Beyond the classroom: 5 unusual ways to learn English

Studying grammar, spelling and pronunciation in English classes has its merits — but in Cape Town some of the best language learning happens when you leave your textbooks at home and venture out to these unconventional ‘classrooms’.

The secret to learning English is studying smarter, not harder. While hours in a school classroom can be helpful for learning the rules of the English language, they might not help you become fluent as fast as you’d like.

Language learning experts say it can take at least 600 hours to become fluent in English, so why not try out some of these unconventional ways to improve your language skills outside of the classroom.

1. Volunteer with a local project

The key to learning English quickly is by practicing your conversational skills. While you may be a little shy when it comes to conversing with other adults, why not practice your English with kids by volunteering at a primary school, an afterschool homework club, a sports team, or a children’s hospital?

2. Go out on the town and flirt with the locals

Nothing gives more incentive to learn a language than trying (and perhaps failing) to converse with the gorgeous guy or girl you met on the dance floor. Grab a craft beer or cocktail — it’ll help the words flow and your confidence to soar — and start chatting. Even if you don’t drink or particularly enjoy nightlife, the key here is to leave home and go where the locals go. Engage, practice and see how easily you’ll start to understand the language.

3. Take public transport

Cape Town’s infamous minibus taxis are a tourist attraction in themselves. Hop on one of them at rush hour and you’ll be thrown, headfirst, into a chaotic cultural experience. You’ll learn to understand accents that native English speakers don’t, get good at giving directions, and most definitely be asked, “Where you from?”.

4. Get some fresh air — surfing, hiking, yoga in groups

Join a meet-up from any of Cape Town Community’s groups to learn a new skill or stay active while you’re in South Africa. The city has an abundance of cool things to do and even cooler people to do them with, whether it’s hiking, cycling in the moonlight, going wine tasting, learning to surf, or taking a yoga class.

5. Immerse yourself in local culture — music, comedy, restaurants

Whether it’s an outdoor music festival, a stand-up comedy routine at a local theatre, or eating your way through Cape Town’s best menus, be sure to spend as much time as you can away from a desk. By surrounding yourself with English (and other languages) for 16 hours a day, you’ll be amazed how quickly your skills improve.

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