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Improve your English and English Literature without Reading Books

Are you a non-native English speaker and bored of reading books for learning English or English literature? The article describes the best way to learn English and English Literature without reading books.

Are you a non-native English speaker? Are you one of them who desperately want to improve their spoken and written English, and are tired of reading instructional books? Are you stuck amidst nowhere?
I know; - of course, that’s why you are visiting this article! And you are welcome, as you are at the right place. 
In today’s world, English literacy has become essential. And especially in this post-Covid era, when more or less everything has found an online outlet, English has become even more crucial; as English is the internationally accepted medium of communication. If you too want to be a part of the globalized world, or at least if you want to lead a normal life coping up with the advancing world, you need to be proficient in both written and spoken English.
And we are here to help you out of this trouble. Here are certain tips and tricks as to how you can improve your skill of speaking and writing English even after keeping yourself away from the traditional way of learning that is book reading.
We’ll discuss it in two parts – 
  1. First, how to improve your English language literacy; 
  2. And then, how you can grow your understanding of English literature, thereby making a good English writer out of you. 
This guide is about how you can enhance your skills in the English language and literature other than reading books. But always remember that studying (not exactly reading) books is always the first step to learn a particular language. Because otherwise, you’ll gain only a partial understanding of it. Now let’s get started.

HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR ENGLISH LANGUAGE SKILL:

Using Grammar:

You must have already gone through grammar books teaching you about the grammatical rules. Now, this is the second step after that. Whatever you have read or learned from your teacher, now start to apply them practically. Whenever you go through something English, try to find out what grammatical structure the sentences are in. Try to find out different parts of speech like verbs, nouns, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, etc. in those sentences and notice how they are used. Whenever you write something, try to apply those rules practically. Without application, grammar will remain only some monotonous rules. Only trying to mug up those rules without attempting to apply them will later lead you to confusion. So do practice proper application of grammar.

Enrich Your Vocabulary:

Vocabulary is word power. The more words you learn, the more your vocabulary will be enriched. And to earn proficiency in a language, you need to have a sufficient word bank in your brain. You have to gather as many words as you can. But, here you need to take care of one thing – that only remembering word lists won’t do. Whenever you tend to speak or write something, you need to know the proper word to be used in its appropriate place. For that, you need to know all the forms of a particular word, as there can be more than one form of a word.
 Suppose, ‘brightness’ is a noun and ‘bright’ is an adjective. You should know where to use which form. And for this, you can always rely on a dictionary; - no matter whether it is bilingual or it’s an English to English dictionary. The only thing is that you must keep a dictionary on your study table in case you want to have a good command of vocabulary.
Another thing is that always be careful while using similar-sounding words, as their meanings are different. You have to know the difference between ‘tale’ and ‘tail’, between ‘cheer’ and ‘sheer’, between ‘there’ and ‘their’, between ‘diary’ and ‘dairy’, and so on. Whenever you come across a new word, note it down, try to remember both the word and its use, and then, attempt your own sentences with appropriate use of that word.

Write Your Diary in English:

Make it a regular habit to write your diary in English. You can write whatever subject pleases you. A diary is not only about writing about your daily schedule. You can write your feelings and emotions there. You can write what or which incident of the day makes you happy or miserable, you can write about your favorite things. Simply, you can write about whatever subject interests you. Just write. It will lead your writing skill to perfection, but not immediately. You will have to have regular practice; and day by day, you’ll feel improvement.

Make & Keep a Constant Connection with English:

Watch English movies, listen to English music. Sometimes movies in regional languages bear English subtitles. That is even better. Because, when you watch the movie, and at the same time read the subtitles, you make a connection between how a particular sentence or phrase in your regional language will find an expression in English. That way, as you can make a connection of English with your mother tongue, you only learn better. Another way is to watch English news updates and cartoons. Usually, we know what’s happening in our surroundings. If we listen to that in English, again there is a connection of it with the current times. And as for the cartoons, they are specially designed for children. Hence, it will make learning easy and interesting.

Practice Speaking:

It’s a practical suggestion to do three things to improve your spoken English. Speak, speak and speak. Only these three things can make you a fluent English speaker. Whenever you get a chance to speak the language, don’t hesitate to use full advantage of it. Try to talk with your parents and other family members in English. Speak English within your friend circle. Your teacher or your mentor can be an aid in that. It doesn’t matter however great your written English is. If you don’t practice speaking the language, fluency will remain an unattainable dream. And on the other hand, if your writing is good, then after some practice, you’ll make a fluent speaker out of you. 

Take Part in Relevant Programs:

Taking part in relevant programs such as group discussions, seminars, etc. is considerably useful. It improves listening skills leading the listener to catch the essence out of it. When you opt for learning a particular language, you need to get habituated to listening to it too. When you start attending such programs, you, at the same time, start developing a habit of listening and thereby understanding English. Another point here is that listening to a certain person’s speech, his or her tone, and temperament in speaking the language can help polishing one’s English skill; when one notices his/her attitude in using the language, use of pronunciation, etc.

Read Newspapers, Magazines:

I can understand that you are bored of reading books, and that’s why you are visiting my article. But, if you don’t like reading bulky books, you can at least read daily newspapers and magazines that interest you. That’s gonna help you a lot.

HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR UNDERSTANDING OF ENGLISH LITERATURE:

 Now, are you a student of English literature being directionless regarding how to or where to start? Are you just a literature lover searching for ways to develop your understanding of literature? Or maybe you are a budding writer looking for tips to improve your literary skills.
First and foremost, the question of improving literary understanding and practice comes only after you get a stronghold of language. And hopefully, since you reached this point of my guide, I guess that now you are apt for this second stage. Then here are the tips:

Grow Your Imagination:

Having the power of creative imagination means that you have the potential for being a writer, - that you have the faculty of comprehending literature.
Now, what is imagination?
If you search in Google dictionary, it will lead towards several meanings. Let me quote two relevant meanings of the word imagination from there. It says that imagination is “the faculty or action of forming new ideas, or images or concepts of external objects not present to the senses”. Another meaning the dictionary offers is that imagination is “the ability of the mind to be creative or resourceful”. The Oxford English Dictionary says imagination is “the ability to create pictures in your mind”. Wikipedia says, “Imagination is the ability to produce and simulate novel objects, sensations, and ideas in the mind without any immediate input of the senses.”
It is a psychological faculty inherent in every human being more or less. In understanding and practice literature, imagination plays a pivotal role. The Romantic poet S. T. Coleridge ponders broadly over the concept of imagination in his theoretical text Biographia Literaria distinguishing imagination from the lighter faculty of fancy. But we won’t go in-depth with these theories. You just need to understand that you have imagination power already inherent in you. The question is just how to grow it; since only those having an exceptional imagination faculty have turned out great writers having inscribed their names for eternity in the realm of literature. And if your aim is just to understand literature in a better way, then it’s necessary to get hold of the author’s point. And for that purpose also, you’ll need imaginative faculty so that you can look at the direction the writer is indicating. Because literature always deals with multiple meanings.
Now then, the question “then how can I grow my imagination?” must be knocking at your mind’s door. Here I would suggest studying literary texts (novels, poetry, plays, travelogues, etc.). Because without studying others’ writing who are much better than you; it’s difficult to get an idea regarding the field where you are advancing your steps. When you study the great writers of history, you know what a literary style is, how to present your ideas and perceptions effectively. You know how you can explain and express an idea in multiple ways. By studying great authors, you gradually grow and improve your imagination faculty sometimes even without noticing it. What I’m trying to say is that, to grow your imagination faculty so that you can understand literature better, there’s no escape from reading better literature. 
Critical Thinking:
Another faculty you need for better understanding and practice of literature is growing the faculty of critical thinking. Critical thinking in respect of literature indicates the faculty of analyzing and judging a literary statement or a literary text. While reading something, you need to understand how a particular literary phrase or sentence or a whole text can be explained; since literature is often cryptic. And for that too, you have to study other writers’ books and critical reviews.  

Discuss Your Opinions:

After you study something, discuss your opinions regarding that piece of literature with others who can provide you with their genuine, honest, and intellectual opinions about that. That would add to your own ideas about that. It will make your reading and understanding more effective. But choose the right person for it lest it turns to mere gossip with no literary and intellectual insight involved in it. Another plus point of discussion is that this way, you will remember things better and more easily. 

Study Your Surroundings:

It is said that literature is the mirror of society. In that case, everything that we see happening around us in our society can find an echo in literature. So, if you want to comprehend literature, or to be a writer, then make a habit of studying your surroundings. It will be beneficial in both academic and professional writing. Anyway, going out into reality has a stronger appeal than sitting in an AC room and trying to imagine things so that you can conjure out a plot out of your imagination without even caring about the reality. It is a tendency of literature in general that it changes its tone in every historical era. To know the previous centuries, you will need the help of books; while to know your own time and to have a critical viewpoint regarding that, you need to study your surroundings. 

Keep in Touch with Literary Tendencies:

I have already mentioned that literature switches its tendencies with time. In different periods, there have been different schools and trends in the history of literature. Keep in touch with those trends if you want to have a better understanding of the literature. For instance, the Romantic period of English literature is mainly distinguished by poetry clad with imagination and governed by nature.
Likewise, the Modern age of literature, devastated by the First World War, can be distinguished by symbolism, absurdity, and so many experimentations with literary forms. In case you keep a record of those tendencies, you will be able to comprehend literature having the basic knowledge of the prevalent trends of different ages. 
Now, after sharing these tips with you, let me tell you something generalizing both language and literature that can add to those tips –
  • Whether you are ambitious about developing your English language or English literature, I will suggest you again: read, and then write. Because, how will you act if you haven’t seen anyone do that? Then how will you write if you haven’t read anyone else’s writing?
  • The second point is especially for literature lovers. Follow literary magazines. I can guess that you don’t enjoy reading bulky books (and that’s why you are here). But studying literature is inevitable when you attempt to practice literature. So, instead of reading bulky books, you can follow certain literary magazines and journals that interest you.
  • Again, literature lovers, - studying literature is the first step before understanding and practicing it. It enhances your boundary, expands your universe. With a habit of reading, your imagination will grow; and slowly, you’ll pick up a unique literary style of your own. If you love to read, you will make a better writer. So, choose the kind of texts that interest you. In case we attempt to do something we don’t really like, it will only have a reverse effect on ourselves.
  • If you can’t keep your pace with reading at all, then I have a solution for that. You can listen to audiobooks. Audiobooks are now diversely available. Choose one that interests you, and plug in your earphones. It can be an effective way of studying other than reading a book.
  • Now, there’s one productive tip for proper pronunciation. In every dictionary, you will find the correct phonetic pronunciation for every word. Right below or beside the word, you will find it written in phonetic symbols. You can refer to that to make your pronunciation proper. But if you don’t have any knowledge of phonetics (and that is only usual for those not having an academic background based on linguistics), or if you find it tedious to keep turning the pages of a bulky dictionary (as the pocket dictionary is not a proper choice if you want to expand the boundary of your knowledge), then you can refer to the phonetic information found on Google. Listen to the phonetic pronunciation available on Google.
  • If you are only a beginner aspiring to learn English, start from the books for kids. This way, you can learn faster. Start with children’s books and gradually increase your level. Picking up an adult book, in the beginning, will only frustrate you.
  • Last but not the least; - don’t get frustrated in a few trials. Don’t panic, - as success is all about determination followed by trial and error. After a good amount of practice, you will start improving your English skills.  

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Shilpi Saikia
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