When living in an English speaking environment, in order to communicate with your neighbourhoods, you have to use English on a daily basis whether you like it or not.  By being immersed in English every day, your English skills definitely get improved. However, when we NOT have such an English immersed environment, how can we maintain English level and even enhance it effortlessly?
What I mean by “effortlessly” is that we don’t have to spend like hours on doing English exercises or reading English textbooks. We are so busy with our work and family that every hour, even every minute is precious to us. Is there any way that with just 5 minutes a day attentively focusing on English we can still assure our English get the nutrition needed to grow?

3 key cornerstones

After reading several blogs and answers from English teachers and Advanced English learners, I’ve come up with 3 key cornerstones:
1 It doesn’t require hard work and strong willpower for an intermediate or advanced learner to maintain and enhance their English level. What is more important is the continuity of learning, little-by-little, everyday review in English. 15 minutes is the best, however, 5 minutes a day, 7 days a week is the most feasible and effective strategy.
2 As an intermediate or advanced learner, we don’t learn English from textbooks. We learn from real life situations which come from English novels, English news, English videos, English blogs, etc… We probably read English articles or listen to such English contents as videos or music every day or once or twice a week. That is what many English teachers and bloggers advise us to do so. However, we need to do more than that. We will surely come up with several new vocabularies or sentence structures while reading or watching. Since we have committed to improving our English level, we need to pause and note down those English phrases and structures to notify our brain that these are important, these need to be memorized.
3 Review with Spaced repetition is a smart and efficient way to spend your everyday 5-minute English learning. If you don’t review your vocabulary, it will fade out. Reviewing it with spacing will ingrain the new concepts you learn in your brain and help move them into your long-term memory storage. Remember, “Repetition is the mother of skill”.
Cornerstones of English learning
3 Cornerstones of English learning

2 things that prevent you from maintaining your English level

Just because we have been aware of those 3 rules, doesn’t mean we can boost our English to the top. There are 2 crucial obstacles that stop us from being mastered at English:
  • Laziness: we are lazy at writing down new words or phrases in our notebooks. We are even lazier at reviewing what we have noted down.
  • Distraction: there are so many interesting distractions on the internet, news feed, interactive advertisements, message notifications, just to name a few. They all flow through our brains and pull our attention away from our learning mission.
Obstacles of English learning
2 Obstacles of English learning

How can technology help us maintain our English level?

This is when the applied technology helps us. You may have read somewhere about Bill Gates’ quote “I will always choose a lazy person to do a difficult job because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.” Talented tech guys have created smart solutions to the Laziness. Many applications have been created to help us learn English with ease.
For example, Quizlet and Anki help us make flashcards and review them. Google translate helps us look up and translate in a blink.
eJOY extension helps us look up English words, translate English phrases and SAVE them to our word books to review them using spaced-repetition algorithm. Currently, eJOY is the only tool that integrates with Youtube, Netflix, Coursera, Udemy, Khan Academy, Amazon Prime. This means we can click on words/ phrases from the video captions to get translation and save them.
Apply technology in English learning
Apply technology in English learning.
With technology support, this is exactly how I maintain my English level every day:
  • Read articles and watch videos relating to my job in ENGLISH
  • Use eJOY extension to save any interesting English words/ phrases that I want to learn
  • Play games with my vocab on eJOY app before sleep
The review session only takes me 5 minutes per day. That’s just the right amount of time I’m happy to spare. If I need to take IELTS or TOEFL while having a full-time job, it may last from 30 minutes to 1 hour instead.

Final thoughts

I have been doing like this for 1 year with a word bank of 1500 added words and 500 mastered words. I have no reason for not maintaining my English like this for the next 10 years if I still live in a non-English speaking environment.
I’d love to hear about your story, how you keep your flame alive. Share it out loud in the comment box below.
Disclaimer: I am one of the Co-founder of eJOY English. And I devote my entire life to language learning and personal development.