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What to Do if You Don’t Have Time to Study English

Kevin Naglich
Founder, Deliberate English

Think the only way to improve your English is to move to the US or spend hours every day studying? That's not true. 

While those things certainly will help, you can make progress, right now, from your couch, in five minutes. 

The key is to do deliberate practice. 

Deliberate practice challenges you to actively listen to English, focus on details, and actually produce or use English out loud. 

Let's do some deliberate practice right now. 😁

Active Listening

First, read, close your eyes, and try to repeat each line of this short dialog out loud: 

Hey Sara! Were you able to have a conversation in English yesterday? 

Try to repeat that sentence out loud. You have to do it out loud if you want to improve. 

Hey Sara! Were you able to have a conversation in English yesterday? 

I did, but it wasn't easy. I still make a lot of mistakes when I speak. It's a lot easier to write. 

Do you remember this one? Repeat it out loud with your eyes closed.

I did, but it wasn't easy. I still make a lot of mistakes when I speak. It's a lot easier to write. 

I hear you. Could you understand them, at least? 

Repeat that sentence out loud with your eyes closed.

I hear you. Could you understand them, at least? 

Yeah, for the most part. Although I wish I could turn on subtitles in real life! 

Last one. Try it out loud. 

Yeah, for the most part. Although I wish I could turn on subtitles in real life! 

Focus on the Details

Now that we've repeated some sentences, let's see if we can remember the details we just heard. 

What should you say in this sentence? 

I wish I didn't make so many mistakes. In English, we always say "make" mistakes, not "do" mistakes.

How about this sentence? 

Yesterday I had a conversation with your parents about the picnic. In English, we have conversations. We don't do conversations. 

What goes here? 

It's always easier to drive when you know where you're going. We say easier, not better if we want to say that something is less difficult. 

Last one, what fits here? 

I can understand it fine. Go ahead and turn off the subtitles. In English, subtitles are things that you turn on or turn off. We don't "put" them. 

Produce English

Great. Now that we've done some active listening and focused on some specific details, let's produce some English by playing with sentences. Make sure you say all these sentences OUT LOUD as you do the exercises. 

How would you say this in the past tense? 

I heard that I made too many mistakes. 

How do you say this in the future tense? 

I will turn on the subtitles as soon as you give me the remote. 

What does this sentence sound like if we change the subject to "they"? 

They say it's easier for them to make a reservation online than in person. 

Last one. What does this sound like in the present perfect? 

I have had more conversations in English this week than ever before. 

Congrats. You've done more in 5 minutes to improve your English than you would have if you passively watched TV for an hour. 

Obviously, you'll need to practice more than 5 minutes a day to be fluent. That said, doing simple exercises as we did now: repeating sentences out loud or experimenting with expressions is a great way to make progress even on busy days. 

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