Follow US:

Practice English Speaking&Listening with: Improve English Study Habits with High and Low-Intensity Practice

Difficulty: 0

Hi, Im Kasia.

Welcome to Oxford Online English!

Heres a question: do you want to improve your English vocabulary, or learn to understand

native speakers better?

Of course you do!

In this lesson, youll see a study technique which can help you to learn English more efficiently,

and make real, deep progress over time.

Youll see a mistake which many English learners make, and how you can avoid it.

Before we start, dont forget to check out our website: Oxford Online English dot com.

Do you need English classes?

We have many professional English teachers, with many years of experience, who you can

study with in online classes.

Even if youre not interested in this, you can also find many free English lessons, including

videos and listening lessons.

But now, lets get back to the question you heard before.

How can you improve your English over time?

How can you make real progress, so that you dont keep forgetting and relearning the

same things?

The solution is not easy or fast, but it is simple: read more and listen more in English.

Reading and listening in English regularly are essential if you want to improve your

English skills.

OK, you say, but what about my speaking?

What about my writing?

I need to learn to speak in English!

Fine, but where will your vocabulary come from?

Where will your sentence structure come from?

These building blocks of language dont come from nowhere.

They come from things you read or hear.

The more you read and listen, the more tools youll have when youre speaking or writing.

But, many English learners dont read or listen enough.

Sometimes, they say things like: “Its too difficult to read in English.”

There are too many unknown words!”

Its too tiring!

I get bored!”

Youre going to see an idea to help you deal with these problems, so you can take

control of your study habits, and make real, deep improvements to your English over time.

When you read or listen, especially in a foreign language, there are two basic approaches you

can take.

Lets call themhigh-intensity practiceandlow-intensity practice.”

What do we mean here?

High-intensity practice means you give 100% of your focus.

If youre reading or listening, you try to understand as much as you can.

You repeat the same task several times.

Low-intensity means that you relax.

You dont worry about understanding everything.

You do as much as you want.

So, whats the big deal?

Why think about this?

To improve, you need to read and listen regularly.

You also need a balance between high-intensity and low-intensity practice.

This is where many English learners make mistakes.

They dont get the balance between these types of practice right, and this affects

their results.

If you do too much high-intensity practice, youll burn out.

Youll get tired and bored; you wont be able to motivate yourself to study and

practise regularly.

Then, you wont spend enough time practising, and youll struggle to improve.

On the other hand, if all your practice is low-intensity, you also wont improve much.

You wont learn a lot from your reading or listening.

Again, in the long term, this leads to frustration and loss of motivation.

In the rest of this lesson, youll see how to apply these ideas to your English reading

and listening practice, and how to find the right balance between high-intensity and low-intensity


Youll also see how to make a sample study plan to maximise the results you get from

your English study time.

First, lets talk about listening.

Think about four different ways to practice listening.

One: you watch a film in English, with English subtitles.

You dont pause it or check words which you dont know.

Two: you watch fifteen minutes of a film in English, without subtitles.

You pause and rewind to re-listen to sections.

You use a dictionary to check words which you dont know.

Afterwards, you watch the same section again, with subtitles, so that you can check what

you heard.

Three: you listen to a podcast or radio station in English while youre working, or maybe

while youre doing some housework.

Youre concentrating on what youre doing, so you arent really listening most of the


Four: you do an IELTS listening exam.

You check your answers and give yourself a score.

Well ask: which are high-intensity and which are low-intensity ways to practise?

Hopefully, the answer is obvious.

One and three are low-intensity ways to practise; two and four are high-intensity.

When youre listening to something in English, what does high-intensity practice mean?

It means: you focus 100% on what youre listening to, you try to understand as much

as possible, you use a dictionary to check new words, and you also repeat the same task

at least twice, or possibly more.

High-intensity practice should also include feedback; you should be able to check if you

understood what you heard correctly or not.

In example number two, above, you do this by rewatching the clip with subtitles.

You use the subtitles to check if you heard everything correctly.

In example number four, you get feedback by checking your answers against the answer key.

This is a key part of high-intensity listening practice.

There should always be feedback.

You need a way to check if you heard correctly or not.

Theres one more important difference: high-intensity practice is time-limited.

You arent trying to watch a whole film; youre working on a 15-minute clip.

Obviously, IELTS exams are also time-limited.

By contrast, low-intensity practice can go on for any length of time.

If youre listening to podcasts while youre cleaning your house, you can go on listening

for as long as you want.

What about low-intensity practice?

What does this look like?

Remember the criteria for high-intensity practice.

What were they?

100% focus, try to understand as much as possible, use a dictionary, repeat the same task, and

get feedback.

If youre not doing these things, then its low-intensity practice.

Now, can you think of other examples of high-intensity listening practice and low-intensity listening


Remember: both sides are useful!

Pause the video now and think about your ideas.

Try to get three methods for high-intensity practice, and three for low-intensity.

So, what did you get?

There are many possibilities, but here are three suggestions for high-intensity practice:

One: listen to a song twice, trying to hear the words.

Then, listen with the lyrics, check any words you dont know in a dictionary, then listen


Two: do listening exercises from an English textbook.

Three: do a conversation class with an English teacher, so you have to understand and respond

to the teachers ideas.

What about you?

Did you get similar ideas, or different?

By the way, please put your suggestions in the comments and share them with other learners!

Next, what about low-intensity practice?

Here are three ideas:

One: make a playlist of English songs, and listen to it regularly, for example in your

car, or while youre on the bus or the subway going to work.

Two: watch an English TV series with English subtitles, without worrying about whether

you understand everything or not.

Three: listen to English-language radio while youre working.

Often, low-intensity practice means you listen to something in English while youre doing

something else.

Thats valuable, because you dont need to make time for this kind of practiceyou

can combine it with other things.

Now, you should have some ideas about high-intensity and low-intensity listening practice.

What about reading?

A question: what does high-intensity reading practice look like?

What about low-intensity reading practice?

You can answer this with many of the same ideas you heard about listening practice.

High-intensity reading practice means: you read everything carefully, you read sentences

and whole texts several times, and you use a dictionary.

Low-intensity reading practice means you dont do these things: you read something once,

you dont worry about unknown words, you dont worry about whether youve understood

everything or not, and you use a dictionary little or not at all.

So, is there a difference between high-intensity and low-intensity practice in reading and


There are two small differences.

First, you need feedback for high-intensity listening practice, to check if youve heard

things correctly or not.

When youre reading, you can see the words, so this is less important.

Second, you can do low-intensity listening practice while youre doing something else.

You cant do this with reading.

You need to make time for all reading practice, including low-intensity reading.

Lets think about another question: should you choose different things to read for different

types of practice?

Or, should you read the same things whether youre doing high-intensity or low-intensity


What do you think?

Probably, you should read different things.

When you do high-intensity practice, you should read something thats challenging, something

right on the edge of whats possible for you.

On the other hand, for low-intensity practice, you should read something thats relatively

easy, so you dont need to focus too hard.

Want an idea?

Read childrens books, or comic books.

A lot of learners we talk to are against this, because they think its childish or unhelpful,

but we disagree!

Childrens books can really help your reading, especially if your English level is lower.

In any case, find something you can read without much effort, so that you have something you

can use for low-intensity practice.

What about you?

What would you do for high-intensity and low-intensity reading practice?

Again, please share your ideas in the comments.

Maybe youll get some good tips from other viewers!

Next, lets see how you can use these ideas to make an effective, realistic study plan

to improve your English.

Lets start with some basic points.

First, you need to make time for high-intensity listening practice, and both high-intensity

and low-intensity reading practice.

Second, you need to think of ways to get as much low-intensity listening practice as possible.

Remember that you can do this while youre doing something else.

Third, you need a good balance of high-intensity and low-intensity practice.

What does this mean?

You need some high-intensity practice, ideally a little bit every day, but not too much!

High-intensity practice is tiring and probably not fun.

You need to concentrate hard.

Its work.

So, schedule high-intensity practice for your best time of day.

Are you a morning person?

Do it as soon as possible after you wake up.

Are you a night owl?

Schedule your practice late in the evening.

Set a time limit for high-intensity practice.

This will help you to focus.

Start with fifteen minutes, and then increase it slowly if you think this is too little.

For low-intensity practice, do as much as possible.

A good way to do this: take things you do every day in your language, and replace them

with English.

For example, do you read the news every day, maybe while youre having breakfast?

Read the news in English, instead.

Do you listen to podcasts while youre walking around?

Listen to English podcasts, instead.

Remember: low-intensity practice shouldnt be stressful.

It shouldnt be hard to motivate yourself to do it.

The idea is to expose yourself to as much English as possible.

Thats it.

Dont try to do more.

Keep high-intensity and low-intensity practice separate.

Heres a possible study plan for one day:

High-intensity listening: watch a 5-minute clip from a TV show, like Friends.

Watch once without subtitles, then again with subtitles, and check any new words in the


Watch a third time tofixthe new vocabulary in your head.

Low-intensity listening: put a playlist of English videos on in the background while

making dinner.

High-intensity reading: read a short news article on a technical topic.

Read once, check new vocabulary, then read again.

Low-intensity reading: browse the comments under a news article on a topic youre interested


What do you think?

Would this be realistic for you?

The high-intensity parts here should take maybe 10-20 minutes each.

The low-intensity reading can take as little or as long as you want.

That means you need maybe one hour a day total.

It also means you dont need to sit at a desk and study for hours.

You need to focus for maybe 20 minutes at a time.

Thats not so bad, right?

Could you do this?

If you could follow a study plan like this regularly, your English will get better over


Of course, you should give yourself different things to do at least some days, and you probably

wont be able to do this seven days a week, 365 days a year.

But, maybe you can do it three days a week, or four.

Maybe even five!

This will still help you.

Make a realistic study plan, and dont get discouraged if you dont stick to it perfectly.

Do as much as you can, as often as you can.

What about you?

Could you make a study plan for yourself using these ideas?

Think about your English level, your interests, and whats easy or difficult for you.

If you want, share your daily study plan in the comments.

Sharing your ideas might help other learners, and you can also get tips from other people!

Thanks for watching!

See you next time!

The Description of Improve English Study Habits with High and Low-Intensity Practice