Creating your own learning system

To activate your English learning system and become a winner, you need to develop and use the following four elements:

1) Your media library

In order to learn English, you have to expose yourself to spoken English every single day. It is like practicing a sport: you have to exercise on a regular basis. The hope of learning English within a certain period of time is an illusion. What happens to your body if you stop exercising? Your fitness decreases. The same holds true for your language skills. English, like regular physical exercise, should become an integral part of your life. The first step towards this goal is to create your 'media library' to surround yourself with English every day. Winners spend as much time as possible living within an English language environment.

Your 'English media library' is like your gym or sports club, the place where you work out. The English language media of your library are the equipment and machines of your English gym, and the more you have, the better. First, you need access to English TV and radio channels. Without this, it's almost impossible to create a total environment. Check with your local cable TV company to see which English language channels they carry. In addition, google the phrase 'English radio channels' and you will find a wide variety of stations that you can listen to via the Internet. Two of the most popular broadcasting companies are CNN and the BBC. On their websites you will find more information about their TV and radio programs.

The next items in your media library are DVDs. Movies are a vital element in building your English language environment, since they contain phrases native speakers use in all kinds of everyday situations. DVDs are excellent materials because they come with many useful features. For example, you can select a single scene from a movie and watch it as often as you wish.

In addition to the spoken dialog, you can also read the script, and you can even pause the movie to look up a word. Many average students frown upon the idea of watching English DVDs because they are afraid they 'won't understand anything'; they only use movies with subtitles.

Think about it: The vast majority of all movies worldwide are made in the USA. In most countries, these films are dubbed, that is, translated into the local language, so for instance when you go to a German cinema, you watch American movies in German. This is a crazy concept, since almost every German is taught English at school for many years. Yet, after all this studying, the average German is not able to understand simple, common American phrases.

Winners make the decision to start using authentic English media as soon as possible. Instead of watching the dubbed or subtitled version of a movie, they watch the original film. Your first step is to obtain as many English language DVDs as you can. Of course, you don't have to buy them all.

Here are some legitimate ways of getting access to movies:

i) Use rental DVDs. You can certainly find a DVD rental shop in your neighborhood. Sign up with the store and make a habit of renting and watching undubbed, unsubtitled English movies regularly.

ii) Go to websites that offer DVDs or movies for download. You can get DVDs from online shops like Amazon or auction sites like eBay. In addition to selling DVDs, Amazon also offers DVDs for rent, and on eBay you can find used DVDs at much lower prices than new ones. Some companies like Time Warner even offer movies for download, or 'movies on demand'. As a winner you should keep abreast with new technologies, and through that process you will also learn English.

iii) Borrow from your friends, family and co-workers. Ask your friends and colleagues if they want to swap DVDs with you. Nowadays, most of us have at least a few DVDs at home, and you should take advantage of this resource. Talk to your friends and family and tell them you are looking for DVDs with English audio tracks. I'm sure they will be more than happy to share their movies with you. This is also an excellent opportunity to expand your social network and communicate with your friends and colleagues. You will read more about how to use DVDs to learn English in coming sections of this book.

In addition to TV, radio and movies, you need access in your media library to audiobooks. An audiobook is the spoken version of a book. A professional actor reads it aloud to you. An audiobook is a tremendously useful resource, because you hear new words and phrases before you see them written. As we have discussed before, English is a non-phonetic language, and if you see the spelling of a new word before you hear it spoken, you are bound to pronounce it incorrectly, because you inevitably make up your own pronunciation. Audiobooks are great, because you can listen to them as often as you wish, and then you can get the written version of the book to see how certain words are spelled. You can even use the written and audio versions at the same time, and read the text while you are listening to it. On top of all that, there are a number of other advantages audiobooks have over conventional books, and we will talk about those later. One good place to start creating your own collection of English audio books is at www.audible.com – a website where you will find thousands of downloadable audio books. Most of the recordings are MP3 files which you can download onto your computer and use with your MP3 player wherever you are.