By Jacqueline Schaalje
As I’ve said before, you don’t always need an English teacher to improve your English. Sometimes taking a teacher is expensive, or you live in an area where there are no (good) English teachers. Don’t worry. You can learn English from a friend too, as long as you keep the following things in mind.
1 Work together with a friend who is interested in teaching English or who wants to learn English too.
You won’t get any further with a friend who is not really interested in learning English or who doesn’t want to help you with your English. If this friend is more interested in playing table tennis with you or hanging out, just leave them alone and look for another friend that you can learn English with.
Where can you find friends who are interested in practising English? On our Forum, or on our Facebook page, and/or on certain websites where you can find English-learning and speaking friends, such as Babbel. You might want to check out this list of websites.
2 If your friend is a virtual friend, talk through Skype.
Although it’s more difficult to work with a virtual friend who doesn’t live near you, you can still practise English with him or her. The advantage is that you don’t need to do any travelling. Whenever you both have time, you could just sit down at your computer and start talking English. Another good app to use is Google Talk if you want to chat (good for practising writing). With Whatsapp you can talk for free as well. Skype is still the best app, I think, because you can talk and write at the same time, it’s free, and with the use of cameras you can also see each other.
3 Your friend should be more or less at the same level of English as you.
If your friend is much better, he or she will get bored speaking to you. If you are much better than your friend, you will get bored. You need to learn and discover things together.
4 Don’t correct each other’s mistakes or accents.
Neither of you is an English teacher, so maybe you don’t know the right way to say something. It’s better not to waste time on arguments about who is right and who is wrong. Just concentrate on talking a lot. If you’re doing exercises together, make sure you are doing exercises that have answers. This prevents senseless arguments over who said the correct answer.
5 What are some things you can do together with your friend to make both of your English better?
- First of all, practise dialogues. It’s a good idea to do this out of a book or with a website. You can download English textbooks for free from Englishtips.org. If you’d like me to recommend you certain books, send me an email. Read the dialogues aloud, then switch roles, and end with doing a role play. A role play is when you act out the situation. You can use different sentences, but keep your book open to see examples of phrases, idioms and new words.
- You can also just talk about a subject without having an example dialogue. This is suitable to practise the flow of your talking, and to see how many different things you can say without having any examples in front of you. But don’t do this all the time. You won’t learn too many new words and idioms if you don’t use examples.
- Now and then also practise monologues. Take turns talking about a subject that you need for work or travel, while your friend listens. After you finish, let your friend ask you questions about what you’ve just told him or her.
- Practise presentations for work or studies. Have your friend ask you questions at the end. You can also practise that your friend interrupts you during a presentation. You should practise your presentation including all the little phrases that people say before and after the presentation. Include welcoming your guests, announcing the subject, announcing a round of questions at the end, inviting questions, and thanking the audience.
- Watch a movie or read an article together with your friend and discuss it. I don’t mean a long movie. Although it’s fun and relaxing to watch movies with your friend, you got together with your friend to learn English. The best way to do this is to watch a short YouTube, Ted or Vimeo movie about a subject that you want to learn. After you’ve finished watching, you can do several things to continue learning. First of all you could discuss the points that you found interesting. You can also debate about a certain point (take sides for and against). Or you could go over the new words and expressions you heard. You’ll find that your friend found different words than you. Lastly, you could relate the contents of the video to your friend. Vary the assignments of what you need to do after watching the videos, so you won’t get bored.
- You can also learn about a certain English subject and do exercises about it together. For instance, learn about a grammar subject. As said, only use exercises of which you have an answer key, otherwise you could be arguing about the right answer until tomorrow. You can do online exercises together, or work with a book — it doesn’t matter.
Have fun learning English with your friend! Don’t forget: Two heads are better than one.