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“Nobody wants to play with mediocrity”

A few weeks ago, one of EC Cape Town’s students was awarded with a Certificate of Excellence! She had made such amazing progress in all aspects of the English language. We were extremely proud to have her around and asked her to share some of her tips to improve her English:

Our DOS, Glenn Allies awards Tamires with her Achievement in Excellence award.

My 6 month journey learning English.

By Tamires Macabeu

I spent almost two years planning my exchange but I never thought about the techniques I would use to learn a new language. I used to think that it would be a natural process, since I was supposed to spend six months in a country with native English speakers. However, I can assure you that this thought was completely wrong. Learning a new language is not an easy process and it requires a lot of effort and dedication.

Below I will list some tips that helped me to improve my English from a Pre-intermediate level to an Advanced level in 24 weeks.



I was surprised at the quality of EC school. Literally, I didn’t expect so much support from a school. The teachers are very well prepared and the material they offer is very useful and informative.
But, one thing I realized was that some students expected to learn English just by attending class. Unfortunately it doesn’t work like that.

The teachers are going to lead you and give you good knowledge, but if you don’t practice every day outside the classroom, you will always have an average understanding of English, and nobody wants to play with mediocrity.



One of the first things I learned while I was studying English was that improving your vocabulary helps you to improve all of your English skills. If you have a good vocabulary you read better, speak more confidently, and listen and understand more easily. Based on that, I worked out a way to learn new words in a natural way.
– First, I bought a small notebook which I used to call “my vocabulary notebook”
– I stopped ignoring the words I didn’t know. Understanding words by context was not a technique that worked for me.
– I would write down all the difficult words I came across while reading, watching a movie, listening to a song, or during a conversation with a native English speaker.
– Instead of translating words, I would search the meaning of the word in the Cambridge dictionary and write it down.
– After that, I used a site called “Linguee” where you can search the word and find it in several actual texts from books, newspapers, or magazines. It is a great way to understand the context in which the word is normally used.
– I would then read this notebook at least once a week to remember everything.


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I remember the first time my teacher told me to read more. Since then, I’ve heard the same advice from almost all my teachers. When you read every day, learning grammar becomes a natural process. I understand that this is hard because not everyone enjoys reading but there are several sources you can read: books, sports newspaper, news about the world, fashion blogs and jokes. You just have to find something you like and enjoy this moment!



I knew I had just 6 months to learn English. Because of this, I needed to optimize my time and to get my brain used to the new language as fast as possible. I started using English whenever I could. I would listen to podcasts in English; while taking a bath, while cooking and while doing the dishes. I watched movies, listened to prayers, and motivational videos in English. Basically, these are the things I do daily, I just changed the language into English.



Fortunately, there is a huge variety of online resources to learn English. The key is to find something that you enjoy and that works for you. Personally, two online resources that worked great for me were the TED talks (the best one) and the BBC Learning English. Besides these, I found many interesting channels on YouTube that helped me to learn English in a more fun way.



Basically, there are four skills you need to learn English: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. I realized that each person has their own abilities and difficulties. Based on this, I tried to focus on my weaknesses (I always had a profound difficulty in listening), and I tried not to put much effort into my strengths (I had a certain ease with grammar, for example). Identify your weak points and give them more attention.


Inspirational quotes - Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela, a cornerstone of inspiration

BE PASSIONATE ABOUT LEARNING (and have a reason to do this)

I believe that the most important thing is to be passionate about this process and enjoy it!!!
– First, try to understand what is the reason that led you to study English in another country. (Do you want to get a better job? Do you want to go to college in another country? Or do you want to travel around the world?) Having a clear reason to study makes the process a lot easier.

– Secondly, set goals. Which level do you want to reach? How much time do you need to study daily? How many words do you want to learn per day?

Finally, I’ve been able to learn that dedication and discipline are more important than talent. Believe that you are good at it, trust the ability of EC school’s teachers (they know what they’re doing), put passion and some effort every day and at the end of the process you will be proud of yourself.


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