Podcast: New Year Special

New Year's Resolutions

Here is a podcast special. The podcast will be back, probably in January and will be weekly again.

Today’s podcast is about New Year.

New Year Special

The podcast is also available in the iTunes Store by searching for Get Great English or clicking here.

Also, you can stream it on Stitcher here or in the sidebar.

Discuss Things More to Challenge Yourself


It’s fine to listen, watch, and read English; you do need input. Talking and writing are fine, too. However, you need to make sure you are really challenging yourself so that you can get better. If you can read and understand this website then I am sure you can give your opinion and reasons for it.

Continue reading

Practise Grammar Using Your To-Do List

Write a diary

I have written before about using your to-do list as a way to practise English but why not use your to-do list for more repetitive grammar study? You could use this system for present perfect tense, modals and contrasting the simple future, present continuous and simple past tenses.

  • Present Perfect Tense

  • Simply add the item to your list in a negative present-perfect sentence. e.g. ‘I haven’t done my homework.’

    I haven't done my homework.

    When it is finished, can write a new note in the positive form. (I know you could simply cross out the negative part, i.e. ‘I haven’t done my homework.‘, but you can get more practice by writing a new note.)

    I have done my homework.

  • Modals

  • You can practice modals by writing a sentence such as ‘I should do my homework.’

    I should do my homework.

    As your deadline gets nearer, write a stronger modal, like ‘I must do my homework.’

    I must do my homework.

    If you have any incomplete items, write another note, such as ‘I had to do my homework but I didn’t.’

    I had to do my homework but I didn't.

  • Contrasting Simple Future, Present Continuous and Simple Past Tenses

  • This is similar to the modals example. For new items, write a future tense note (both ‘will’ and ‘going to’ are fine but obviously not together). e.g. ‘I will do my homework.’

    I will do my homework.

    Any incomplete tasks can be written in present continuous tense. e.g. ‘I am doing my homework.’

    I am doing my homework.

    Any finished tasks can be written in simple past tense, such as ‘I did my homework.’ or ‘I finished my homework.’

    I finished my homework.

I hope this is useful. If you like this post, why not share it on Facebook or other social media using the buttons below.

Avoid Overusing Your Dictionary

Stop Sign

Stop sign – Wikipedia.org

So many of my students, mainly college students, keep reaching for dictionaries. Every time they see a word they don’t understand or get into a situation where they don’t know the perfect word in English like they do in their first language out comes their smartphone for the dictionary or their Casio Ex-Words.

Every language learner needs a good monolingual dictionary. I usually recommend the Longman English Learner’s Dictionary. However, it’s a reference book, not a best friend.

You need to guess words sometimes

If you check the dictionary every time you see a new word you lose the chance to learn how to guess the meaning from context. Checking it in a monolingual dictionary is one thing; bilingual dictionaries are for beginners. They are your last resort.

You are going to cause a communication breakdown

If you are in the middle of a conversation and someone says a word you don’t understand, are you really going to reach for your dictionary? I hope not. You ask questions or ask, “Did you mean ~?” You are a non-native so don’t be afraid of this question because even natives need to ask it sometimes.

You need to be comfortable with being ‘basically right’ rather than ‘exactly right’

If you develop your language by guessing and using your feelings as a guide while you read and listen, you’ll find your vocabulary choices get so much better. Rather than learning a list of words from the dictionary, learning words by context is much more rewarding. You also learn the different ways a word can be used as you develop your language and need to use words in different situations.

If you use a bilingual dictionary you reject other correct meanings

What usually happens when students use bilingual dictionaries is that they learn an English word with only a single word in their first language. However, not all languages translate easily from and from English, especially Japanese. Why not use pictures to learn meaning, or actual sentences? Use Google Images and Pinterest to find and keep pictures or search Twitter for short sentences with new words. You can even do this with word cards.

I hope this helps you get the confidence to put your dictionary away for a day or two. Let me know how you go in the comments.

How to Make Yourself Study English


This is how to make yourself study English.

  • Change your phone’s settings to English if you haven’t already (or if you can).
  • Change your computer’s OS language to English (if you can).
  • In your work or college bag, take out any books, magazines or anything else that you don’t need that is not English and replace them with English ones.
  • Only have music on your computer, phone and music player that is English.
  • Only play videos in English.
  • Write notes to yourself in English.
  • Write your diary, daily planner and to-do lists in English.
  • Use the ATM in English.

Repeat these as often as necessary to make it a habit.

The Ultimate Study Kits


Students tend to spend a lot of money on equipment for studying English. In this post I have listed some of the best kits available for you.

  • The Cheap Kit
  • This consists of:

    • a pencil or pen,
    • a piece of paper,
    • something to read or listen to,
    • which could be a free magazine, newspaper or an advert, or even a conversation you can hear.

  • The bookworm’s kit
  • This is simple:

    • a pencil or erasable pen,
    • Post-It notes,
    • and

    • an English book, either one you own or from a library.

  • The vocabulary kit
  • You should get:

    • something to read or listen to,
    • a pen or pencil,
    • word cards,
    • an English dictionary (not bilingual),
    • and maybe

    • a notebook,
    • and

    • headphones
    • if you are studying listening in public.

  • The millionaire’s kit
  • It would be nice, and even useful to have:

    • A computer,
    • an MP3 player or smartphone,
    • an electronic dictionary,
    • a grammar reference book,
    • a style guide,
    • a thesaurus,
    • noise-cancelling headphones,
    • private English lessons,
    • a ticket to an English-speaking country,
    • and

    • cable television with English movie channels and English drama channels

As you can see, the first three kits are simple things you already have at home. Materials to study from can cost a lot but if you have a library near you that has English books then you can study for free. This is to show that there is a lot of nice stuff that you can buy to help you study but you do not need to buy a lot of things to study English.

Use Kindle and Kobo to Study English


Even if you don’t own an e-book reader (or ebook reader), you can still download free samples to your smartphone or your computer.

Download the app and go shopping in the Kindle store or the Kobo store (search for your local store) and download free samples of books. You’ll need to sign up but if it’s useful for you, it’s not really a big deal. You have the ability to highlight and search dictionaries for the words you don’t understand, which you can’t do in the middle of a real book shop.

You can then take notes in Evernote or make word cards.

Find Time To Read


I’ve talked about having enough study time in a previous post. Sometimes it is easy to feel that you don’t have enough time to read. You have a family, a job, other studies, a social life, etc. All this stops you from having time to read.

In this article, from the business blog Fast Company, you can see that there are strategies that you can use to get time to read or study.

One thing I especially agree with is that you can stop reading a book after ten pages and quit it. Sometimes life is just too short for some books. There’s always another day, month or year to try reading it if you feel you must.

Travelling to work is an obvious way to get time to read but how about waiting in line at the post office? Between appointments at work? In the bath?