Poland, like most countries, is currently dealing the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic, so it’s important to stay home and avoid contact with other people, not only for your own health, but also to protect the health of other people and to decrease the pressure on hospitals, doctors, and nurses. Schools are now closed, and many people will be working, studying or simply spending time at home in the coming weeks.
However, staying at home does not mean that we can’t continue learning and practising a language! In this post, I will talk about ways that you can continue using and practising English while you’re stuck at home.
MAKE IT A HABIT
One of the most important things when practising a language is being consistent. In some ways, what you do is less important than how often you do it. Set aside time every day, or as often as you can, to practice English, even if it’s only 15 minutes before you got to bed every night.
It might help to have a “to do” list of ways to practise your English: things to read or listen to, websites to visit, grammar exercises to do, things to write or speak about. That way, you don’t have to waste time thinking about what you can do today to practise English; just pick it up and do it.
Netflix and other streaming services are very helpful at times like this, giving us plenty of things to watch including lots of English-language programmes, no matter where we are.
If watching a movie or TV programme in English seems too challenging or frustrating, you could try watching a kids’ TV show, or something which you have watched before in another language. Don’t worry if you don’t understand everything, as long as you can follow most of what is happening; regular listening practise is the important thing, and although it is frustrating when you can’t understand things, keep watching, keep listening, and over time you will understand more and more.
Of course, subtitles are also an option, but if you must use them, I recommend using English subtitles, as subtitles in your own language will be too distracting. Even English language subtitles should be switched off except when you really need them, as focussing on subtitles will not help your listening.
FIND AN ONLINE SPEAKING PARTNER
You don’t have to miss out on conversation practice just because you are stuck at home; there are many websites which connect speakers of different languages so that they can help each other to practice. For example, if your first language is Polish, you can search for a native English speaker who wants to practise Polish.
My advice when using these sites is to have clear expectations and limits; for example: half an hour of Polish only, followed by half an hour of English only. It might be easier for you and your partner to only use Polish if their Polish is very good, but that’s not why you’re there!
TALK TO YOURSELF
If you can’t find a speaking partner, that’s OK, but you still need to talk! My suggestions is this: choose a topic (it could be anything from describing the room where you’re sitting or what you’ve done today to talking about world politics–or maybe Coronavirus) and set a time limit (e.g. one or two minutes). Then, try to talk about that topic for that length of time, without stopping. Even better is if you use your phone to record yourself, and then listen after to check for mistakes or things which you can improve–but remember that mistakes are OK! The important thing is to keep talking.
There are many websites which you can use to practise your English; of course you can read articles online and watch videos on sites such as youtube, but there are also many other websites which can help you, including some I mentioned in a previous post.
READ A BOOK
You may not be able to visit the library or a bookshop, but there are still many options for finding a book to read. Many websites (such as this one or this one offer ebooks for free, and even Amazon has some free ebooks on their site (as well those available for sale). Many libraries also offer ebook loans, so it’s a good idea to ask your librarian about it (if your library is open) or to check the library’s website.
KEEP A DIARY
Regular writing practice is also very useful, and one way you can do that is by keeping a diary. Every day, or a few times a week, write down what you’ve been doing or something you’ve been thinking about. It doesn’t have to be pages and pages of writing; even a few sentences is better than nothing! It may also be helpful to read what you’ve written later; for example, once per week you could go back and read your entries for that week, check for mistakes, and look for possible improvements. If you’re learning new vocabulary or grammar, remember to include what you’re learning in your writing too!
Keeping a spoken diary by recording yourself (as I mentioned above) is another option, if you want to focus on speaking practice.
HAVE LESSONS ONLINE
Many language teachers and schools offer online lessons, especially right now when many schools are closed. If you have a language teacher, ask them about online lessons, and if you don’t have one, it isn’t difficult to find one who offers lessons on Skype, messenger, or other online platforms. I’m looking forward to seeing my students online this week!