Dec 28 2010 :: by Alex Yumashev
English is my second language. And even though I started learning it when I was 7, became pretty fluent and have no trouble understanding what people say (well, except for some Scottish lads) I do have some... you know... "slow" moments... trying to... em... you know... figure the right words.

You can't imagine running an online business without knowing English perfectly these days. So I'm gonna share some tips on how to improve your English from "pretty fluent" to perfect. I know a lot of startup founders from India, Germany, Russia, Spain, Italy, Japan who might find this useful... Especially Japanese, Indian, Russian speakers - these languages are not directly related to English, unlike, say, Dutch or German.

  1. Before we begin... remember that these rules are something to be followed continuously. Not only you have to improve the language, but to maintain it over time as well. Otherwise your language skills will degrade very fast. So, let's get started.

  2. No translations for movies & TV shows. Put a big red "stop" sign. Find a local cinema that shows undubbed movies and start watching. It will be tough at the beginning, but you'll get used to it. English content only, no excuses.

    Also, preferably, no subtitles. Otherwise you'll end up reading, instead of watching the picture and hearing the dialogs. Same goes for TV-shows: House MD, Lost, Mad Men, 24, whatever - no translation. Buy DVDs instead of watching the aired version, buy a downloadable version online...

    Once again - English content only, no excuses, never. Ever. I know you're dying to see that new episode of Harry Potter but wait until it comes to that "English" cinema.

    -"You owe me big time"
    -"What? I owe you a big amount of time?"

    Another reason why movies and TV shows (especially TV shows) are awesome is because they give you the idea of how people actually talk - idioms, jargon... Things that make absolutely no sense for the "academic grammar", but are widely used by the native speakers.

  3. Non translated books. Just like with the movies - read the originals. Both professional reading AND fiction. And when you take a trip to an English-speaking country, a great way to "reload" your brain into English is to read a fiction book on the plane.

  4. Don't use localized software. Buy an English version of Windows. By the way, how are you going to support your customers otherwise? By telling them to open "Start - Bedienfeld - Zufügung/Entfernung von. Programme"?

  5. Don't use localized devices. Switch your iPhone to English right away. Switch your TV, your iPad, your e-reader.

  6. Switch some of your work to English. When I take notes, write down ideas, keep a todo-list or sketch a new UI - I do it in English.

  7. Play music. Musical skills are great for all sides of your life and learning languages is among them. When you sing or play a musical instrument you train your "ear for music". Which is absolutely awesome when you learn a foreign language. When you have that "musical hearing" developed, not only you can speak, you can even emulate accents (that's what me & my wife love doing on our trips: try to sound like Irish, or Australians, or southern states of the US - thats fun).

  8. Practice. Nuff said. Force yourself into conversations with strangers.

  9. Move to an English-speaking country if you can. At least for a month or two. Nothing has helped me better than realizing than I simply can't use any other language. First day is terrifying, second day is OK, by the end of the week you start thinking in English, after two months it takes some time to remember how to say "hello" in your own language...

'9 Tips to Improve Your English' was written by Alex Yumashev
Alex Yumashev
Alex has founded Jitbit in 2005 and is a software engineer passionate about customer support.

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