So, here are some ways to use English (or another language) more in your everyday life. We start with Reading and Writing.
Change the language on your phone, on your computer/ laptop and in the browser to English. You already know where everything is. But seeing all this in English will make you switch to this language pretty regularly.
Play mobile games in English. If your phone is in English, the games you have on it will also be switched to English. Even if they are simple ones, like Lines, or Woodblock, or numbers, it’s still useful because you’re getting used to seeing more English around.
Check the lyrics of your favourite songs. The websites that provide translation or a built-in translator will make it easy to understand what the song is about. The more often you do this, the better you’ll understand songs in general. It’s also a good way to get familiar with some slang and regional varieties of English (e.g. in rap and hip hop).
Join more groups on social media or follow somebody who posts in English, preferably something not about English (then your focus will be on the content rather than on the language). The currently forbidden and blocked social media are especially good for this, I think, because you get a combination of pictures, infographics (e.g. if you follow the news), short videos, stories and text. Maybe more groups of this kind will appear here on VK as well. And you can still use Pinterest, reddit and quora for the same purpose. Even if you only read the headings, it still works.
Take time to read comments, especially under videos. It’s great because comments vary from something really short and unsophisticated to well developed arguments. And this is authentic language (ever read comments without any punctuation and capital letters?))
Browse in English. How often do you ask your preferred search engine questions? Just imagine how much language practice you’ll get if you do this in English all the time. It’s also a good way to practise asking questions and finding the right words to explain what you want in the most concise manner.
Subscribe to newsletters from media resources. If reading social media feeds seems boring or you prefer longer texts, newsletters are a good option. With them, you can manage your time and choice better. Many bloggers have newsletters too where they share their thoughts or things worth sharing. Such letters are also written in a simpler language and a more conversational manner.
Light read. Now it’s easy to find virtual copies of many magazines, including on VK. Or you could choose a genre you wouldn’t normally read in Russian/your native language. For example, one of my former students, a middle-aged man, a salesperson and a trader in the past, chose one of the books about Paddington. I read one of the Shopaholic books as a student. Or comic books maybe? The only thing to take into account is how to organise this – when are going to do it? where? what device is more convenient to use?
Try to-do lists, plans and notes. I believe shopping and to-do lists are the perfect place to start writing more in English. Usually it’s also shorter and more concise and a good way to pick up some everyday vocab that you need. If you keep your notes on your phone which is switched to English, the two go well together. I use Google Keep for lists and notes and OneNote for more detailed plans and goal setting, mostly because I can use tables on OneNote and it’s somewhat more difficult to use it in the browser, which gives a sense of privacy (illusionary, I think).
Keep a diary. This may be the next step. Writing them in hand is great, but using an app maybe more convenient. I use Daylio where you can track your mood, activities and goals there, as well as add text and up to three photos. Again, the text can be something really short, like «It was a good day. I went to the gym and met up with my friends afterwards» or something more sophisticated like describing one’s dreams. The main idea is still to turn your thoughts and feelings into words. If you make it a habit, it may become quite interesting to describe your day in more detail, as it is to read those notes later. It’s also an excellent memory exercise, especially if you decide to fill in your diary for several days =) When I get tired of keeking my diary in English, I continue in Russian and later switch back again.
Leave comments. A good place to start may be The British Council Learning English website, where you can find tons of exercises of all sorts (grammar, vocab, listening, video, reading, culture etc) divided by levels and with interactive exercises. Each activity ends with a comment section where you can read other learners’ comments and leave yours. To help you, there’s usually a question or two to answer. After this it will probably be easier and less intimidating to leave comments on other resources.
Try postcrossing. How often do you use regular post? =) Don’t you think there’s some magic and a sense of being in a different world when you receive a letter or a postcard? Well, for those who like it, there’s a movement called postcrossing when you send and get postcard to and from people all over the world. Interestingly, at least in Moscow, there’s a special section of “postcards for postcrossing” in book shops. Surely, you won’t have to write much, but if it becomes a hobby, regular writing practice is guaranteed. Here‘s a website to check out.
Blog. Starting a blog/ group of your own may be one small step from commenting on things) I believe that writing with the idea to find an audience is very powerful. There’s more responsibility to write well and proofread your text, but also more opportunities to find like-minded people and engage in interesting conversations with them. But more importantly, it helps to overcome the fear of public writing and have a lot of practice, which may highlight what other aspects of the language are worth looking into and studying more thoroughly.
As a variation of a blog, you can create a group to collect and organise useful information, pictures or videos of what you’re learning. You can then add a summary of what you’ve learnt or comment on your learning process. Here I started a similar group in French. It has only one post for now, but I really like the fact that I can have pictures, videos and my comments on a certain topic in one place (and can use hashtags to sort my posts later).
Solve crosswords. Strictly speaking, this is not writing per se, but it may be a good way to pass the time, practise one’s spelling and retrieve words from memory. There are plenty of apps to choose from, including those for beginners and kids. I’m using the one called English Crossword puzzle and it takes about 5-6 minutes to solve one. For every solved crossword I get bonus stars that I can use later to open a letter or a whole word. So it’s easy and fun.
That’s is for reading and writing. What do you think? What would you like to try? Would you add anything else?
Look out for the next article with more ideas for listening and speaking =)