How to Improve your English: Make Mistakes!

As an English as a Second Language teacher my students always ask me the Golden Question:  How can I improve my English?  I always answer with the easy responses: go to the library, listen to the radio, watch Canadian TV shows etc.  Students are always happy with these answers. 

But really these answers are not the best way to learn English.  Why?  Because each of these activities are done alone.  I believe firmly that a language can never be learned alone.  Language is about communication.  Language is about sharing your story with the outside world.  English cannot be learned alone with a book in the library.   

So what is my real answer for how to improve your English?  I will make two suggestions.

First get out into the community and practice.  The more situations where you practice English, the faster you will grow your vocabulary and speaking skills.  The more friends you make where you use English to communicate, the more you will have to stretch your English to share your story. 

It might seem scary to get out into the community but there are many easy ways to do it. 

A)    Try volunteering at local community events.  The city of Vancouver has a lot of volunteer opportunities: https://vancouver.ca/people-programs/volunteering.aspx ,

B)    MOSAIC offers lots of volunteer positions as well:  https://www.mosaicbc.org/about/volunteer/

C)    Even within MOSAIC engage we run a volunteer leadership program for our advanced English students: https://mosaicengage.ca/english-classes#upcoming

Volunteering not only improves your English but also gives you Canadian experience you can put on a resume

Try conversation clubs, meetup.com has many of these for ESL learners.  We host Meetup group ourselves at MOSAIC engage where we do conversation and movie nights: https://www.meetup.com/Newcomer/

Second and more importantly make Mistakes!  As language learners we are often scared of mistakes.  They can be embarrassing and disheartening.  They can keep us silent and scared to speak.   But each mistake is a new small lesson you can learn about English.  Over a thousand days with a thousand small mistakes your English will bloom. 

Think of mistakes like you would going to the gym.  The first day is hard and you want to give up.  But as you get stronger each day is easier and easier.  At the gym you never start by lifting the heaviest weight, you start small and build slowly.  Same with mistakes.  Start small and make mistakes with friends and people you trust. 

Then when you get used to being corrected you can lift the heavy weight and make mistakes out in the community.  Make mistakes on the SkyTrain, in the supermarket, make mistakes as much as you can and wherever you can.  And each time it will be easier and each time your English will be stronger.

At MOSAIC engage English classes we seek to be that light weight.  A safe place for you to experiment and have fun with your mistakes.  Within our inclusive community we hope you will gain the strength and confidence in your English to truly engage with Vancouver’s diverse community. 

So, how do you improve your English?  Go out into the community and make Mistakes!