important to keeping positive relationships with American people.
Hard Work and Achievement
People who center their lives around goals and achievement are usually highly respected in American Culture. “He’s a hard worker,” is a highly positive praise used frequently. Amerians admire people who are persistent and conscientious when approaching tasks. Foreign visitors often remark that Americans work harder than they expect, and likely this is because of American movies and television programs which usually depict Americans as more focused on fun activities and love. However, most Americans have a very strong work ethic and stay active in their daily life. They believe it’s important to devote significant energy to their jobs and to other daily responsibilities. Americans generally like to be doing something most of the time. They usually do not enjoy sitting for long hours just talking with other people; they will get restless and impatient.
Most Americans eat three meals: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Breakfast and lunch are typically smaller than dinner, which is the main meal of the day. Breakfast begins between around 7:00 am, lunch around noon, and dinner around 7:00 pm. On Sundays, many Americans eat “brunch” which is a combination of breakfast and lunch, typically eaten around 11:00 am. Because there is very little “American” food, much of American cuisine is based around cuisine of other countries.
Tipping is expected in the United States. Restaurants do not include a service charge in bills, so you must do the math to tip. Generally a tip should be 15% of the bill, with excellent service getting a 20% tip. Taxi drivers expect you to tip 15% of the total fair. Driving apps like Uber do not require or expect a tip. Hotel bellhops (the people who carry your bags) except a $1 tip for helping you with your bags. Room Service generally includes the tip within the bill. Valet parking attendants also expect a $1 tip. Though not usually listed on the bill, tipping is an extremely important part of the service industry in the US.
Americans generally come across as very outgoing and friendly. They quickly make friends and usually have many casual friends, as well as a few close friends. Relationships can usually be formed when a foreign student takes initiative to meet U.S. people at the work, or by participating in social events throughout the community. In L.A., for example, many of our students have American friends by joining clubs or by taking classes for their hobbies (dancing, yoga..). These clubs or social activities are great way to make lasting connections!
Americans have so much diversity within the country. American people hold diverse opinions because the country is so vast. You are likely to meet devoted conservative Christians, modern-day hippies, and everything in-between on a daily basis. Listen to what others have to say before you share you opinions, but don’t be shy to politely explain how you feel about any subject! While the country is an extremely complex, country, I have no doubt that you will fall in love with the extremely diverse “American culture” that you find while studying and living in Los Angeles.
Saying “I eat spicy food” is not the same as “I am eating spicy food.”
But what exactly is the difference?
These two sentences use different English tenses.
Tenses tell you when something happens. Getting the tense wrong in a sentence can change the entire meaning of a sentence or could lead to confusion and misunderstandings.
Learning English tenses can seem difficult at times, but I’m going to talk you through how to use them with a few simple rules!
Past, Present, Future!
English Language has three basic tenses: the past, the present, and the future.
Past Tense: Used for anything that happened before this exact moment in time, before right NOW.
I ate spicy food yesterday.
Present Tense: Used for anything that is happening right NOW and also for general statements.
I eat spicy food.
Future tense: Used for anything that will happen sometime after this moment, or later than right NOW.
I will eat spicy food tomorrow.
Sounds easy right? Of course it’s not that easy.. You wouldn’t be reading this guide if it was! 🙂
Simple and Continuous
These tenses have some variations that change the meaning and make them more specific.
All three tenses have two main types of variations: simple and continuous.
Continous Tense: Used for actions that repeatedly happen over some period of time.
Simple Tense: Used for everything else.
Since the past and present tenses are very closely connected, we will look at them together first, starting with the easier of the two: simple tense.
The simple present tense is used for three main things.
1. To describe things that are permanent
2. To describe how often something happens
3. To talk about scheduled events
To use the tense, add an -s to the end of the verb when “he” “she” is doing the action.
He eats spicy food.
Use the unchanged (or base) verb when anyone else is doing it.
I eat spicy food.
The simple past is used in a very similar way to the simple present.
Many verbs you will add -ed to a word, but some irregular forms change the word when used in simple past. Unfortunately, the only way to learn these, is by studying and remembering them!
Use the simple past if you want to describe an action that already has happened.
This description of a trip uses the simple past tense: “Last year I visited Chicago. I lived downtown for a month. I rode the train, took many pictures, and walked around Central Park.”
You can also use this tense for many of the same reasons as the simple present. It can be used to describe a hobby or habit you had in the past, or something you used to believe was true (but not anymore!).
Often we actually use the words “used to” with this tense. For example, I used to play the piano. This sentence means that I played when i was younger, but not anymore.
To speak about the future you need to add with words “will” or “is going to” before an unchanged (or base) verb.
Usually either “will” or “is going to” will work here!
I will call you later.
I am going to call you later.
The only difference here is that “going to” is used more often for things that have been planned. The first sentence is just saying that sometime in the future it will likely happen without giving it much though, while the second is saying that a call has been previously planned. The difference is not very big and either will usually work.
Both can be used for predictions too, or things you think will happen.
I think I will get married next year
I think I am going to get married next year.
The word continuous means something that is happening right now or is ongoing.
The continuous tense is formed using the -ing ending of a verb (eating, swimming) in both the present and the past.
You can use the present continuous to talk about something ongoing or that is happening now or will soon.
Right now, you are reading our blog. Maybe you’re drinking some coffee or eating a snack. Later today you might be meeting up with friends, and tonight you will be sleeping.
By adding the words “always,” “constantly,” and other frequency words, you can express the frequency of the actions.
My husband is always complaining!
My dog is constantly barking.
This tense is used to describe a continuous action that has been interrupted. For example, if you tried to call me when I was sleeping, I might respond with:
Sorry I didn’t answer the phone, I was sleeping last night when you called.
You can also use this tense to say what you were doing at some specific time in the past. For example:
Yesterday, I was already eating dinner at 6 pm.
I was reading my book the entire night.
For Past Continuous you will use a past “be” following by a verb + ing.
I was running away from the monster when I fell down.
The last way to talk about the future has the same uses as the past continuous.
You will use this tense to talk about things that may be interrupted in the future, or to say what will be happening at a specific time in the future.
Just add the +ing form of a verb after the words “will be” or “am going to be”
Make sure you arrive by 7, because we will be eating dinner then.
Come to school on time, we are going to be starting the test right away.
To Sum Up All the English Tenses
Here is a quick summary of all things discussed
Something unchanging, general scheduled, or happening NOW.
Something that is happening now or in the near future. Is/Are + verb-ing
Something that happened before now. Verb-ed, or irregular past verb
Something that got interrupted by an event or a time. Was/were + verb-ing
Something that will happen later than now. Will+verb/ Is going to +verb
Something that will be interrupted by an event or a time. Will be +verb-ing, Is going to be- verbing
Wow! Great Job!! I know these are totally confusing, but great job keeping with it. The more you speak and write, the more practice you get, and the more these will start to feel natural. Once you have these down, you will wow your English Teachers and friends in your Language courses.