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How to Start Improving Your Language Skills

Home » Basic English Language Training for Virtual Assistants » How to Start Improving Your Language Skills
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It is now obvious to you that language learning doesn’t need to be an unpleasant experience. Moreover, it shouldn’t be! Getting rid of the anxiety and finding your inner motivation will help you greatly in your language learning.

When you are not an English native speaker, you always think that your English is not good enough. Even these words are written by an experienced non-native English language speaker who is constantly worrying about their grammar, wording, language, etc. It happens to everybody!

However, read the testimonial from one of our teachers. Knowing that successful professionals have the same concerns as you do may help you overcome the roadblocks to your best language learning experience.

I got my degree in English Language from a faculty, but I was always anxious when it comes to speaking with native speakers. Even though I got many compliments on my language and even my accent – I was always self-conscious about the way I write and speak.

Surely, working in an international team, I was able to read and hear others using English, and I thought that their English was good enough, but I could discern mistakes in their speaking and writing. However, I realised I didn’t care about those. If I could understand their message without effort – it was good enough for me.

Then, at some point, our employer (a native English language speaker) talked about her travels to Vietnam and Singapore and Katrina (our employer) said the following:

“I’ve recently been in Vietnam and Singapore. It was interesting. Surprisingly, many Vietnamese are not confident with their English language skills. My understanding is that English is not a default subject in schools and often only taken up in the latter part of high school.

The Indonesians on our team appear to be similar. They don’t have high levels of English language skills. And some of the Filipinos are not super-confident in their skills.

From my perspective, I think they’re all fine!”

My thoughts in that moment were – well, if that is good enough for her, it should be good enough for me! That fortified my attitude that I should strive to be better, but that I don’t have to beat myself up about it!

Set a Good and Obtainable Goal

There is another very important thing when learning a language, or making any such kind of effort – setting a clear goal.

What is your goal? To learn English? What does that actually mean?

There are different levels of knowledge and you need to figure out what is your current level and how far you want to go.

Of course, you will want to be as good as possible and that is great! But, don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t go that easy for you.

Moreover, don’t wait until you think your English is perfect before you start applying for new positions. All you need to do is to reach the level needed for the job you want.

With that in mind, remember:


As you can tell from the video above, the context is very important when you are trying to set a good learning goal. Your context and setting is the online job in the eCommerce industry.

If you are aiming for a position of a Virtual Assistant, you need to be able to understand the instructions, clearly communicate with your team and your employer and to be able to conduct a conversation without too much effort.

Similar level of language is needed for those that aspire to have their career in customer service, with an accent on good email writing skills.

Those that are interested in advertising on social media needn’t worry about long writing forms. Graphic Designers, Web Developers and other roles that are not that customer oriented can have quite successful careers without reaching extremely high levels of English.

Naturally, being proficient in writing is important if you aim at a successful Copywriting career.

Linguists already classified the knowledge of a foreign language. There are two scales, one is the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) and the other one is The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL). Both of these criteria describe the language skills for certain levels.


As you can see, the European and the American institutions don’t have the same name for the same levels, so you can stick to the reference from the table if you have the need to classify your knowledge. What do those levels actually mean in real life?

While these levels are here only to help you evaluate your knowledge, they can also help you set a goal for yourself and create your path toward better language learning experience.

Once you have your long term goal all figured out, it is time to create some milestones or short term goals. It is OK if you are not sure how to do this. Here’s an examples: 10+ Ways to Language-learning Success by Setting Goals

However, always keep in mind that your main goal is to be able to communicate with your online team and be a successful online worker. Whenever possible, tweak your long term and short term language learning goals according to that.

What Makes Your Learning Effective

Generally, we all think we know what makes good learning habits. More precisely, throughout the school, we figure out what works best for us. Here are some tips on how to learn effectively.

But, when it comes to languages, let’s start with the article from Creativity & Languages The language learning formula: an infographic on effective learning. The authors concluded about what makes language learning successful based on their experience as language teachers.

They say motivationtime and methods are the three pillars of success.

language learning formula graph

We already talked about your motivation and concluded that building a new and lucrative career should be enticing enough for you to get motivated and be as good as possible at English.

However, your new career is not the motivation on its own. It is your reason for learning and it should trigger your own drive, energy and effort. In other words – get excited!

As for the time spent in the language, the next several lessons will teach you how to get the most of the free and paid language learning opportunities around you. We will also showcase several methods to you, so you can choose the one that best matches your personal learning style.

Here is a video of an experienced linguist giving his opinion about your English language strategy:

You could list some of the important prerequisites for your effective language learning like this:

  • You learn better if you are emotionally involved in the process of learning
  • Nurture a positive attitude toward your learning
  • Find your own learning style
  • Ensure enough exposure to language
  • Create a good learning strategy

Take a look at some tips that can help you develop the habits and attitude needed to make the most of your learning: 8 Characteristics of Successful Language Learners | Language Tips

How to Create a Good Learning Strategy

Generally, we covered the general attitude and the factors behind the effective language learning. Now, it is time to start giving some more hands-on tips about your language learning.

Make some tea, sit back and watch this useful video that will explain this process to you and offer some tips along the way.

Here are some pointers that you should include in your strategy:

1: Choose Interesting Material

This may be a book or a course or any other structure that takes you step-by-step toward learning English. When choosing the material, make sure that you try and find material that is as closely related to your work as possible

2: Decide on Your Learning Style

Figure out if you would like to learn alone, with a partner, in a group or with a teacher. Usually, it is best to combine these styles so you get to learn on your own pace, but still get the chance to practice or get exposed to English.

3: Make a Plan and Sticking To It

Dedicate at least half an hour a day working on your English. Even if you don’t have the time or the means to do something more active that day, at least listen to a podcast in English or read a text that you can understand for the most part.

Think of language learning as of dieting – you should be careful about what you eat every day and not just starve two days a week. Something similar happens with language learning. It is better to study half an hour each day than to have only two, two-hour lessons twice a week.

4: Start With the Vocabulary

Even if your grammar is not perfect and you don’t have too many words in your “word bank” you will be able to communicate some basic ideas and concepts. The following video will show you a useful strategy for learning vocabulary successfully.

According to the former website Duolinguist, there are some very interesting techniques for learning all languages, including English:

  1. Key sound or key word technique – when you learn many words that have similar root or a sound. For example, teen. You can easily remember – thirteen, fourteen, fifteen, etc.
  2. Cognates – using words that are similar to your own language and English to remember them more easily.
  3. Flash cards – help greatly in learning vocabulary and you can create a lot of fun word-learning games using them.
  4. Spaced repetition – can be combined with other methods, like flashcards. The experts say that you learn words most efficiently by spaced repetition. It is based on the opinion that you learn the content (words in this case) best if you are exposed to them in different intervals in time.
    Here is a useful article about how to make space repetition work to your advantageUsing Spaced Repetition to Learn New Vocabulary Words.
  5. Brute force repetition – the name says it all – cramming words.
  6. Pictograph – signs, symbols, images, emojis…all of these are pictograms.
  7. Diglot weave – adding the new words into sentences on your native language. The context makes them more memorable and you remember them more easily.
  8. Visual tools
  9. Audio/Echo technique – repeating words after a native speaker.
  10. Intention anchoring – telling a story out loud to a real or imaginary listener. It anchors the new words into the real, communicative situations, helping you remember them.

Moreover, here is a list of articles that contains some very effective and interesting tips from the experts, regarding the vocabulary improvement.

5: Let Grammar Happen to You

Again, you should start with words that are related to the online world and the eCommerce field. The more you use them and the more you expose yourself to English, the more you will learn about a sentence structure and the grammar.

At first, you will try and combine the simple words you learned, trying to express your thoughts. Of course, those attempts will be a bit crude, but in most cases you will be able to get your message across.

For example, if you know the word hungry and you know the word I, you will probably start by saying just:


Then you will try making a child-like sentences similar to:

I hungry!

In time, by listening and communicating with others, you will come to the point where you pick up the grammar rule and your sentence will turn into:

I’m hungry!

A good part of your grammar is learned passively. It means that you don’t study the rules by heart, but your brain recognises the patterns and starts implementing them.

Here is a video in which an ESL teacher explains how, why and if you should learn grammar:

There are different views on the fact whether grammar should or should not be studied in a traditional way – this means from grammar books, by studying the rules and applying them in exercises. Here are two articles on that topic:

What is next? Well, relentless practice! Stick to your plan, expose yourself to language as much as you can and make sure you do something every day.

Now that you have an idea about your language learning strategy and the daily plan, let’s introduce some tools that will help you boost your memory, as well as some excellent tips from the successful polyglots, as well as the ‘ordinary’, everyday language learners who managed to become fluent.

How to Improve Your Memory

Everybody wished they had better memory! We would all like to be able to be that amazing person with photographic memory who can remember anything just by taking a single look at it.

But, the great majority of us aren’t that person.

Still, we are able to learn English even without having such superpowers. To a great extent, this happens with much less effort due to mnemonic devices. This is a fancy term for ‘memory hacks’. We are not going to spend too much time talking about this, since it is more of a general learning skill and less of a specifically language learning skill.

Here is a video that will explain mnemonic devices to you in more details and how they can be used to learn vocabulary better:

An excellent and well-written article by Lingholic offers 12 tips on how to improve your memory when it comes to language learning. They are, as follows:

  1. Put in your emotions
  2. Pay attention, focus
  3. Use mnemonics
  4. Learn from context
  5. Use visualisation techniques
  6. Repeat, repeat and review
  7. Deal with material that you can understand for the most part
  8. Make associations and analogies
  9. Read loudly, repeat the sounds
  10. Be healthy to keep your mind sharp
  11. Learn through music
  12. Divide your time in short bursts of study

Get much more detailed explanation for each of these tips in the article: Twelve Awesome Ways to Drastically Improve Your Memory – Memory Tip #1: Put in Your Emotions

List of Most Effective Language Hacks

Unfortunately, there isn’t a magic wand that you can wave and suddenly learn a language. Some may argue that there are shortcuts, tricks and hacks to learning a language faster, but there is nothing mysterious about them – it’s pure science!

One of our favourite language hacks that really works is – making language learning fun. This is one of the 5 Secrets Polyglots know about Learning Languages that Others don’t from the Language Tsar.

A lot reputable websites about learning and teaching English as a second language compile their best tips about effective language learning. You will notice some of them get repeated, while others are specific to that particular author.

Go through them and find those that work for you, your learning style and your plans.

The 21 Fantastic Tips and Hacks For Learning a Foreign Language is definitely one of our favourites. All the tips are truly fantastic and can significantly help you improve your attitude and, consequently, your English.

Here are 101 things (in no particular order) you can do to improve your English is a nice, quick list of tips without much explanation, but still quite useful and straightforward.

In Summary

Learning language is, in some points, the same as learning any other skill. On the other hand, it has its own specifics, one of them being the fact that a lot of language acquisition is done subconsciously while you are exposed to that particular language.

One of the first things you need to decide when you want to start improving your English is your goal. Improving your English is not a precise goal. It should be something like – achieve C1 level of my speaking and writing.

You can check CEFR and ACTFR for different language learning levels, but that should not be your main focus. What matters is to keep in mind that you are preparing for a career in eCommerce. Different eCommerce roles need different language skills.

Copywriters need better writing skills while those in customer support should work on email templates and focus more on the communicative skills.

When you have the goal, you need to ensure your learning is as effective as possible. You ensure that by motivating yourself properly, immerse yourself into language and find effective techniques that work for you.

That leads you to creating good learning strategy. Crudely, you could sum up your learning strategy in the following steps:

  1. Choose interesting material
  2. Decide on your learning style
  3. Make a plan and sticking to it
  4. Start with the vocabulary
  5. Let grammar happen to you

Once you set your goals and figure out your strategy, you should make the most of the mnemonic devices available. These are frequently used for language learning, especially vocabulary.

The last, but not the least are numerous language learning hacks recommended to you by language learners, teachers and polyglots.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Should you wait for your English to be perfect before you apply for eCommerce positions?

a. Yes. You don’t want to embarrass yourself.

b. No. As long as your English is good enough to do your job, communicate with your team and strive for better language skills, you are good.

2. What is one of the most important things to factor into your long term learning goals?

a. CEFR and ACTFR levels

b. Language skills needed for your future eCommerce roles

c. Your current language level

3. What is the best thing to start with when learning a language?

a. Grammar rules

b. Vocabulary

c. Watch movies

4. How much time should you spend learning English weekly?

a. Every day for at least half an hour

b. Twice a week for at least two hours

c. Every second day

5. What is the difference between brute force repetition and spaced repetition?

a. Brute force repetition means you repeat the words as many times as possible

b. Spaced repetition is based on exposing yourself to the words in different intervals in time

c. Spaced repetition requires less force

6. What are mnemonic devices?

a. Electronic devices for learning

b. So called “memory hacks”

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