Living abroad I notice that a lot of people around me regularly attend English language schools. They seen to have a basic idea of the language. I can see that the problem is generally getting up to the next level. Advanced, Negotiation, business english. This is the stumbling block.

I´d like to suggest some cheap and easy ways to make learning and perfecting English that everyone can do. You can even make it enjoyable by selecting things that actually interest you.

British Staycation Chatsworth Nottinghamshire

Learning English

Make it fun Link the learning to a hobby or passion. Do you like cooking? then read culinary books or recipes in English. If you love military aircraft, look up websites in UK & USA about that.

Listen to podcasts from BBC Radio, listen to real English accents and listen about current events in the England at the moment. They are completely free and can be downloaded from iTunes. Some are daily, some weekly. Here you have a selection of programmes I regularly download:

  • Stuff you Should Know – General information on a wide range of topics. (USA)
  • Vanessa Feltz – Radio London, highlights from Vanessa´s show, calls from Londoners and talk of the city. About 20 mins each week.
  • Scott Mills Daily – A fun, random show, with a more difficult level to hear the English. There are random subjects, practical jokes and ´in speak´ or buzz words. Total immersion in young British culture.

Read specialist magazines or articles from USA or UK. Choose them about a subject that you are particularly interested in: cooking, cars, science, movies… Some examples are The New Scientist, Heat, Wired, etc. You can access some of them online or you can buy them printed from a good newsagent in Spain such as FNAC store or VIPS.

Read books in English. If this idea seems daunting at first, choose short stories. Try to avoid looking every word up in the dictionary. Just words that are repeated frequently that you don´t understand and that are key to the story.

Antique Books Cordoba Spain

Films in Original Version

Watch films in English without subtitles. You may think that you need to read the subtitles, but unless the film has a particularly complicated plot, you usually get the idea from the music, the tone/volume of the voice and the imagery. Choose films where you have an idea of the storyline, simple stories or particular favorites that you want to see again.

Watch TV series that you like from USA or UK such as How I met your Mother, Friends, Bridgerton, House. There are loads of them. Many are 30 mins programmes or 1 hour.

Watch BBC World News or Sky news for your news update instead of a local channel.

Find in your area a Language exchange evening. There are many which are free, held in bars or cafés. You may not feel comfortable at first, but when you see different locations and different groups, there will be one that you actually enjoy. Another possibility is to participate in a Student exchange if you have children at school. Having a foreign student at home for a week can give you an opportunity to practice English as well as your children. Keep your sentences short and simple.

Travel independently. Avoid package tours and group holidays. Fly and then rent a car. Get a good map of the area (if possible GPS too) Go to Scotland, Ireland, England, USA, Australia, New Zealand, anywhere with an English speaking population. Talk to the locals, be adventurous and don’t worry about trying something new, new food, an activity that you wouldn´t usually participate in. Cultural acceptance helps to understand the language too.

Spend some time at a Pueblo Inglés it is better to visit the UK but for a short break in Spain this could be an alternative. Here are more details: Vaughan Village and also at More than English

York Cathedral View UK British Airbnb stays

Out of your comfort zone

Go to England! Nottingham doesn´t have too many Spanish people to talk to ; ) and has great day trips. (Fly to East Midlands Airport) Choose somewhere where there are not a lot of foreign people. London & Dublin are full of French & Spanish students and it can be tempting to cheat and meet up with your fellow countrymen. If you choose a place like Nottingham you are more likely to improve your english!

Lose your Fear / shyness The most important part of learning a language is to be brave. I am fluent in Spanish and only became fluent after making MANY mistakes. I had to suffer several embarrassing moments while learning Spanish. The mistakes are part of learning and improving. Don´t worry about it too much, if someone doesn’t understand what you are saying try to structure the sentence in another way or by using different keywords. You may think the process is slow but you will soon improve and gain confidence if you are constant and insist.

Scone at Bettys Tea Room York England

I know that it isn´t an easy process, I have been there (learning Spanish & Catalan) and understand the frustration and sometimes the slow progress. You must be consistent, persist with the learning and most of all be brave. It is worth the effort if you keep it up. You will improve your pronunciation and understanding. It can help you to reach your goals in your studies, in your career or making it easier for you to travel around the world.