Step 1. Self-Assessment – What is your current English language skill level?
Measure your current CEFR Level. Click here: http://www.britishcouncil.it/en/exam/why/english-language-levels-cefr
Step 2. What do you most want to change about your English language skills?
You may want to change an aspect of your English language skill to better meet your professional objectives. For example, if you are a professor, you may want to improve your ability to use the phrases and expressions most relevant to your area of expertise. You may also want to improve your grammar, pronunciation or social etiquette skills.
Step 3. Decide what English language skill level you want to reach.
What purpose do you want to use English for, and what skill level is needed so that you can be successful? Does your job require you to write reports, or blogs, or emails? Then, find your skill level for writing. Review the description for the next level.
Step 4. Determine why you want to reach the next English language level.
This step gives you the motivation and stimulation to continue your journey. If your ‘why’ is not serious, or clear, you may quit. Find your passion.
What is your personal goal? How will you use your skill when you reach the next English language level? Be specific. Are you going to give an academic presentation, or just talk to friends socially? Are you going to take a test for college or apply for a new job? Do you just want to learn English so you can travel and know how to order coffee or a meal in a restaurant? Maybe you want to better manage international teams of workers. Each answer requires a different amount of effort.
Step 5. Determine when you want to achieve this goal.
When do you want to achieve this goal? This month? In the next 6 months or the next 10 years? The answers determine how much work you should put in, and the time you should spend. If you wanted to race in the Tour de France, you would ask yourself the same questions.
Step 6. Determine the work you are willing to do to achieve this goal.
Is there a difference between the work you are willing to do to reach your English language improvement goals, and the work that is required for you to succeed? If there is a difference, then you need to adjust your willingness to practice, or adjust your expectations for success.
Find your passion. Read everything about it. Look up words you don’t know. Look up the example sentences. Write about it. Think about it often. Learn the music and lyrics written about it.
Act to achieve. Don’t just wish. Are you willing to put in the work required to reach your goal in time you set? Set goals, based on your current skill level, the time you have available, and your ability to learn.
Step 7. Decide how you will record your progress towards this goal.
What action will you take and complete daily? Think about planning a trip. Each step in the journey takes you closer to your destination. Create a goal with steps you can see, measure, and complete. You can set a goal to read 2 books in 2 weeks, or to spend 2 hours each day reading writing. These are specific goals. You can complete the action of attending one Toastmasters.org meeting weekly. Then you would check-off that action when it is complete. You can plan a weekly or daily study schedule in preparing for the IELTS or TOEFL Test. Here is an example of a TOEFL planner.
Step 8. Start.
Schedule your learning sessions. Learn. Practice, often. Practice daily. You have to use what you learn immediately or you will forget it. If you learn a new phrase, find 5 different sentences to construct with that phrase. Speak the sentences. Learn words within sentences, and remember the sentence or phrase. Use the sentence or phrase at different times during the day so you improve your ability to retrieve your knowledge from memory. This is called RECALL. To practice recall, you can do the following:
- Read a story in English, and summarize the story. This can be a news story or a book or TV show. Record yourself telling the story. Tell someone the story. Answer questions about the story. Complete learning exercises which test your knowledge of the story. Learn the words or lyrics to a song.
- Speak with native English language speakers every day. Use the vocabulary you have. It is useless to worry about what native English speakers think. You will only achieve proficiency by practicing with the vocabulary and grammar skills you do have. Most native English speakers are pleased when you make a strong effort to try.
- Attend public speaking events where the English language is spoken. Join Toastmasters.org, and practice public speaking.
- Volunteer to work at nursing homes, or shelters, or volunteer to help an organization with English speaking workers. Join English speaking study groups, or join native English speakers who are doing projects in which you can participate. Make sure you enjoy the project.
- Define a project you want to complete, which involves using your English language. Develop a presentation in the English language. Practice giving the presentation in English repeatedly. Develop your website in English. Write a blog.
- Learn a movie script. Learn a play for a movie. Learn a song. Memorize stories written for children. The language is well written but written in simple English.
- Tests – Prepare for English language competency exams. Prepare for an interview, and practice many times.
- Teach someone the English language you know. That will encourage you to make sure you know the rules.
- Listen to the news and review the script. You may have to do this 10 times. Read the script for the news. Repeat the script. Learn a paragraph of news. Learn to tell the news using the same words the reporter used. You can practice at VOA Learning English. You can practice imitating a few words spoken by the reporter. Pause the recorder and repeat. Record your voice saying those words. Some people will have to practice 10 times. Other persons will practice and repeat 30 times. It takes work!
- An essential part of communication in English is the speakers intonation (emotion behind their words). Emotion can be interpreted from the speakers facial expressions, eye movement, and even the way someone moves or stands. This is the speaker’s nonverbal communication.
Step 9. Understand which method of learning works for you.
Understand which method works for you and practice, practice, practice, practice, practice, practice.
Step 10. Have you improved?
Has your skill level changed? Has your work produced an improvement in the skills you were working on? Have you completed the work you scheduled for the required length of time? If so, assess your skills or take a test, again. What do the results tell you. What’s working? What’s not working? What will you change to get the results you are seeking?
Make the adjustments – what will you do differently? Do more of? Do less of? Is your heart still focused on the task of improving your English?