Several years ago I realised that although I was teaching a lot and preparing for classes a lot (all in English), I would switch to Russian when doing general search on the Internet. I understood that actually searching in English was not easy and I thought this was not good. So I decided to form a new habit =)
Now most of my reading, writing, watching and searching happens in English and it gives quite a lot of practice even if I don’t speak often with my colleagues or natives. This allows me to maintain my level.
I’m not suggesting you do exactly the same, but think, what kind of searches could you do in English? Often we look for some facts, ideas or concepts which are not related to our geography. Or maybe book, film, or product reviews. Or information for your upcoming holiday. Or news. Well, you could practise all this in English.
How it helps
Today search engines are smart and they will help you formulate your query with autocompletion. So once you’ve opened a search page, you already start thinking in English. What’s the best way to ask your question?
Searches are often simplified questions, e.g. ‘what to visit in…’ or ‘how to pack if you’re going…’. Or we can state a general category first and then what you need, e.g. ‘tai food tom…’ (if you’re not sure what the spelling is).
It’s also fun to read autocomplete options a search engine offers. Try ‘what is…’ and ‘how to…’ =)
With searching in English you can also learn the right collocations or phrases. Because if there’s a language mistake in your query, the engine will correct it. Or, rather, it will show more frequent queries on the same topic. For example:
So you learn that it’s ‘making mistakes’, not ‘doing mistakes’ even before you press Enter. Basically, you can use search engines to check for collocations or other word combinations.
Next you’ll need to learn to scan the search results and evaluate them. Scanning is a very useful skill when we work with large amounts of information. I believe it’s best acquired in practice, and trying to find an answer to your question in English is perfect for this especially if you have limited time to do this.
Scanning is about text, but websites are not only about it. It’s not always easy to navigate them and understand their structure. So finding your way on a given website in English is another skill you’ll learn.
Let’s take Notion as an example here. It’s an advanced tool for note taking and organising information. So, right from the home page you see sections that showcase different features. It’s a lot to take in even if the language is not a problem.
When you finally find what you need, you’ll get good practice of dealing with authentic English. With Yandex.Browser you can look up translation with the right click. Maybe there are similar features or extensions in other browsers. But in general it means that it’s never been easier to learn a new vocab by just browsing something that you like and need.
So, if you start exploring Notion in English, just to understand what it is and how it works, you are bound to learn some vocab along the way without even noticing it.
As another example, I thought I’d share a website where one can rent properties like villas, cottages, or chateaux in European countries and around the world – Oliver’s Travels.
It is a bit like window shopping, true, but why not? It has so many beautiful photos on it! If you’re interested in the country’s regions, its landscapes and cityscapes, its architecture or interior design, your eyes will be pleased. I already have a collection of photos saved from this website – for my future dream home =)
At the same time, beautiful pictures will help you to guess the meaning of unknown words and memorise new ones faster — exactly because of the ‘wow’ effect from pictures.
I came across this website at the end of December when I was dreaming of a holiday in sunny warm France. Also I was watching a lot of videos about French chateaux but they didn’t show the interior and building plan much. So I got curious about what it’s like inside and whether it’s possible to stay there.
Well, I should say that many expensive properties looked horrible inside (to my taste), but I got an idea of a chateau floor plan and how to find one’s way around. Then I went on a quest of finding the one I would spend my holiday in and ended up exploring some amazing cottages in England.
As for vocab, there’s quite a lot of it – everything to do with describing a property and trying to charm potential customers with this description. Here’s an example:
“A slice of French charm without overwhelming acreage, Chateau Lignol is tucked away behind Breton farmland. A long track opens up onto a vista of the famous tower which can be glimpsed through the trees. A stay at Chateau Lignol is the perfect opportunity to explore and immerse yourself in the peaceful and beautiful local area. Surrounded by farmland, this is truly rural France at its best.”
So, browsing in English may seem difficult at first, but with practice it becomes a habit that will improve your language skills without much conscious effort.
Would you like to make it your daily routine?