Learning English is hard work. It can become frustrating and boring, particularly if you don’t feel like you are making any significant progress. However, to become fluent you need to use English daily. The best way to break up the routine is to inject some different activities and fun ways to learn English. And if you’re traveling or on a holiday break, don’t let that deter you! Here are a few fun ways to learn English away from the classroom.
Fun Ways to Learn English at Home
1. Join an English Language Book Club
Most large cities will probably already have a book club established that you can join, but if necessary, just start your own.
There are a multitude of benefits to being a member. Firstly, you have a group of people to hold you accountable for reading a piece of literature that you might put off doing on your own. Knowing that in a few weeks’ time you’ll be with a group of people asking you questions about what you’ve read provides brilliant motivation! Additionally, the meetings are a great place to meet new people, and other members can help you with words and contexts that you don’t understand.
2. Play a Game
Meet some friends at your local coffee shop for a game of Scrabble, Articulate or Pictionary. These classic Western board games are an engaging way to practice and increase your English vocabulary, and do something different with your friends too. There are dozens of other great games for learning English, so choose a new one each week!
3. Find a Conversation Partner
One of the easiest ways to do this is by hanging out where the backpackers are. Most cities around the world will have at least one hostel and generally these hostels have a bar or communal gathering area. Go there and just start talking to anyone you see.
Start with ‘Have long have you been in ‘X City’? Backpackers love meeting new people and often have all the time in the world to chat. I guarantee that this one sentence will instantly open up a conversation. You’ll become their best friend once they find out that you are a local who can offer them some inside tips on the best places in town to eat, drink and visit. This is an easy way to practice both your speaking and listening skills.
4. Write To a Pen Pal
Pen pals may seem a little 20th century, but I firmly believe that they are the best way to develop your written English and get to know another culture. PenPal World is one organization that offers a 21st century forum where you can meet over 1,900,000 people from around the world. Just select an English-speaking country that interests you and away you go!
5. Organise a Movie Night
My friends love any excuse to get together. I bet yours are the same, so organise an English movie night with some of your other friends who are studying English. Order some take away, pop some popcorn and let the movie roll.
The main benefit here is that everything you hear is exactly how it is in reality. It’s fast-paced, with realistic native accents, and a laid back way to immerse yourself in the language. My top tip for how to learn English by watching movies is to start watching movies that you’ve already seen before, so that you can concentrate more on the language and less on following the plot. Some good movies to start with include: Toy Story, Top Gun, and The Hangover.
Fun Ways to Learn English While Traveling
Though it is not easy to keep up your studies when exploring the wold, IELTS study and travel can go together if you plan well and use interesting materials!
1. Take a Trip With an English Tour Operator
The next time you decide to go on holiday, book a trip with an English tour operator—or even better, travel solo. Simply find any tour—it could be a two week cycling holiday in another country or just a two hour street food tour in your home city—that is being guided in English. The benefits are that usually the groups are small and at least 75% of the other tourists are from native English countries, which forces you to speak English 24/7.
2. Read Your Favorite Material
Don’t read the passages in the IELTS practice tests on the road, because concentrating on them is hard. Just read your favorite magazines, novels, and newspapers, as extensive reading is a great way to prepare for the reading section. Underline important information such as useful words, phrases and points of view. Also, review your notes after your trip. Check out our useful IELTS reading materials to find interesting resources and fun ways to learn English!
3. Listen to Podcasts, Movies, or TV
Listening to a short academic podcast every day can train your ears. Listen to it as many times as you need to fully understand. It won’t take you much time, but it helps you to develop listening skills. Check out the Scientific American 60-second podcasts!
Besides that, you can practice for the IELTS with movies and TV programs on the trip. Download several movies or TV series and watch them on the plane, in the car or before going to sleep.
4. Talk to People
If you travel to an English-speaking country, it will be a great opportunity to talk with native speakers and people from all over the world! Making small talk with people you meet helps you to be confident, get familiar with different accents, and learn new words and phrases (particularly local slang!). Don’t hesitate. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Just talk as much as you can!
I recently helped a group of ESL tourists with idiomatic phrases during a particularly long five hour bus ride through Kenya. They told me later that they learned more during that session and had more fun doing so, than in any formal teaching setting they’d been in.
5. Write a Travel Diary
I am sure that you don’t want to write essays during the journey. Therefore, I recommend a fun way to practice writing—write a travel diary! First, describe the top moments in your trip to a friend or yourself and then write them down. Remember to vary your words and sentence structures. You may also make your diary more interesting by including maps, routes, and pictures. It will be a wonderful memoir for yourself!
Fun Ways to Learn English Anywhere
Use Prep Apps
Whether at home or abroad, apps are a fun way to learn English and prep for the IELTS. Make the best use of your smartphone by downloading useful IELTS prep apps! You can learn a list of new words on Magoosh IELTS Vocabulary Flashcards, listen to a short grammar course or watch a 5-minute video when you are on the road or in hotels.
I’m not intentionally trying to toot my employer’s horn here, but I genuinely believe that Magoosh’s free vocabulary builder app is one of the best ways to help build your lexical resources on a daily basis. The app quizzes you on 1,200 of the most important words in the language with audio pronunciation for each, definitions and example sentences for every word. I love how there are basic, intermediate and advanced sections that you work through like a game, with each level you beat unlocking a harder one with more words and more advanced vocabulary.
Treating learning like a game that you can do on your phone when you are waiting for a friend or commuting is one of the most effective and fun ways to learn English, or any other language. I use the app daily to increase my own vocabulary and I’m a native English speaker!
Whatever you do, don’t give up! The more you surround yourself with native English activities, the quicker you will learn. Just remember that learning a language should be fun!