Image: Public Domain
Sight and sound are processed in different parts of the brain and interestingly, more of the brain is devoted to sound (green area) than to sight (pink area)! In fact, the portion of the brain which stores the memory of sound touches more areas of the brain than any other.
How to Learn English & Improve Your English With Your Ears!
So if you want to learn English, or improve your English, listen to English at every opportunity. You will improve your English with your ears!
The internet makes this very easy. You can access news channels like the BBC and listen for a few minutes every day. They have special services such as 1 Minute News which summarizes the news headlines and 6 Minute English which analyzes words and phrases. Look for the Podcast section where you can download a podcast and subscribe to 6 Minute English.
Ted.com is a major resource for improving your English. Use it often. You will find hundreds of brief talks, many around 10 or 15 minutes, on a variety of interesting subjects. The site contains useful tools such as subtitles in many languages and also a transcript of the talk so you can read as you listen.
BBC Radio 4 and the World Service provide interesting talks and conversations on a wide variety of subjects. You can download the podcasts on your mobile device and listen whenever you can. Click here, explore and bookmark this link: BBC Podcasts
If you need to hear the pronunciation of a word use thefreedictionary.com. Just enter the word in the search box and you will see audio icons showing the American and British flags for American English and British English. Test it out now by clicking here and listening to the American and British pronunciation of the word SCHEDULE.
You can find hundreds of audio books at openculture.com from both fiction and non-fiction categories. The site also offers a number of courses from Astronomy to History to Psychology.
This leads to another key suggestion: if you want to learn something or take a course, do it in English!
You accomplish two things:
One of the best resources online for free courses is: coursera.org. Choose from hundreds of free courses on an amazing variety of subjects. Your motivation is high as you are learning a subject you have chosen because you are interested in it, and you are doing it in English!
The Power of Images
As a major part of the brain is devoted to vision, you can improve your English by associating pictures with words.
Listen to someone describing an experience or an object and your brain starts to create mental images of what you hear. In other words, you SEE what they are talking about. Listen to a conversation between English speakers, and often the listener will repeat the words “I see, I see” to indicate they understand or see in their mind what the speaker is talking about.
So rather than just use a dictionary to check a word, use Google Images instead.
or example, you may not know what ‘nuts and bolts’ are. Just go to Google Images, type in ‘nuts and bolts’ and the results page looks like this:
This method works well for most words. On the results page for the word ‘disgust’ for example, you will find these images:
Image Credits (clockwise):
Just a 2 second look at these images helps you understand immediately what the word means. You can check the written dictionary definition later if you want a longer explanation.
So make Google Images your Visual Dictionary!
Research done by Dr. Paul Pimsleur (1927-1976) showed that repetition at spaced intervals is very important in putting information into long-term memory.
His system (Graduated Interval Recall) outlined a schedule for repeating information at certain intervals, gradually extending the period between each repetition.
When trying to remember vocabulary this method is very effective.
For example, you may learn 5 new words one day. Then repeat them again the next day and then after 3 days, 7 days, 14 days, 30 days, 60 days.
After a process like this it is unlikely you will forget those words in the future.
The key is to refresh the memory just before you forget the new information. This constant refreshing of memory at longer intervals makes a deep impression in the brain.
This agrees with the work of Edward De Bono, a leading authority in the field of thinking. In his book “Mechanism of Mind” he explains how the neural networks in the brain can be compared to paths or tracks.
The more often information is repeated, a deeper track or pathway is created so it is less likely to be forgotten.
For example, if one or two people follow behind each other a path will be formed but soon it will grow over. However, if many people follow behind each other a clear pathway is created that will remain for a long time. Repeated footsteps create a track or path.
So again the question: How to Learn English? Answer: When learning new vocabulary, be sure to repeat and repeat over a period of weeks.
An excellent aid for doing this is the Anki flashcard program. You can download it free here:
Anki – Intelligent Flashcards
After you have downloaded and installed the computer version you can get the free companion Ankiweb so you can access your word lists and notes online from your mobile device.
This is ideal for using time profitably when waiting or travelling.