Here’s a quick rule when talking about sports and physical activities.
I’ve written about learning new skills such as cooking and learning the specialist vocabulary can help you get great English. How about computer programming? You like computers and the internet because you’re using a computer now (even a phone is a computer nowadays) unless you had someone print out this page for you. Why not learn to program using English?
Learning a few basics about programming or web design is not difficult to do. If you make mistakes, it is really difficult to break your computer unless you are trying to change your computer’s basic functions.
Codecademy is an interesting place to start practising basic programming and all of the instructions are in English.
Stack Overflow is also a useful site for solving problems. One of my former students said he improved his English by reading Stack Overflow every day.
Previously I’ve written about studying what you find interesting. This has built-in motivation and will help you talk about the things you do every day.
However, sometimes you want to learn new things. To do this, become a ‘specialist’. Focus on a topic and learn vocabulary about it by listening and reading about it. This may be a long project, definitely more than one week. Don’t worry about spending too much time on this project; worry about whether it is interesting enough.
Brainstorm vocabulary ideas first
What words do you think you are going to read/hear? Perhaps it would be a good first step to use a dictionary to translate from your first language to English if you don’t have any ideas at all.
Take notes while you read and listen
Try to write what you read or heard in your own words. Do you agree with it? Will you try out the idea that you read about or heard?
Make word cards for new vocabulary
New vocabulary from any reading or listening should go onto word cards. You might also want to add these new words to a glossary, a list of specialist words and what they mean.
Carry on until you are a ‘specialist’
You might want to start a new specialist topic while you are in the middle of another. It’s possible but it is a lot of work. Why not write it down and start it when you feel you know enough about your current topic. You know when you have finished if you feel you have improved your vocabulary enough to tell your friends about your specialist topic in English.
From my own experiences I have found this to work, while studying photography, running and fitness training in Japanese. All are really fun, as is my new specialism, psychology.
Some students worry about the vocabulary that they should make notes of and really try to learn. What vocabulary is important?
There is no easy answer because it depends on the person. If you use English mainly at work, learn vocabulary by listening to podcasts or reading about your industry in English. If you use English with friends, try doing the same thing about your hobbies and your friends’ hobbies too.
If you already know the vocabulary related to your main interests, try reading about things you suddenly become interested in with a quick internet search. Add to that with a podcast search and you should have plenty to work with.
Remember to use word cards and read tomorrow for an easy way to build word power.