The below article is soon going to be published on WeChat, but for copyright reasons I'd like to publish it on my blog first, since I wrote the entire thing. Well, that's not strictly true, this awesome guy called Roger kindly contributed the Chinese translation...his Chinese is still a lot better than mine! Still, the English article is all mine.
Seven Suggestions To Help You Learn More Efficiently
Being a teacher often comes with a stigma, we supposedly know it all, we have all the answers. My students often ask me the strangest questions about just about anything. Over the course of my teaching career, be that as a private instructor or a teacher in a school, these questions have evoked all sorts of emotions. I've laughed out loud, smiled in amusement and simply stared in utter disbelief, wondering how my student's question related to the present topic. If my students were as creative with their homework as they are with asking questions I'd have a blast.
Even though I don't have all the answers I always encourage my students to ask questions. A very wise man (my dad) once told me: "In this world asking is the only thing that's for free." and he's right. It doesn't cost anything to ask a question and it it's never wrong...unless the question is inappropriate but that's a different story all-together.
I enjoy the challenge of answering my students' questions. Sometimes the answer is straight-forward, sometimes I have to think a while to figure out how to best answer it and sometimes I need to excuse myself and tell my students that I'll have to do a little bit of research before I can definitely answer their question.
If we disregard the popular questions about my personal life, living in China and the occasional grammar question, students generally ask for some study tips. I always try my best to tailor my suggestions to give the student asking specific advice relevant to them. Every student has different goals and as such I would like to offer the best possible advice.
In this article I would like to take the opportunity to give my students some general study tips that are useful and easy to adapt. Some of them you might be familiar with, others you might not have heard of before or you might find them somewhat strange to adopt but if you put a little effort into it, you'll reap the results. So here we go, I'd like to give you seven, hopefully useful, tips:
1) Adopt a "CAN DO" attitude.
I've discovered that students sometimes shy away from more difficult tasks, afraid that their comprehension isn't good enough to keep up with other, more advanced, students. I say: That's rubbish! The most important thing is a positive attitude, a positive way of thinking. Approach a new set of words, a new article, a news talk or social class with a "CAN DO" attitude. Tell yourself that you'll try your best. Trying and failing is the best way to success, not trying because you're afraid of failing is a surefire way to remain stuck in one place. So dive into deeper waters, get in over your head, get out of your comfort zone, do something you haven't tried before. You'll not only improve your language skills over time but also your self-confidence.
2) Don't get in over your head.
Pressure to achieve certain goals and test scores can easily make you feel tired and lose the interest to learn. Sometimes you simply can't avoid it and you need to tackle a lot of different things to prepare for an important test, a paper, an interview or a presentation. Before you load too much onto your plate, take a moment to consider what you need to learn and look at the timeframe you have, then make yourself a study plan and stick to it. When you're tired, exhausted or sick you don't learn well so make sure you eat healthily, take regular study breaks and sleep enough. You'll remember more than you'll do if you spend every day studying for eight hours in a row. If you're not sure how to make yourself a study plan try to speak to your teacher and ask for help, that's what they are there for after all.
3) Learn things you are interested in.
Every student has a different reason as to why they need/want to learn. Some students want to study abroad, others are looking for a better job opportunity, yet others are making an effort so that they can help their children and some might learn just for fun and these are just some of the reasons... Whatever your personal reason might be, think of the things you are interested in and try to incorporate those things into your studies. If you like art and you're learning English, then use the target language to learn more about your interests. Challenge yourself but keep yourself interested by using familiar topics you can relate to. Using this method puts the fun back into your studies.
4) Prepare for your classes and ask questions.
During self-study you might not necessarily have the chance to ask all that many questions so take a note of the things you are not certain about, the things you don't quite understand and ask your teacher about them. If you don't have the opportunity to do so in class, go and find your teacher before or after class and ask if they could spare some time to help you with something. Preparing your thoughts and the things you don't fully understand helps you to identify the areas you need to improve in and asking questions is always free so use that chance.
5) Don't be afraid to say the wrong thing.
Don't repeatedly tell yourself that you mustn't give the wrong answer or can't respond to the teacher's question simply by saying "I don't know". If you answer a question incorrectly it still shows that you thought about the question and tried to answer it. If you don't know an answer, simply tell your teacher. You shouldn't make a habit of saying it but if it's the truth then there is nothing wrong with being honest. You won't lose face, you'll just gain another chance to identify the areas where you still not to improve.
6) Read a lot and speak a lot.
Reading improves your grammar and increases your vocabulary as well as your comprehension, while speaking gives you the opportunity to improve your fluency and pronunciation. Try to read things you are genuinely interested in and speak without worrying too much. You will improve as you go along.
7) Create an English speaking environment for yourself.
If you have the opportunity to create an English speaking environment at school or with your classmates / friends do it! It's the best way to maximise your language output and increase your chances to practice. Speaking your native language might feel more natural and come easier but it won't help you improve.