What can I do to improve my English over the Christmas break?

I work with people who are learning English, but if you’re learning another language, you can use all of these tips to help you learn that language as well.

In countries where Christmas is celebrated, things often start to wind down at this time of year, and people are getting ready for the Christmas and New Year break.

For many, it’s a time for spending time with friends and family, decorating the house, buying gifts, cooking, going to parties, and then taking some time out to relax before the new year starts. Many of our normal routines are forgotten. We have breaks from our courses, and those who study a language alone may not find time to do so.

However, there are some things that we can do in our spare time so that we still see or hear some of the language that we want to learn.

1. Watch a film or read a book

This first tip will depend on what kind of person you are. Would you like to snuggle up on the sofa to watch a film, or would you rather get into a good story – either on paper or as an audio book. There are endless choices, and in terms of films, there are some entire channels that are given over to Christmas films. Netflix also has a good selection, depending on what you’re interested in. If you’re using something like Netflix, there are often additional language options on the menu, and English may be available in there. If you’re already familiar with the story, it’s also a chance to turn off those subtitles and try listening instead.

I’m not going to list Christmas books here, because what you’ll enjoy really depends on what kind of books you’re looking for. But there are so many stories set around Christmas time that are sure to get you into the festive mood, if that’s what you want to do. I know that I generally have a bit more free time between Christmas and the New Year, and I managed to read several books last year. Why not take this opportunity to pick up a book in English? It doesn’t have to be a really long one – try and find something that you think you’ll be able to manage in a couple of weeks.

2. Listen to some Christmas music

Love it or hate it, Christmas music is everywhere at the moment in the UK, and many other countries where Christmas is celebrated. It’s probably quite annoying for people in retail, and if that’s you, you’ve probably had enough of it by now!

However, if you enjoy Christmas music, listening to it and even singing along is a way to practice some Christmas vocabulary in English without even doing something that feels like learning.

If you want to look at the words to a song online, you can do that too – particularly if there’s something that you don’t understand. Even if you are doing something else and just have the songs on in the background, you’re exposing your ears to some more English.

Streaming services such as Amazon Prime and Spotify also have ready-made playlists with all kind of Christmas music, and there are some radio streams that only play Christmas songs.

3. Blogmas and Vlogmas

The idea of Blogmas and Vlogmas has become increasingly popular in recent years. It basically means that people who blog and people with YouTube channels commit to producing content on a daily basis throughout December, often with a Christmas or Winter theme. I’ve been doing it over on Unseen Beauty, where there are articles about Christmas traditions, looking after yourself in winter, animals, food, and charities that I want to support. You’re welcome to check them out.

The good thing with something like Blogmas is that the articles are short, and you can usually read them in 5 or 10 minutes, which is useful if you have les time and can’t commit to something like a book.

Vlogmas is similar to Blogmas, but with YouTube videos. They are often not scripted, so they’re useful for listening to conversational English and people speaking spontaneously.

4. Don’t take a really long break

Of course everyone needs a rest, and the festive period is often busy with work events, family meetups, and taking some time out. Many people want a break from their studies too, which is understandable. But if there’s something you could do that would keep English fresh in your mind, even if it’s just for a few minutes a day, it will help you when it comes to learning again.

If you don’t want to do that because you definitely want a break, it might help to set yourself a date when you want to start again. Otherwise it can be hard to get back into the old routine.

5. Try out a new recipe

If you’re doing some baking or cooking anyway, why not try and find an English Christmas recipe to try out at home. I can say from my experiments with Turkish recipes that it helps to have a look at the recipe in advance and work out what you have to do first. This will stop you getting flustered in the kitchen! It’s even better if you can do it with someone else who’s learning too.

6. Find out about customs in other countries

I always find it interesting to learn how my students will celebrate Christmas, particularly if they have traditions that aren’t well-known here in the UK. Even if you don’t celebrate yourself, it can still be interesting to learn about other people and cultures.

There are plenty of articles online about traditions around the world, but I also have a couple about what people from other parts of Europe think about Christmas in the UK and what people from the UK think about Christmas in other parts of Europe.

7. Share your own ideas

Preferably here – do you have any ideas of other things that you have enjoyed doing, or that you plan to do, to work on your language skills over the Christmas and New Year break?

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Kirsty working with students



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