English learning can feel like serious business. Especially when you're preparing for an important exam such as IELTS, TOEFL, PTE or FCE.
However, quite often the best way to learn English is to do things which are fun!
Research shows that through play, students can often learn English more effectively, as they are comfortable and engaged. Learning vocabulary and grammar comes naturally when taught as part of a game, rather than forcing it through boring repetition!
Game playing also improves fluency as students are often required to respond dynamically to changing circumstances, rather than doing a predictable grammar worksheet in their own time.
This article hopes to show you a few light-hearted ways to improve your English learning. If you are to become fluent in English, these activities will perfectly complement your English courses. Perhaps you could even show some to your teacher!
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Learning English Through Spoonerisms
Your first question may be: "What on Earth is a spoonerism?"
Well, William Spooner was a rather absent-minded lecturer at Oxford University who would often mix up his syllables by accident! Often the results actually created new sentences with their own unique, and often bizarre meaning.
One of the classic spoonerisms he is accredited with is this:
"You have hissed all of my mystery lectures"
If you haven't worked it out, he meant to say 'you have missed all of my history lectures'.
These silly sentences are a humorous and entertaining way to 'bend' the English language. Understanding humour is a key step on the pathway towards language fluency. Even the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations accredited the legendary Spooner with the following masterpiece:
"The weight of rages will press hard upon the employer."
Of course, he meant 'the rate of wages...', however, his new creation turned out to be at least in part true!
Speaking in spoonerisms will make your friends think, while also entertaining them with your strong grasp of the English language!
Here are a few phrases you can incorporate into your daily conversation to get you started:
a knot of poodles (a pot of noodles)
veat and megetables (meat and vegetables)
fighting a liar (lighting a fire)
stop chicks (chopsticks)
a blushing crow (a crushing blow, meaning 'a big disappointment')
a well-boiled icicle (a well-oiled bicycle)
The fun does not end there, there are countless more classic spoonerisms to be found online. In fact, you can even create your own ones (You may even do this accidentally!)
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Use Word Games to Improve Your English Vocabulary
Word games are a fun way to revise or learn new vocabulary words. They can also be used to practice pronunciation, fluency and creativity.
Learning this way will strengthen your speaking skills, improve your spelling, and more.
Words that rhyme belong to the same word family. In all, there are thirty-seven different word families, all of which end with the same sound (but not always the same spelling!)
With these groupings of words we can play some very simple yet fun rhyming word games, such as:
- One person in the group begins with a word, each person has to say another word which rhymes with the original word without repeating any already used words.
- The teacher begins by saying a word and every student has two or three minutes to write down as many words that rhyme with the original word.
There are many other variations of the aforementioned games that you could play, by dividing students into small groups, or even to play by yourself at home for practice!
It is important for students to remember to challenge themselves to use words with more than two syllables to continue to grow their vocabulary through such games.
Letters of the Alphabet
Of course, you're already a pro at the alphabet from your days in Primary School. However, how many words do you know starting with 'P'? More specifically, how many verbs can you think of starting with P? Now try adjectives.
There are many, many games that can be played using a letter of the alphabet to get you started. For example, you could pick a category and try to think of one word starting with each letter of the alphabet to fit that category.
For example, if I choose animals, I could begin with: Alligator, Boar, Cat .... and so on.
You could do the same with business English, food and drink, things in the classroom. You are only limited by your imagination!
You may end up going online and learning new words when you can't think of one.
Once you learn a new word, learn how to use it in a sentence and try to use it at least five times to make sure you remember it!
Learning Spoken English: Proverbs, Idioms and Slang
Every language has a long list of proverbs, which offer some of the perennial wisdom encoded into the culture's oratorical tradition. The English language is no exception. You can start learning some through English conversation lessons online.
"Dream as if you'll live forever, live as if you'll die today" is an example of such. You can find all types of famous proverbs and witticisms littered throughout classic English language film and literature, however, the best way to access them is through a simple google search.
A simile is a phrase where something is compared with something in an interesting way.
There are commonly used similes, some of which can be confusing for non-native English speakers. For example: 'as cold as ice' is a pretty easy one to understand, while 'as keen as mustard' is more difficult, as it is a specific reference to a brand of mustard named Keen. Learn a few of these and you will really impress and entertain your native speaker friends!
Using similes will expand your cultural understanding, a critical aspect of language learning.
Another way to enrichen your English speaking as a non-native speaker is to learn a few idioms!
Idioms are fun phrases that everyone has heard before, which communicate a deep meaning which is not the literal meaning of the words expressed.
For example, you can "hit the nail on the head" (do or say something precise), "jump on the bandwagon" (support a popular cause), "fall short of the mark" (underachieve) or "pass with flying colours" (overachieve) in the English language. There are literally hundreds if not thousands of these colourful phrases which give great emotion and depth to your English language use.
Slang is the catalogue of informal words which are used in a specific region or country. They are not found in the regular dictionary and are much more common in spoken English than in writing.
These are best taught to you by a native English speaker. There are many YouTube videos which will teach you the slang of a specific region. For example, if you are going to Australia for study, just type "Australian slang words" into the YouTube search bar. Many of these are very funny but be careful, some may be vulgar and inappropriate for use in a formal scenario, such as speaking to a school administrator.
Alliteration is another great way to give flavour to your English speaking. This is where phrases have a series of words beginning with the same first syllable.
For example, Savvy Samantha seared seven slices of smoked salmon.
Tongue twisters are often used by ESL teachers to help students practice their spoken English. These are sentences which are intentionally difficult to pronounce, often focusing on two similar but different consonant sounds, such as 'sh' (she) and 's' (sells) in she sells seashells by the seashore.
Playing Games to Improve English Skills
These activities are sure to add some fun and excitement to your language learning.
You think of a word - tell the players the category - person, place or thing - and the players have twenty yes or no questions to guess the word you're thinking of.
The teacher says a word out loud, and the players must recite the letters of the word in order correctly. This will force students to practice pronouncing letters of the alphabet correctly, as well as helping to practice their knowledge of spelling in English.
This game involves getting a list of words which are so strange, that nobody will know what they really mean. Once you have these words, players write a false definition of each word for the other team. The other team are then shown the real definition and the one created by the opposing team - between which they must try to guess which is real.
This game works best for English learners who are already speaking at an advanced level.
Studying English can indeed be very important for students. However, if all learning is done formally - the process can become very stressful and demotivating. That is why playing games and having fun are great ways to learn grammar rules and improve vocabulary.
Why not do English courses with a bit of fun and laughter?
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