What's your New Year's Resolution? Improve your English?
Here are tips to help you succeed!
The new year has started which means many people use this time to make “New Year’s Resolutions”. This is just another way to say, “set some goals”. You don’t need to wait for a new year to set yourself some goals, but traditionally this is the time to do it! A resolution can be anything! Often you hear people say, “My New Year's resolution is to eat healthily” or “to get fit” or “stop smoking” or for many students “to improve my English!”. In this blog post we will focus on improving your English and discuss ways to set goals, how to stay motivated and of course give you some tips and tricks to help you get there! But first, here is a tiny bit of history…
How did New Year’s Resolutions Start?
The first people to make New Year’s resolutions were the Babylonians over 4,000 years ago. At this time, the Babylonians celebrated their New Year in mid-March, which was when they planted their new crops. Their new year’s celebration lasted for 12-days and as part of this, they made promises to the gods to repay debts and return things they had borrowed. These promises are considered the very first New Year’s resolutions. These days most people don’t make promises to the gods, rather they set goals for the year ahead. According to the History Channel website, around 45 percent of Americans say they make New Year’s resolutions. However, only 8 percent say they achieve their goals!
How do I set goals?
Setting a goal doesn’t need to be complicated. In fact, the easiest way to start is by brainstorming. In other words, make a list of anything that comes to mind. Maybe there are different aspects of learning English that you want to improve (Speaking, listening, confidence etc etc) – write it all down! You can pick and/or change these later. The most important thing is to start!
Choose goals that push you but are not crazy! If you are a beginner now, an unrealistic goal would be to be ready to take the IELTS exam in 8 weeks! Be kind to yourself! Why not challenge yourself to write a letter in English? Or call up and order food in English? On the other hand, maybe your English is advanced, and you plan on studying at university in an English-speaking country. You could challenge yourself to write a 1000-word paper or read the newspaper in English from cover to cover! It’s all about pushing yourself but making sure that with some effort the goal can be achieved.
Another important thing to remember is to put time limits on your goals. If you need to change it later, that’s fine but by putting a time limit on your goal you are more likely to push yourself to achieve it! For example, you could say “In 12 weeks I will be able to introduce myself and talk about my interests in English” or “In 4 weeks’ time I want to have enough confidence to ask questions in English class in front of my classmates”.
How do I stay motivated?
There are different types of goals: short, medium and long term. Obviously, the long-term goals are the trickiest to stay motivated for. If your goal is to do with improving your English, why not start with the length of your course? Once you have decided on your goal or goals (you don’t need to have a lot! One or two is fine), tell your friends! Maybe they have goals too and you can support, motivate and encourage each other!
Maybe you even have the same goals, meaning you can share tricks and tips and help each other when things are tough! It is much easier to stay focussed when you are not alone! Reward yourself! I know that achieving the goal – especially if your goal is to improve your English – is a reward in itself, but why not also do something nice for yourself? It doesn’t have to be expensive or big, just something to motivate you to get to the end! New sneakers? Dinner at your favourite restaurant? Or a day at Coney Island! The reward can be anything you think will motivate you to succeed!
So those are just a few ideas that can be applied to any kind of goal or resolution. Now let’s look at ways to help you improve your English!
Things that will help you improve your English
There are lots of ways you can improve your English, but we have created a small list of some of the best and easiest things you can try!
Join a Zoni Activity
Throughout the year Zoni Language Centers offers a wide range of activities and events. These activities are always fun and have been especially planned to give you the maximum opportunity to practice your English outside the classroom. From field trips to career-focused presentations there is something for everyone! Getting involved is easy! Just look out for flyers at Zoni and sign up with your campus manager.
The next Zoni activity is a ski trip to Shawnee Mountain on January 31. Students attending this field trip can tube, ski, or snowboard the day away! Tickets are selling fast! Don’t miss out on this amazing day trip and opportunity to practice your English as well as some winter sports!
Take part in free activities
Walking tours (Listening comprehension, confidence and speaking)
Regardless of whether you are studying in New York, New Jersey or Florida, there are tons of free activities you can use to better your English! Free walking tours are always fun! Why not join an English language tour and practice your listening skills? You can also ask questions along the way or strike up a conversation with other people on the tour. Free walking tours are a great (and safe way) to meet new people and see new places. If you are based in New York, visit Free Tours By Foot to see what tours are available.
If you are based in New Jersey, many cities have self-guided tour Apps that you can download for Free. These apps provide you with a map and information in English about famous sites and facts along the way! For those of you living in or near Newark, why not try this one: https://www.newarkhappening.com/newarkwalks/
There are tours on the internet for Miami, but none have very good reviews, therefore we recommend you try one of these other cool, free activities below!
Visit Galleries and Museums (Reading & listening comprehension, vocabulary)
You may think visiting a gallery or museum won’t give you much of a chance to practice your English, but actually they provide you with amazing opportunities to work on your listening and reading skills!
There are literally hundreds of free museums to choose from and at the bigger ones you can usuallyrent an audio guide at very little cost. Choose the English guide. These are usually narrated in clear English with excellent pronunciation. Most audio guides will also let you replay descriptions – so ifyou don’t get it the first time, you can listen again!
Whether you are at a museum or gallery, chances are the descriptions next to the displays will bewritten in English. Make the effort to read through each one! It might seem tricky at first but after afew it will get easier!
These galleries / museums are free and well worth a visit:
MoMA (The Museum of Modern Art) – This must-see museum is freeevery Friday from 5:30pm – 9pm.
The Guggenheim Museum – This museum is famous forImpressionist, Post-Impressionist, early Modern, and contemporary art. It is free every Saturdaybetween 5pm – 8pm.
The American Folk Art Museum – This museum is always free! Themuseum has a huge collection of bright and sometimes quirky American folk art. It is closed onMondays and most other days opens around lunch time.
The National Museum of the North American Indian – This museum is also always free! Learn about Native Americans and view an immense collection of art andartifacts. This museum is open every day but Christmas day and has a late closing on Thursdays.
Drumthwacket House – See how past governors lived and learn aboutthe history of New Jersey's state government. You can see Drumthwacket House from the outside (itis a very grand old building) anytime, but for those wanting to look inside, free guided tours are offered every Wednesday at 1pm. You must pre-register online or by phone. Drumthwacket House isactually not far from Albert Einstein’s house. Although Einstein’s house is not a museum, the ownersdon’t mind you taking pictures outside – just make sure you say a friendly “hello” and “thank you” if you see them!
Also, not far from Drumthawacket House is another amazing Free museum! The Princeton University Art Museum. This museum has over 92,000 works of artcovering a wide range of styles. While you are there, why not get inspired with a walk through thePrinceton University campus? The university has a large collection of sculptures that are displayed inthe campus walkways and green areas and are open to the public.
The Institute of Contemporary Art is one of Miami’s best free museums!This museum is famous for supporting new and breakthrough talent. ICA has six galleries and a15,000-square-foot sculpture garden as well, giving you plenty of opportunities to practice your reading comprehension!
The Wolfsonian-FIU is a museum and research center. It is known forunique and interesting artefacts, including a deco postbox from New York’s Central Station and Cubanmovie posters! There are also lots of amazing furniture, ceramics, metalwork, paintings,architectural drawings and performance spaces. This museum is free on Fridays from 6-9pm and isonly a short distance from Zoni’s campus.
What about Podcasts?
Have you ever listened to a podcast? These days there are hundreds of thousands of podcasts available and the majority of these are in English. Listening to an English Language podcast while you are in the metro, on the bus or even before bed is a good way to hear “real” English and practice your listening! Most podcasts are free and can be listened to more than once, meaning you can listen to an episode again if you aren’t sure you have understood it all correctly. Here are a few great podcasts to get you started:
This American Life is consistently ranked as the most popular podcast in the United States. On average, there are around 1 million downloads of each episode! The episodes are based on true stories about everyday people. Because each episode features interviews with real people, it is a very good way to hear different regional accents.
Here’s the Thing with Alec Bladwin is known as one of the most interesting podcasts around! Alec Baldwin is a very famous American movie, TV and stage actor. In this podcast he interviews some of the biggest names in politics, the arts and show businesses! The Here’s the Thing podcast is a great place to hear people having conversations about a wide range of topics. It is a great way to practice your listening as well as learn new vocabulary!
NPR Podcasts are a collection of podcasts by the NPR public radio network. Podcasts include:
NPR News – A podcast covering national and international stories
Wait, Wait, don’t tell me! – A funny podcast featuring a weekly quiz that includes some real stories and some fake news! Your job is to listen and work out which stories are fake!
One very good reason to listen to NPR’s podcasts is that the presenters pronounce each word clearly and correctly. This will help your listening skills and give good examples to try to mimic in your own speaking! On top of this, these podcasts expose you to a very wide range of vocabulary, phrases and common expressions.
What about TV and Movies?
Can watching TV and movies really help you to improve your English? We think so! These days there are so many ways to watch tv and movies and most of these services offer subtitles. As a start, you could watch in English with subtitles in your language. As you gain more confidence, you could switch the subtitles to English, so you are hearing AND reading English. Eventually you won’t need the subtitles at all! I have been told many, many times that the TV show Friends is a very good series for learning English! Why not give it a try?
Going to the movies can be expensive by the time you buy your ticket, snacks and drinks. However, if you don’t mind seeing films that are a little older, you can attend free outdoor cinema sessions! Although for students in New York and New Jersey this is only a summer activity (when it is available, the schedule will be uploaded here), students in Miami can enjoy free outdoor cinema right now! Every Wednesday at SoundScape Park, movies are shown absolutely free! Bring a blanket, a picnic dinner and your friends and enjoy! Movies always start at 8pm and the schedule can be seen on this link.
Watching TV or Movies in English helps you to improve your listening comprehension – you can hear English being used in context, which also helps you to learn when to use words and expressions yourself!
We hope we have given you enough fun tips to help you to improve your English and achieve your New Year’s Resolution! If you need any more tips or have any doubts, talk to your teachers or academic advisors, they are always happy to help!