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How I Learned American English

Published by Klint Ciriaco on

How I learned American English

I came to the United States when I was 16 years old and I couldn’t speak English then. 

One day, I tried to make friends with two guys in my classroom, but they ended up making fun of me for having broken English and a thick accent. 

Also, my English class wasn’t as helpful as I wanted because I wasn’t learning fast enough. So, I decided to come up with my own way of learning. 

The actions I took were so effective to a point where my co-workers at my first job mistook me for being born here in the U.S. 

My hope is for you to use the steps I took so you can learn English as well. 

Here are the things I did to learn American English and reduced my accent: 

I Imitated Characters on TV Shows and Movies

One weekend, my whole family decided to go out. I wasn’t feeling well so I decided to stay behind and watch TV. 

Then a thought came to mind: What if I repeat what the characters on TV are saying? 

So I did. 

I did this exercise for several weeks and the benefits were amazing: 

  • My listening skills improved. I learned to pay closer attention to what people were saying. 
  • I noticed some patterns in the English language which made forming sentences easier. 
  • And most importantly, it was fun. 

If you want to do this exercise, here are some things you need to pay attention to when imitating someone on video: 

  1. The volume of their voices – are they loud or soft? 
  2. The speed of the way they talk – do they talk slow or fast? 
  3. Intonation – when do their voices go up or down? 
  4. The expressions they use — How often do they use it? If multiple speakers use those expressions, it’s a good idea to adapt them in your own conversations. 

I Read A Book Out Loud

We were required to read text in English class out loud when I was in high school. 

Again, I could barely read the words, my accent was thick, and I couldn’t understand what we read. 

So when it was my turn to read out loud, I stuttered, I read slowly, and I stopped multiple times. It was embarrassing because at that age, we were expected to read well.

Good thing I stumbled on another cool and effective exercise.

I went to the library one day and found a book that caught my attention: Pendragon: Book 1, The Merchant Of Death 

I picked it up, read the first couple of pages, and found it easy to read. 

I took it home and spent hours everyday reading out loud to practice my reading skills. 

I didn’t read it out loud all the way through though. Whenever I got tired, I read like normal and enjoyed every bit of it because my imagination ran wild. 

So,

I Read Lots and Lots of More Books

I was hooked after reading the first Pendragon book because it was fun.

As it turns out, reading fantasy novels that lets your imagination go crazy is a great way to learn English. 

Let me explain. 

I read a study a long time ago where participants were asked to read a really exciting book. 

After reading, the parts of their brains that were responsible for language and compression improved dramatically. 

That said, I decided to read lots of books. Here are some of the titles I’ve read: 

  • The Pendragon Series: Books 1,2,3,4,5
  • The Davinci Code
  • Left Behind Series: Books 1-15

So, read a book that you think will excite you because it’s a highly effective and fun way to learn English. 

Note: Don’t make it your goal to read as many books as possible. Instead, focus on one book at a time and enjoy every moment reading it. 

I Read a Lot of Visual Novels (Mangas)

I read a tip online a while ago from a child learning expert on how to teach kids to read: let them read books with lots of pictures. 

The reasoning behind it makes sense. Since kids can’t picture in their heads what words look like, having images on the book helps them make the connection between words and pictures. 

I personally read thousands of pages of Manga (Japanese comics) when I was in high school and helped me with my English. The images on the pages made learning English words more effectively and fun compared to learning in the classroom.

You can do the same by reading comics or manga. They’re mostly free if you read them online. Just Google, “Read manga (or comics) online for free.” 

If you’re the type of person who wants a hard copy, just buy them at your bookstore or online. 

I Took a Creative Writing Class

I was scared at the beginning of the term after enrolling in my creative writing class because I barely knew English. It turned out to be a great decision because it helped me develop my writing skills. 

The class was focused on developing our creativity. Since I read a lot of fiction books and manga, I had a good idea on how to write stories. 

Also, Mr. Sauls, my teacher, was kind enough to give me feedback on my grammar and vocabulary. 

After 2-3 hours of writing everyday for a whole term, I came out of that course way better than when I started. I didn’t become an expert but my English writing skills were definitely elevated to a higher level. 

I highly suggest you take a writing class; or even multiple writing classes because it sharpens your ability to communicate through English writing. 

I Imitated People

I did all the exercises above mostly at the comfort of my own home. One day, I decided to apply them in the real world.

I was thankful enough to have met some nice people in Virginia, so I practiced my English with them without them knowing. 

Just like  imitating characters on TV, I paid attention to how people talked. I focused on the speed of their voices, their intonation, their volume, and even noticed the most common expressions they used. 

Once I learned from one person, I would apply that person’s speaking style to my next conversation. 

I Made Friends

This was by far the most difficult thing to do. After all, I came from a different culture. My likes, dislikes, sense of humor, and views of the world, didn’t match up with Americans. 

In short, I was different. Because of it, I was rejected in high school, I was made fun of (see intro), and one guy even tried to bully me. But, I learned to adapt as time went on. 

I eventually met people who accepted me for who I was. In turn, I tried to get better so that I could communicate with them in English on a deeper level and build our relationships. 

After all, it wouldn’t have been fair for them to do all the work when it comes to relationship building. So, I studied more as best as I could to develop my English speaking skills for my friends. 

I Was Consistent and Never Stopped Learning

I didn’t train one day, took a break for several days, and then resumed training when I felt like it. I was consistent. I trained for 2-3 hours a day, 5-6 days a week, for a year. I then scaled down my sessions as I got comfortable speaking, but I kept learning throughout the years. 

I also keep coming up with ways to develop my speaking skills. For example, I practice telling stories in my car on my way to work. I listen to podcasts and audiobooks as well. I also coach classes in Crossfit to help me improve speaking in front of crowds. 

Your Mission Should You Choose To Accept

The last thing I want is for you to read this and not do anything. So, I’m giving you some exercises to start your American English learning journey. 

Just choose one exercise at a time, and focus on it for several weeks. Once you’re done, choose another one to focus on.  

Here are your English Exercises: 

  1. Imitate a video on youtube at least once a day for 20 days. 
  2. Read a book out loud for at least 30 minutes a day until you finish the book. 
  3. Create a medium.com account and write 1 blog per week. The blog entry can be a story, an opinion piece, a poem, or anything you want to write. 
  4. Listen to a podcast and repeat in your own words the things you have learned. Be as detailed as possible. 

A More Structured Option

You can do all the exercises above which comes with some trial and error if you have the time and patience. 

But if you want more structure, you can take my Learn American English Course online. 

The videos are short, and the exercises have been chosen for you. The only thing that’s left is for you to do them. 

Take the Learn American English Course now. 

Closing

You will encounter frustrations and obstacles along the way. You might even feel like giving up. But when times like those arise, remember the reasons why you want to learn English. 

May your English learning journey be an epic one and I wish you the best! 

-Klint Ciriaco

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