Secret #1: LEARN ABOUT WORD STRESS
Word Stress is golden key number one for speaking and
understanding English. Word Stress is *very important*.
You can try to learn about Word Stress. This is one of
the *best* ways for you to understand spoken English -
especially English spoken fast.
What is Word Stress?
Take 3 words: photograph, photographer and photographic,
for example. Do they sound the same when spoken? No!
They sound different, because *one* syllable in each
word is "stressed" (stronger than the others).
This happens in ALL words with 2 or more syllables:
TEACHer, JaPAN, CHINa, aBOVE, converSAtion, INteresting,
imPORtant, deMAND, etCETera, etCETera, etCETera
The syllables that are not stressed are 'weak' or
'small' or 'quiet'. Native speakers of English listen
for the stressed syllables, not the weak syllables. If
you use Word Stress in your speech, you will instantly
and automatically improve your pronunciation and
If you have an English teacher, ask her to help you
understand Word Stress. Try to hear the stress in words
each time you listen to English - on the radio, or in
films for example. Your first step is to *hear* and
recognise it. After that, you can *use* it!
Secret #2: SENTENCE STRESS
Sentence Stress is golden key number two for speaking
and understanding English. With Sentence Stress, some
*words* in a sentence are "stressed" (loud) and other
words are weak (quiet). Look at the following sentence:
We want to go.
Do we say every word with the same stress or force? No!
We make the important words *big* and the unimportant
words small. What are the important words in this
sentence? Yes, you're right: WANT and GO.
We WANT to GO.
We WANT to GO to WORK.
We DON'T WANT to GO to WORK.
We DON'T WANT to GO to WORK at NIGHT.
It's impossible to explain everything about Sentence
Stress in this email. The important thing for you is
that you know it exists and try to learn about it.
Sentence Stress is *very important*!
Secret #3: LISTEN! LISTEN! LISTEN!
Students sometimes say: 'I don't listen to the BBC news
on the radio because it's too fast for me and I can't
understand it.' That's a pity! When it's too fast for
you, when you can't understand it, that is exactly when
you NEED to listen to it!!!
How can you improve if you don't listen and practise?
When you were a baby, did you understand your own
language? When you were 3 weeks old, or 2 months, or 1
year, did you understand everything? Of course not! But
you *learned* to understand by *listening*. Think about
it. You learned to understand your own language by
listening, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. After that,
you learned to speak. Then you learned to read. And then
you learned to write. *But listening came first!*
Secret #4: DON'T LISTEN!
In the last secret I said LISTEN! LISTEN! LISTEN!
Now I say DON'T LISTEN! What do I mean?!
Do you know the difference between the verbs TO LISTEN
and TO HEAR? TO LISTEN is active. TO HEAR is passive.
Sometimes you can LISTEN too hard. Sometimes you can TRY
too hard. Sometimes it is better only to HEAR. Let the
radio play. Let the cassette play. But DON'T listen.
Just HEAR. Your subconscious will listen for you. And
you will still learn. If you listen and try to
understand, you may block on one word and get
frustrated. Don't worry! Just HEAR! Believe me, you will
still be learning. The important thing is to let the
radio or cassette or television or record PLAY. Let it
play. And you - you do nothing. Your brain will HEAR,
your subconscious will LISTEN and you will LEARN!
Secret #5: IMPROVE YOUR VOCABULARY WITH 5 WORDS A DAY
Vocabulary is easy! How many days in a year are there?
365, normally (on Earth).
If you learn only 5 new words a day, you will learn 5 x
365 = 1,825 new words in a year. ONE THOUSAND, EIGHT
HUNDRED AND TWENTY-FIVE WORDS. That is a lot of new
words. And we are not counting all the other words you
will learn in other ways - reading, conversation etc.
Buy a notebook and write in 5 new words EACH day, EVERY
day. Learn them! You will soon have an excellent
Secret #6: 30 MINUTES A DAY BETTER THAN 3.5 HOURS A WEEK
In fact, 30 minutes of English study once a day is
better than 5 *hours* once a week! Study regularly.
LITTLE + OFTEN is better than LOT + SOMETIMES.
It's easier, too. You can easily find 30 minutes each
day. How? You can get up 30 minutes earlier. Or have a
shorter lunch break. Fix a particular time every day -
and keep it!
Secret #7: REVISE! REVISE! REVISE!
If you revise, you'll improve your learning by 100%.
What does "to revise" mean? It means "to read again".
You should be systematic about this. When you learn
something, you should note it. Then you should *look at
it again*, 3 times:
- after 1 day
- after 1 week
- after 1 month
Each time you revise, test yourself.
Learn, revise, test.
revise (BrE): read again to improve one's knowledge
revise (BrE & AmE): read and correct; update