English Learning: Matching Method to Mood

Did your 2018 New Year’s resolutions include improving your English?

How’s that going? Are you struggling to put in the hours of study you hoped you would?

Try matching your method of learning to your mood – I’ve found it helps enormously!

I break my language study down into three methods: passive learning, semi-passive learning and active learning.

Your aim is to pick an activity from one of the three methods every day, or according to your goal, and to never feel guilty about all the passive learning you are doing. Your mood will change one day, and you’ll become an active learner again.

Be as moody as you like, but don’t let your moods derail your goal!

When all you want to do is flop down on the sofa or shut out the world around you:

Passive learning

  • Watch a film or an episode of a series in English instead of your first language.
  • Listen to a radio show from the BBC, Voice of America or other source.
  • Laugh along to English-speaking stand-up comedians.
  • Listen to an audio book read by a native speaker.


When you have the energy to sit upright, but your brain isn’t ready to go fully operational:

Semi-passive learning

  • Flip through a flashcard app on a smartphone
  • Have a 5-minute burst on your English language app if you are using one.
  • Listen to a TED talk on Ted.com and follow the English transcript at the same time.
  • Record yourself reading in English
  • Read an English article, story or book
  • Read a graphic novel in English.


When you are alert and in language-learning mode:

Active learning

  • Speak in English whenever possible.
  • Find a language partner to give you feedback on your English.
  • Practise writing in professional English whenever possible.
  • Read a bilingual book or article on a bilingual website and analyse the translation.
  • Attend events in English, either physically or digitally (streamed), and prepare a question for the speaker(s)
  • Do your normal English learning mode of choice…

Don’t give up on your resolution to improve your English in 2018!

A fuller version of this article was originally published on LinkedIn 

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