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The 1 Thing You Need to Do Every Day to Improve Your English

Kevin Naglich
Founder, Deliberate English

If you're like me, you feel like you never have enough time to study.

There are so many exercises that you could do and so many things to improve. With so much to do, it's easy to feel overwhelmed. After all, if there are 20 things you could do, but only 20 minutes available, it feels impossible to pick the right thing. 

When I feel overwhelmed like this, it's likely that I just skip practicing altogether. 

The thing is, even 5 minutes a day is better than nothing. So, if you don't have a lot of time, what is the one thing that you should do every day? 

Before I tell you the answer, think about how you use your native language versus how you use English. 

Everything you do is in your native language. You think in that language. You talk to your family in it. You use it to make plans.  

Your native language isn't just something you do during a specific, scheduled time of the day. It's a part of everything. 

Now think about your English. 

Chances are, you mostly use English when you're studying it. 

For you, English might not be a language. It's just something you study for a short time each day. 

If that's the case, your brain isn't used to using English. It's used to doing flashcards or asking questions about grammar.  

When you're talking to a native speaker, the whole experience is a shock to your brain. It's as if your brain is saying: 

Seriously? You want me to have a conversation right now? I never think in English, so how am I supposed to do it when I'm nervous? 

That's the problem. If English is just something you study, how are you supposed to use it when you're on the spot? 

Time to answer our question. 

What's the one thing you should do every day? 

To get better at English, you need to spend time thinking in English.

You might be thinking, "yeah, yeah, yeah, I've heard that before, but HOW am I supposed to do that?"

It's easier than you think. 

Do you ever make a to-do list? Talk to yourself in the shower? Think about what you're going to make for dinner? Start to do these things in English! 

Even better, talk to yourself about those things OUT LOUD

The key here is to just think. Don't try to translate. Don't worry about mistakes. Just think. 

What's the difference? 

Translating means thinking about the whole sentence in your native language and then trying to change each word to English. 

Thinking means taking structures that you already know and simply replacing specific words.

Sentences structures are the building blocks of fluent English

For example, you are probably very comfortable with an expression like "I want something" or "I need to do something."

So when you're talking to yourself, you can just say "I need to..." without translating that part word for word. 

  • I need to do my homework. 
  • I need to eat dinner. 
  • I need to study English. 

This is a super simple structure that you can use directly without translating in your head. 

You can learn more about this strategy in my video on how to think directly in English

When you're talking to yourself and are stuck on an idea that you simply don't have the word for (or can't talk around it), quickly write it down somewhere to look up later. 

This is a great way to figure out the important vocabulary to learn

After all, if it's something that you are trying to talk to yourself about, it's probably important. 

This whole exercise will feel pretty strange at first. You might get weird looks from your family when they hear you talking to yourself, but the more you force your brain to think about things in English, the easier conversations will be. 

The best part is that you can do this anywhere, at any time, without any books, apps, teachers, or native speakers.

It also doesn't require any extra time in your day because you're already doing these things. We're just going to do them in English. 

Do you ride a bus to work? 

Talk to yourself about what you're going to do when you get there in English. 

Did you just get into a big fight with your girlfriend or boyfriend? 

Talk to yourself about how you would apologize to her in English. 

If you can make a habit of talking to yourself, you'll get a lot more comfortable using English. 

The more comfortable you are, the more you use it.

The more you use it, the more confident you'll be.  

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