Linguists are full of theories about how people learn – the use of short term and long term memory, how the brain encodes ideas, the use of menomics and lots more complicated gumph. You don’t need to know all that to learn a language. What you do need is to hear it and to try it out, and this isn’t too hard – ask any two year old.

Stick words on your bathroom mirror if it helps – or chant verbs while you go for a walk or jog – but the main thing is to actually use the language – to listen and to speak. If you have a DVD or tape use it in the car and repeat the phrases. Find a native English speaker – it doesn’t matter where you live anymore, there will be someone in the area, or you can find someone online on a social network like Facebook, Twitter, Blogspot, Second Life, you just have to find them, and then try your new vocabulary out on them.  Explain that you’re learning English, and they won’t mind I’m sure.

But don’t restrict yourself to native speakers.  It’s far more likely that you’ll meet non-native speakers in the world – there are lots of people who are learning English, so make friends with people who are also learning and have a conversation. If your spoken English is quite limited just use what you have. We can all say ‘Hello. How are you?’ Build it up from there.  According to Ethnolgue there are 328 million native English speakers, but the British council, estimates that as of the year 2000 there are between 750 million and 1 billion English as a Foreign language speakers.  So, you do the math.

Most importantly, keep your English up to date – English is a living language, it changes, so you can never think – that’s it, I’ve learnt English.  Buy an English medium newspaper for instance or tune into a news broadcast on  a regular basis. Even if you don’t understand everything your vocabulary will be expanded and your pronunciation improved. If you don’t understand a phrase ask someone. English is changing fast – some would say ‘at a rate of knots’ i.e like a boat speeding through the water. Even I come across new words or ways of using them all the time.

Here’s a quiz using some up to date phrases –  See if you can match the right meaning to each word or phrase.  I heard all these on the BBC recently.

Read the skit and watch the video to see some of the words and phrases in use.

Let’s Go Out!

Frank: I like this music, don’t you? It’s real edgy.

Nicole:  The music’s great , but what’s that awful smell? It’s minging in here. Did you have curry last night?

Frank: Oh dear, yes. I bought a takeaway. The box is still in the bin. We are so busy at work, it’s been al-desko all week and long hours too. I haven’t got the energy to cook by the time I get home.

Nicole: Just be grateful there is plenty of work at your company. At least they aren’t down-sizing.  I really lost my rag when I heard about all the redundancies my firm is planning.

Frank: Come on!  You need cheering up. Do you want something to drink?  I’ll pop out to the  24 /7 if you like.

Nicole: No, I’m fine really.  Come on!  Let’s go out!  What I’d really like would be a window open and a walk down to the pub on the corner while the flat is airing itself. Unless you’ve got chocolate. Dark chocolate bikkies and a cuppa. That would do nicely.