Blake’s 18 Tips for English Language Learners

This post was written by my friend Blake. He’s been teaching English in Hanoi for a while now. He’s got a lot of great ideas on how to get better at English.

Hello English Learners!!

My name is Blake Nichols, and I am a teacher living in Hanoi, Vietnam, and it is my great pleasure to be a guest writer for Sean’s website! I have been teaching for nearly six years in English Centers, Universities, and for the Ministry of Science and Technology. Over those six years, I have helped English learners of all levels to improve their speaking, listening, writing, and reading skills. I would like to share some of that advice with you.




1) The more words you know, the more confident you will feel and be able to speak. Use flashcards to practice new words, and build your vocabulary. Bonus tip from Sean: Use Tinycards to help you learn more words.

  • Picture flashcards – Have a picture on one side, and write the word in English on the other side
  • Word flashcards – Write a word in English on side of the card, and write the word in your native language on the other side

2) You don’t need to know every word in English! Know that you only need to know about 500 words in a language to understand about 75% of what people say! That’s not that many words!

3) Be confident! The greatest thing you can do to improve your spoken English is to believe that you can speak it! As long as you can share the basic idea that is your head with other people, it is okay if you don’t know every single word you want to use. You can use your hands, body language, and paraphrasing if you don’t know a word. Bonus tip from Sean: Ivan Joseph tells you how to become more confident.

4) Do everything that you can to avoid switching to your native language! If you don’t know a word, paraphrase!

5) Don’t be nervous to talk to native English speakers. They know that English is not your native language; it is okay to make a mistake or two.

6) Speak English anytime you can. Sing English songs, Skype with English-speaking friends, go to public areas (parks, coffee shops, etc) and chat with English speakers. The more you can practice speaking English, the better you get! If you get stuck on a word, look it up in the dictionary, and write it down to study later.

7) Don’t give up! Don’t get discouraged! You often won’t notice that your English is improving, but others will! Keep practicing! Push through the doubt! Bonus tip from Sean: Sid Efromovich tells you 5 ways to learn any language.


1) When listening, don’t worry if you can’t understand every word said! Do not focus on individual words, focus on the meaning of the whole piece of what is being said.

2) Watch the news in English on YouTube. You can even watch it with English subtitles! Just watch and listen and learn. Look up words that you don’t know.

3) Watch English movies and TV shows with no subtitles. It is okay to not know every word that is said, you will see how the actors use the words you do know. This will help you improve the way you use the words you know, and the way that they are pronounced. Bonus tip from Sean: teachers tell you how to get better at listening.


1) Use spelling and grammar check!!! English is not your first language; you need to expect that you will make mistakes. Luckily, most programs have spelling and grammar check. Be sure to read over what you write one more time to catch any other mistakes that spelling and grammar check didn’t catch. Bonus tip from Sean: Hemingway and Grammarly can help you too.

2) The reader knows that English is not your native language; it is okay to make a mistake or two. Be sure to spelling/grammar check and proofread!

3) Start a blog in English! Write about topics that are interesting to you! If you like fashion, write about fashion! If you like food, write a website about your favorite restaurants or foods. There are many free blogging websites.


1) When reading, don’t stop at words that you don’t know. Continue on with reading, and see if you can still follow the story. It is not important to know every word in English. If you can understand the meaning of the whole passage, then you are doing great! If you don’t understand, then use a dictionary to look up the difficult words and continue reading.

2) Basic and topical vocabulary is very important to practice reading. Use Duolingo (app) and Memrise (website) to learn new vocabulary. There are other apps and websites that can be helpful. Use what is available to you! Most of them are free! Check for new English-learning apps and websites often!

3) Read blogs about your hobbies in English. Motivate yourself to read topics that interesting to you! Google search for blogs about your interests

4) Listen to your favorite English songs and read the lyrics along. You can search Google for the lyrics to nearly any song. Feel free to sing along, and practice your speaking too! Bonus tip from Sean: LyricsTraining is a fun song game.

5) Change the language on your cell phone, Facebook, Instagram, and other social media tools and apps to English.


Thank you for reading! I hope that you learned something new!

You can reach me at

Thanks Sean for letting me share some tips!