Starting to Read English


This post is for beginners. It may be useful for others, too.

For good English you need to read English. Reading English is hard. Sometimes there are words you don’t understand. Don’t quit. You need to do more work when you are starting to read English.

Sometimes you choose to read, sometimes you have to read for work or study. This post will help make your reading more effective.

If you are reading a book, magazine or newspaper, write notes in the book or make copies of the pages and write on the copies. If you are reading a web page, print it out.

  1. Read the part you need to read. Don’t worry about it. Just get to the end.
  2. Get a highlighter pen and a pencil. Use the pen to highlight words you know a little but not 100%. Use the pencil to black out words that you do not know at all.
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  4. Try to think of words you might know to replace the blacked out words. Does the sentence make sense? If not, or you still have problems…
  5. Check the highlighted words. Can you remove them and have the sentences still make sense? If not…
  6. Erase the pencil from your unknown words. Use an English dictionary to check the meaning. Try not to use a bilingual dictionary. If you do not own an English dictionary, you can buy this one
    or use this website.
  7. Write notes for the new words. I think word cards are the best.
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If everything is still too hard, put your reading away, take a deep breath, and try it another time.

Your New Speaking Coach: Your Phone


These days a lot of people have smartphones. I think maybe only my parents have slim phones that only make calls and receive text messages.

Most people use their smartphones for games or internet surfing or email. Some people use them to time their runs and record how many miles they have run. However, there is a great tool for language learners that doesn’t need you to install an app. It can help coach your pronunciation. Your new speaking coach is the voice input tool. Every smartphone has one and this is how you use it.

First, open your notepad app, make sure your input language is English then click the microphone for voice input.


Next, speak, and wait for your phone to type what you said.


If the words look like what you said, great.

If not, keep practising.

Voice input is rarely perfect but it is often very good, even if I use my hometown accent. Keep practising and you can have more accurate pronunciation.

No Time to Study

So many people are busy and a lot of people think they are too busy to study English outside their English lesson time. That once-a-week lesson, with no homework in between, means that you leave seven days available for forgetting what you learned.

This post from Learn English at Home gives you some ideas about online grammar exercises you can do, but here is a list of some other things you can do.

Hopefully you have a little bit more motivation to study, even if it is just for a little while.

Using Web Apps for Study

Since I became a teacher I have been interested in how people use technology to help them study. When I was setting up this website and the social media that I use to let people know about it, I found some interesting ways to use Pinterest and Evernote for language study.

Use Pinterest as a Picture Dictionary


Some people use Pinterest as a visual dictionary. This is an interesting way to study vocabulary and helps you to study by remembering words with pictures even if you can’t draw.

If you use Pinterest, you should follow my English pinboard.

Use Evernote as your Internet Notebook

If you use Evernote, you can take photographs of paper notes, posters and signs and search for the text in the photographs. You can also add web pages, emails, document files and audio. It syncs between devices easily. There is a post on the Evernote blog about how to use it to study in more detail here.

Why not join Evernote by clicking here.

Trouble with A, An and The

A lot of students have problems using articles, the short words a, an and the.


A/an means one single thing
The means one particular thing or some particular things/stuff or things we know and are talking about (or sometimes about animal or plant species.
No article means any things/ stuff.

A and an are often used to introduce topics.
The is often used to talk about a topic already introduced.

You can practise using a, an and the by using news stories.

First, go to an English news site, such as BBC News or The Japan Times.

screenshot_printIf you have problems with articles (the short words a/an and the) there are different ways to learn them.

Print the story then copy and paste it into Word or another word processor.

Go to Edit then Find and Replace. Find ‘a’ and replace it with three spaces. Do the same for ‘an’ and ‘the’. Print your document.


On the printed document write in ‘a’, ‘an’ or ‘the’ then check your answers with the original story.

You can also do this with prepositions (words such as ‘in’, ‘at’ and ‘to’).

Word cards

Word cards are one of the most useful ways to study vocabulary, in my experience. You can take them with you easily, and remove cards with known vocabulary from the list so you are studying only what you need.

I think it is best to study vocabulary in English only, as much as possible. The best way to do this with your word cards is:

1. Write out a sentence with the word you want to learn on one side.


2. On the other side write the word you want to learn.


3. Next to the word, write its meaning in English or draw a picture.


Remove cards from this pile when you know them and keep them in another stack to look at them every month or so and throw them away when you really do know them.