Students often ask me what they should do at home in order to improve their English, my answer is always the same: anything. English can be broken down into 4 parts; speaking, listening, reading and writing. And all 4 parts can be improved with self-study. Let me explain.
Speaking – while you might not be able to practice conversation when you’re alone that doesn’t mean you can’t practice vocabulary or expressions. For example, instead of saying “Uso…” while watching TV you could react by saying “No way…” It’s important practice as you are rewiring your brain to think differently rather than simply react naturally. You can also try naming objects that you need, or say things like “Where are my keys?” I would suggest using one or two sentences over and over that way they start to sink in. “Where is…? Where is…?”
Listening – easy to do when you’re at home. Watching DVDs (as mentioned in a previous post), watching cable TV, listening to audio lessons, and checking youtube give every student a chance to enhance their listening skills.
Reading – probably the easiest to do alone. Pick up a textbook, buy a novel from www.amazon.co.jp or simply check any English website. For those students struggling with grammar I always tell them to go and buy a junior high school English book because from my experience most of the necessary grammar for conversation is contained within them. Master those and you’re well on your way.
Writing – this is by far the hardest to master. In its basic form simply writing a sentence or two for each new vocabulary word is a great exercise. Once that becomes easy enough a diary of sorts (maybe one or two entries a week) will help you put those individual sentences together and create a more concrete story. It’s important that you do try to use some new grammar or vocabulary each week rather than simply using the same sentences over and over. Of course you will need someone to take a look at your work and have them correct the errors and then you should rewrite them taking note of the errors.
So there you have it. The answer. The problem is not what to do, nor how to do it. The problem is will you do it.