How to improve one’s English

Tran Cam asks: I’m from Vietnam, I’ve been studying English at Planet American English School for three months. But I’m having a hard time with it. Do you have any suggestions, to help me out?

Hi Tran Cam –

I really have to bow to you, Tran Cam.  English is an incredibly hard language to learn!  Due to the history behind it, it is a mixture of so many different languages; and due to the amount of exploration the British Empire had, it has so many different sounds!  Do you realize that, in Chaucer’s day, pronunciation of English made sense?!  Every letter had one sound, and whenever that letter was used, that was how it was pronounced.  So the word “light” was actually pronounced something like “lichht,” but over the centuries, English has instead developed thousands of rules (or rule-breakers) that make it so much harder than most other tongues!


So can I offer you any suggestions?  Well, beyond studying like a maniac, I think the best thing you can do is listen to music sung in English.  It will accustom your ears to it very well, and make it more enjoyable.  The hard part is determining what to listen to, especially as so much music is performed in a hard-to-understand, or the songs are written in a colloquial, way.  So here are some suggestions of recordings that would be great for you to get.  They have differing sorts of accents, but should be relatively easy to understand, and are written in relatively normal English.


Ella Fitzgerald, “The Cole Porter Songbook”

Hank Williams “Greatest Hits” (or any collection of his hits)

The Beatles “Help!” (any of The Beatles’ early recordings could work, as they enunciated very well.  This one just strikes me as maybe the clearest collection of their songs)

Nat King Cole “The Very Best of Nat King Cole” (or any collection of his hits)

The Carpenters, “Yesterday Once More” (or any collection of their hits)

Olivia Newton-John, “Magic, The Very Best” (or any collection of her hits).


Now, Tr?n Cam, you may find that all of these are music you don’t like.  So it’s probably worth checking these artists out online before you buy anything.  But they’re all singers who sing very clearly, and mostly with songs that are written in good grammar.


Beyond that, just keep talking in English, reading whatever you can, and, of course, write me anytime!  I’m thrilled to help you out!


Good Luck!



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