Are you making these English study mistakes?


Are you frustrated with your level of spoken English? Are you not able to say what you think easily in English even though you’ve spent a lot of money and time on English lessons? It could be that your English study method needs to change.

English study mistakes
Are you making these English study mistakes?

As a communications consultant for international corporations in Tokyo, I’ve spoken to thousands of professionals who are learning English. I often see the same language learning mistakes being made again and again. However, you don’t have to. There are proven techniques to learning language more quickly and with some minor changes to your study regime, you can see immediate results. So, here is a list of common English language learning mistakes and how to fix them so you can improve your spoken English quickly.

1) Not having a good reason to study English

If you don’t have a good reason to study English, you will ultimately give up

Before you think about how to study English, you should have a clear idea of why you are studying English. The more specific you can be the better. For example saying “I want to learn English” is a little vague. A better thing to say would be “I want to learn English to give great presentations to improve my career and increase my income”. Being clear and specific will help you to focus on your goals and avoid wasting time learning things you don’t need to know.

2) You study English but you don’t use it

More than “studying English”, you should really try to “use English” in real life. Of course studying English in a classroom environment will help you but unless you use it in real life, your progress will be limited. Try to get as many opportunities as you can to use your English outside the classroom. It’s the best way to gain confidence and sound more natural.

3) Being a perfectionist

Being a perfectionist
Being a perfectionist could in fact slow down your progress in speaking English

Many students of English are perfectionists. They will only speak once they are 100% sure they are correct. This is an incredibly inefficient way of speaking as it takes so long to get your point across. In the meantime, you may find the person listening to you has fallen asleep! You have to be prepared to test your English in real life and make mistakes. In fact, making mistakes is essential to improving your English. Concentrate on communicating your main point rather than being 100%.

4) Not speaking enough

Not speaking Enough
If you want to improve your English speaking skills, speak!

So here is the secret to speaking good English: SPEAK!

That’s it.

If you worry too much about making mistakes or trying to be perfect as described in point 3 then you won’t speak and you won’t improve.

The more you speak the more fluent you will become.

It’s as simple as that.

5) Not listening enough

Not listening enough
Are you not listening enough?

It’s important to get as much listening practice as you can and then try to use what you heard in conversation. Listening to TV programs, radio and podcasts is a great way to improve your listening. Don’t worry if you don’t understand every single word. If you can understand the general meaning then you have succeeded.

6) Studying TOEIC and grammar is extremely inefficient

Studying TOEIC is for idiots who like being bored
Studying TOEIC is for idiots who like being bored

If you are interested in improving your spoken English then TOEIC is not your friend. TOEIC is good for expanding your vocabulary, your grammar and perhaps listening skills. However, many studies have shown that there is a very weak link between your TOEIC score and ability to speak English. Added to that, I have met few people who actually enjoy taking the TOEIC test. So the fact that many corporations use TOEIC to check their employees’ English speaking ability is a complete mystery. On the other hand, if you like being bored and don’t want to improve your spoken English, then keep studying TOEIC.

7) Not using English regularly or reviewing enough

A lot of research into language acquisition suggests that regular practice is far more effective than studying for long hours occasionally. In other words it’s probably better to study for 10 minutes a day for seven days (70 minutes) rather than studying for 3 hours only one day a week. So it’s OK to practice English for a short time but keep it as regular as you can.

8) Learning new words but not improving what you already know

Some students think that by continually learning new words, their English will automatically improve. Of course, expanding your vocabulary is a good idea. However, in my experience, due to tests such as TOEIC, people tend to waste their time learning lots of difficult infrequent words they will never use in daily life. It is much better to concentrate on practising and improving vocabulary you already know for everyday situations and tasks. With only 500 words, you can communicate a lot more than you think.

9) Thinking in Japanese and translating it into English

Translating in your head is not a good idea
Why are you translating in your head? Just speak English!

Try to avoid thinking in Japanese and then translating into English when you speak. It’s very inefficient. If you can, aim to use an English only dictionary to look up new words. Also, try to learn everyday set phrases by heart. When you say them, try to picture the situation you would use them in. In that way, you will be using English more naturally and quickly.

10) Not having fun with English

Why did I chose this boring study method for English?

If you don’t enjoy using English then it will be nearly impossible for you to make any progress. Try to learn English through your interested and hobbies. Having fun with your English is one of the best ways to get motivated to improve your English.

If you use just a few of these points, you should be able to improve your English more quickly than before.

If you would like to study useful natural English that native speakers check out our English podcasts here.