Top 10 Fifteen-Minute (or Less!) Ways to Study English, Part 1

How’s it going?

Studying and practicing a language regularly is one of the most important ways to improve.

But guess what the biggest complaint I hear from English learners is?  You guessed it!

“I’m too busy!”

This complaint is (kind of) understandable.  Most people have jobs.  Especially in Japan, these jobs can take up a lot of their time.  This doesn’t even include the over time work, the commute, company meetings and get-togethers and, for many people, families.  With all this, it’s a wonder they have enough time to take lessons once a week!

But this excuse is based on a misunderstanding.  That misunderstanding is that regular study has to be long, hard and intense.

Not at all!  In fact, if your current study methods are making you tired, you’re studying too hard!

In order to stay motivated, it’s important that study is fun.  Just 15 minutes a day, even just 10 minutes… even just five minutes is enough!  Just do it.

But what can I do with just five minutes?  I’m glad you asked!

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Here’s my list of top # ways you can study with just 15 minutes (or less!)

Number 1: Keep a journal

You can use any medium for this, from the notepad application on your cellphone (but I think Evernote is better) to a notebook to various kinds of social media, but spend about 5 minutes a day just writing in English.  If you are a beginner, just write about what you did that day or the day before.  If you’re a higher level English speaker, challenge yourself: describe something in detail, or talk about how you feel, or about a movie you watched or a book you read.

Number 2: Use Twitter

Any kind of social media is great, but twitter is especially useful for English learners.  Why?  For several reasons:

  • It’s concise; you only have 140 characters to use, so you have to keep your messages short.
  • It’s friendly and social.  There are so many non-native speakers like you using twitter to practice English, not to mention English teachers and English language resources there just waiting to help you!
  • It’s constantly updated.  There is always something new on twitter, from tweets about English idioms, to grammar, to listening skills to great websites about learning English.
  • It’s easy to use and free.

I absolutely love twitter, and have met so many great, hard-working people on there.

Number 3: Check out Rachel’s English

If you want to work on your listening and pronunciation, Rachel’s English is the best website.  I’m a native English speaker, but I’ve learned so much from her.  I always refer my students to her website when they want to practice pronunciation.  She has tons of video, most of them only 3-10 minutes long, on various aspects of pronunciation.  Check it out!

Number 4: Talk to yourself in English

This one might make you feel strange, especially in public, but speaking English is the most important communication skill you need to have conversations, and it’s not always easy to find a partner.  The best way to do this is to sit down with a recorder (preferably at home) and start talking!  Here are some tips on how to do this effectively:

  • Choose a topic ahead of time.  But don’t write everything down!  Remember, you don’t need to work on making speeches, you need to work on talking fluently.
  • Don’t censor yourself!  The goal is to get used to talking freely, not correctly.
  • Speak at your own pace.  Remember, this is one time nobody is listening and waiting to respond, so there’s no need to talk fast.
  • Keep it short!  The key is to do it, not finish it.  Start at one minute, and increase it slowly, little by little.
  • Talk about something you enjoy talking about.
  • Review it afterwards.  After you finish, listen to it and notice what you could do better for next time.  Use that for next time!
Number 5: Keep a lexical notebook

A lexical notebook?  What’s that?  It’s a notebook where you collect all the vocabulary and expressions you will need to talk about a topic.  For example, a lexical notebook about baseball might look like this:

  • Baseball
  • base
  • hit
  • bat
  • catcher
  • home run
  • double play
  • slide into first base
  • athletic

And so on.  If you have just five minutes, sit down and look at your lexical notebook.  Is there anything you can add to it?  Write them down!  Are there any expressions you can think of in Japanese that you don’t know how to say in English?  Write them down!  Can’t think of anything?  Practice what you have in your notebook!  Write sentences using the expressions, or write a story using the expressions.  Remember, it’s important to be able to use what you know, not just remember it.

Ok, that’s it for now!  Come back in a couple of weeks for the rest!  See you then.

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