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Rewind to Optimize: Advice for My Younger Self

Discover valuable tips to streamline and enhance your English learning process. Learn from the experiences of a seasoned English learner and teacher.

I wish I had a rewind button.

With what I know now, I’d save so much time for my younger self. But maybe my reflections can save you time.

If I could start learning English again, here’s what I’d do differently:

I’d forget about trying to memorize every single unfamiliar word you come across. Back in my university days, I wasted so much time cramming word lists, only to forget half of them a few months later. It’s a losing battle.

I’d also stop using 3-column vocabulary notebook (word – transcription – translation). Instead of just words, I’d focus on collocations and phrases. They seem like more work, but trust me, they save a lot of pain in the long run.

I’d avoid trying to “systematize” all English grammar in my head by learning every rule. (Let me tell you: there are so many exceptions your head will spin)

So here’s what I’d do with vocabulary and grammar:

I’d focus on 1-2 grammar topics and 5-15 relevant collocations each month.

Too few?


It’s about quality, not quantity. It’s NOT about finding how what words mean or what grammar rules say. I’d study real-life examples and contexts to understand how they work and make my own sentences along the way. Practicality is key! 


Looking back, I’d change some other things:

  1. I’d ask more questions. I didn’t for fear of looking stupid and because online forums and platforms didn’t exist yet. Those answers would have saved me some time later in life.
  2. I’d ask my teachers for more feedback on what I wrote or said. They did provide feedback, but I wasn’t always listening, or didn’t always follow their advice. Learn from my mistake!
  3. I wasted so much time watching most movies in my native language. I’d definitely switch to watching more movies in English sooner. This is invaluable immersive experience.
  4. I’d take a writing course or start writing earlier. Simply putting words on paper doesn’t make you a good writer. I learned that the hard way, and I’m still learning!
  5. Another step I’d take now: I’d pronounce everything I write aloud. It might sound a bit odd, but it really helps you get comfortable with your own voice, trust me.
  6. Last obvious thing which I overlooked then. I’d speak to my friends in English whenever possible. All my friends took the same classes, but we spoke English only at class, and never in the dorm. Such a missed opportunity!

Some things I’d keep the same:

  1. I read a lot. It was the right thing to do. I’d grateful to our teachers for pushing us to do so.
  2. I did all the boring and annoying vocabulary and grammar exercises. All that work really helped me use English without thinking.
  3. I’d keep making mistakes. I still remember most of them. They taught me a lot.
What recommendations would you give your younger self to simplify and optimize your English-learning process?
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Rewind to Optimize: Advice for My Younger Self
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