At the upper intermediate and advanced level of English, it’s time to really make English part of your day to day. Many of you have already been to ESL courses and are now using English in the real world in your jobs, relationships, and everyday life.
In order to do this you need to create daily habits centered around English practice.
Today I’m sharing 5 daily habits that you can add to your daily routines and schedules. The best things are that it won’t take more than one hour of each day, you’ll have fun while doing it, and you’ll dramatically improve your English communication skills.
Each English habit will focus on reading, writing, listening, speaking and comprehending.
If you’re ready, let's get started.
For each of the 5 categories of English habits we’re building, try to choose something that interests you or something you’re curious about. The idea is to make it fun, not a chore. And don’t think of this as homework, think of it as a way to add value to your life. What’s great is that it serves a dual purpose: (1) improving your English language skills and (2) learning something new.
1) Read 10 Minutes in English Each Day
Choose your favorite type of reading and content to read and make it a daily practice. Some examples of this include:
- Reading online news
- Reading books (paper or digital)
- Reading recipes
- Reading blogs
- Reading articles or newsletters
Focus: absorbing grammatical structures, learning spelling, and vocabulary acquisition
Pro-tip: read aloud because this can help you with your pronunciation muscles and speaking endurance. It will also help you retain the information better.
2) Write 10 Minutes in English Each Day
If you’re not really sure what to write or if writing feels laborious to you, try to make it something you enjoy. Here are some examples of fun writing activities:
- Writing a gratitude list or journal entry
- Writing out your worries, also known as worry pages or a brain dump
- Writing in a stream of consciousness - write anything that you’re thinking about without lifting your pen from the paper
- Writing about your day - logging the events of the day
- Writing an email in English to a friend or your favorite character from a book, movie or show (this obviously won’t get sent, but it’s still a fun activity to try)
Focus: Vocabulary retention, thinking in English
Pro-tip: Write aloud to help you think more clearly and structure your writing
3) Listen 10 Minutes in English Each Day
Listening comprehension is also important, so we want to make sure that we’re giving this skill some time to shine. Some ideas for listening materials are the following:
- Songs in English from your favorite artist or genre
- Podcasts (in areas of interest or in your field of expertise)
- Audiobooks (I’m a huge fan of Libby, which is a free library app and all you need is a library card if you’re in the US)
- Radio (if you’re in a car you can turn the radio on, or you can access some stations from your computer)
Focus: Connected speech, training your ear to prosody, stress patterns, and intonation; and , learn new words and expressions
Pro-tip: Pause and imitate the pronunciation
4) Watch 10 Minutes in English Each Day
Out of all of these, many of you might find it easiest to make time for working on this skill simply because video-based learning is more and more accessible these days. The point with watching is to increase your listening comprehension but also to improve your awareness of nonverbal communication. That includes head movement, hand gestures, facial expressions and overall body language. If you’re watching without subtitles, you can give yourself that extra comprehension challenge if you're feeling up to it. Here are some examples of possible content to watch:
- YouTube videos to learn something new or watch your favorite channel
- Watch a TedTalk without subtitles
- Watch ½ of an episode on your favorite streaming platform, no subtitles
- Watch a web course lesson that you’re following
- Watch a free webinar that you signed up for
Focus: listening comprehension, learning nonverbal communication like gestures, facial expressions, hand movements and when they are used
Pro-tip: Pause and imitate the nonverbals of the speaker, pause and do a comprehension check
5) Speak 10 Minutes in English Each Day
Some of you might find this to be the most challenging habit to do because of nerves or because of limited access to real-world communities. Well, the beauty of speaking practice is that you can literally practice it anywhere you are but tapping into online communities and leveraging virtual communication. Now, there’s no excuse because of what technology has made possible. So if you’re not able to have in-person conversations, that’s ok! Hop online and join a forum where you can have conversations in the comments. Or you can jump online for a zoom or skype call, say while doing a virtual book club meeting! The point is, you can practice your speaking skills in-person or in the virtual world. Some example include:
- Making small talk with strangers (at a café, waiting on line, at the library)
- Chatting with a colleague from work
- Joining an online community (for example, if you’re into fitness there are plenty of fitness communities around and you can strike up a conversation)
- Joining a book club or any type of meetup based on your interests
- Doing a Zoom or Skype call with someone (even a regular phone call, voice only)
There are plenty of options to check this one off the list.
Focus: Verbal communication skills, communicative competence, strategic competence
Pro-tip: using the new words you’ve learned, practicing newly acquired expressions, testing out your grammar and syntax, and thinking in English.
There you have it, 5 daily English habits. Doing these five things every day will increase your communication skills and your ability to hold conversations in English.
Now it might seem like a lot, but if you’re only spending 10 minutes a day on each skill then you’re looking at less than one hour of English practice a day, which is not that much. Most workouts take longer than one hour. Most commutes to the office take more than an hour.
If you want to set aside one hour and complete all the tasks in one go that’s great but if you prefer to space it out over the entire day, that’s also great.
The best configuration is the one that works best for you and the one that you’ll actually do.
So I want you to sit down with your calendar before the start of each week and look at your commitments both personal and professional. Find time to squeeze in your daily English habits because it’s going to make a difference in your personal and professional life in English, if it’s a priority for you.
Also think about being as strategic as possible. If you have a long commute, then you might be able to get a bunch of these tasks done in transit. If you find that your afternoons are pretty slow, add some English practice to them to make things more lively.
Set up a schedule and stick to it. 10 minutes for each task is not a lot but over time, practicing a little bit each day has big returns. The magic will start to unfold once you’re consistent. Hold yourself accountable and if needed find an accountability partner.
An accountability partner is someone who helps hold yourself accountable for the tasks. This person can be a Native or Nonnative English speaker. It doesn’t matter. The idea is for the two of you to consume the same content for 10 minutes and then discuss afterwards. For example, you found a podcast that you want to listen to and think they’d enjoy as well so you send it to them, both listen to it and discuss afterwards.
While this might take some additional time coordinating, it also might make it more fun for you. And more importantly, if you’re finding it hard to hold yourself accountable, an accountability partner can help!
Either way, do these 5 things every day and you’ll notice a world of difference in your English speaking, listening, writing, reading, and comprehension skills.
Alright Advanced English learners, thanks for joining me in this lesson.
The full transcript of this lesson can be found on our blog, so be sure to check out advanced english dot co forward slash blog.
When will you start these daily English habits? How will you hold yourself accountable? Feel free to share that with us in the comments below.
See you in the next one where we’ll continue advancing your English together! Until then, keep up the awesome work.