How to Improve Your English if You’ve Very Little Time?

By Robby

If you are new here please read this first.

Improve Spoken English

Hello my dear blog readers!

Recently I’ve been getting a few e-mails and also blog comments asking me how it’s possible to develop and improve one’s English if one has very, very little time to do so!

Here’s a typical scenario.

  • You have to get up very early to catch the bus to work, and you’ve virtually no time to do anything in relation to your English improvement.
  • Then you’re working long hours in an environment where there’s no English involved whatsoever, and your working day is really hectic with a couple of quick tea breaks in between.
  • Now, by the time you arrive back home, have your dinner and take a shower, the day is almost over and you have to go to bed to get some sleep before getting up the next morning and starting your 8 AM – 6 PM rat race again.

So, it kind of begs the natural question:

Is it possible at all to work on your English and also improve it considering you’re really, really busy during the entire day and by the time you can sit down in the evening you’re so tired you find it very hard to be motivated to do anything that requires mental exertion?

Well, here’s the simple answer – “Yes, it is possible!”

And here’s what you have to do in order to find out how exactly it’s possible to improve your English if you’ve very little time during the day – watch the video above or listen to the podcast, and you’ll find out everything!

Any questions or comments – please post them in the comments section below! 😉



P.S. Are you serious about your spoken English improvement? Check out my English Harmony System HERE!


English Harmony System

P.S. Are you serious about your spoken English improvement? Check out the English Harmony System HERE!

English Harmony System
  • You’re welcome Juhapekka, and yes, there may be certain things that will take you by surprise during the interview, but generally speaking it’s totally realistic to prepare for 99% of the questions that they might ask you during the job interview. You know, the typical – describe a situation when you dealt with a difficult customer, describe a situation when you worked towards meeting a deadline, what you did in your last job etc. It’s totally doable to prepare to all those questions beforehand so that you can provide the answers at a near native-like level and that will go a long way towards showcasing your English skills!

  • Juhapekka

    Yes. I came up with the similar conclusions and it’s a really bad idea to admit during a job interview that I’m struggling sometimes when speaking. I would reason it something like this: Even though it’s honest to admit it, it’s still somewhat misleading towards the interviewers because CV and interviews are so short that their main purpose is to highlight the main points and the general guidelines. Therefore, my fluent English skills are the general guidelines that should be highlighted, and those certain difficulties are minor points or details that take the interviewers’ attention away from my main points that matter much more when it comes to the big picture of my English skills. It’s interesting that something could be both honest and misleading at the same time. Tiny overselling is tiny overselling, but it seems to be clearer to the interviewers.

    Generally, I have found the preparation for interviews very tricky because there seem to be many pitfalls and many ways how you can fail it. Thank you very much, Robby, for confirming my thoughts and helping me not to fall into those pitfalls.

  • Hi Juhapekka,
    First of all, let me tell you that it’s definitely a bad idea to be truly open during a job interview about the fact that you’re struggling sometimes when speaking. I think they won’t appreciate your honesty and think: “Guess what? We need a fluent English speaker and this guy is struggling just a tiny bit but overall his English is brilliant so we’ll give him a chance and he’s going to be a real asset to our company!”
    I’m more inclined towards thinking that their reasoning would be something along these lines: “He’s got certain difficulties when it comes to English… What? If he puts that on his CV, in reality his English may be even way worse than he admits so what we’re dealing here with is someone who only has a basic grasp of the language…! It’s best not to interview this guy at all!”
    Bottom line – it’s worth overselling yourself a tiny bit by saying your English is fluent both orally and in writing and them let the interview process take care of itself.
    And just like you said – preparation is PARAMOUNT.
    I recently had an interview with DELL and I prepared really well. As a result, despite all the stress I experienced I performed really well – I had all the responses well drilled into my mind in which case you can’t really have a moment when you draw a blank!

  • Juhapekka

    Hi Robby and thanks for your advice!

    It’s funny that I hadn’t realized before that spoken practice doesn’t require any tools or resources, but it just makes it even more interesting in my opinion because no matter which discipline we are talking about, I always prefer to find methods that can be used whenever or wherever we are.

    I think you’re probably right and I just set too high standards or too strict definitions on the word “fluent”, which is, as you have said previously, stretchable concept and there is always certain limits to everyone’s fluency; some fluent people are just more fluent than some other fluent people, but all of them are fluent. When I think about it again, “fluent English” alone is just fine in my CV.

    The phrases of the last section of the article are handy, but I can’t use two of them (“I’ve been speaking English for the last … years” and “I’ve been working in an English speaking environment for the last … years”) because I don’t have that kinds of experiences. “I’ve been speaking English for the last … years” is a bit stretchable concept, though, because I’ve been speaking English very occasionally and randomly for a good few years. In my case, “…wouldn’t present any difficulties whatsoever” is also questionable to use. Perhaps I could modify it a bit: “I may have certain difficulties with using English, but my English is fluent enough that I can overcome them.”, but there is still a danger that it can be understood wrongly and they may think something like “Certain difficulties??! How serious might they be and how long will it take from him to overcome them?” I also find it a bit tricky to use these kinds of phrases during an interview because when I have said the phrase, I tend to think that now I have to show that I don’t have any significant, big difficulties, but then I’d just try too much and suddenly I would experience much bigger difficulties to speak than normally. In the worst case scenario, my mind would completely draw a blank and I couldn’t continue my speech in almost any form at all.

    Maybe it’s just better that I don’t think what interviewers could think about my mistakes and I would continue my speech pretty much as if nothing had happened, but depending on the degree of my mistakes, of course. The same goes for the worst case scenarios and it’s better to not to think them too much or even at all or perhaps I could just imagine myself into a situation where I would have made some “horrible” English mistakes during the interview and then I would memorize a few useful phrases to use in a situation where my mind could possibly draw a blank. Probably I could be just fine without those kinds of phrases, but just in case and for the sake of completeness: Have you any suggestions what kind of phrases I could use? I already know a good few phrases that I can use during a normal conversation in that kind of situation where my mind would draw a blank, but are there any phrases that are especially suitable during an interview or are there certain phrases that are okay to use in ordinary conversations but surprisingly not in interviews?

    But anyway, the best way to deal with those kinds of problems is prevent them altogether in advance by preparing myself properly. I haven’t finished reading all of your articles related to this topic and they will probably shed some new light on this issue.

  • Hi Juhapekka,

    Yes, you’re absolutely correct in your realization – spoken practice requires no tools or resources whatsoever – the only thing we need is our willingness to improve, that’s all! 😉

    Speaking of how to describe your English in a CV – please read the last section of this article where I’ve elaborated on that.
    Btw – in my opinion we, foreigners, tend to undervalue our English skills simply because of our high standards. You may think your spoken fluency is still lacking something while the person interviewing will most likely think that your spoken English is really good.
    Which brings us to the next point – never use words such as “good”, “potential for improvement” etc. in a CV. Why? Simply because it will send the wrong message about those skills. If you describe your fluency as simply “good” or “satisfactory”, people may assume you’re just a beginner English student! Just write your English is fluent, and surely you wouldn’t be lying about that.
    So, all in all, in my opinion there’s no need for you to differentiate between your written and spoken English levels on your CV; it’s something you can elaborate during your interview, for example, But if you really want, you can simply write that you possess “excellent written English skills” and that you are “conversationally fluent” or something along those lines!

  • Juhapekka

    This is actually even better advice than I first thought. Spoken English practice is extremely handy and practical solution because all the other English related activities require additional tools or resources: for listening or shadowing, you need audios or someone that you can listen to and speak with; for reading, you need books, newspapers etc; for writing, you need a pen and paper; but for speaking with yourself, you don’t need anything and you can just start to speak. Of course, the qualitative spoken English practice requires that we have become sufficiently familiar with English in the past and we have memorized enough various phrases and speech patterns. Therefore, I think that it may be a quite good strategy to focus more on other English related activities when we have a lot of time in order to become more comfortable and familiar with the language and then focus more on spoken English practice when we don’t have much time. However, I’m not sure how much my realization makes sense because the more we have practiced our spoken language in the past, the easier it is to start to speaking right away when the opportunity presents itself and to take advantage of those short, little moments we have. That’s why one of the best things to do when we have a lot of time to improve our English is to create a very strong habit to practice our spoken English. This way it is very easy and it requires very little mental exertion to start spoken English practice even if we are very tired because it has become a habit.

    I have also a question for you, Robby. I have been writing my CV and I’m unsure how I should describe my spoken English skills? The description should be very brief and concise, ideally one or two words. I think that within a good few upcoming years, I can write something like “Fluent spoken English”, “Proficient over everyday and technical conversations”, “ability to work in an international team without any kind of problems” etc, but now it’s way too much said of my spoken English skills. I thought that I could write something like “I haven’t used spoken English much, but my written English skills are excellent, I’ve been reading English books in my spare time and I can understand even difficult English texts. That’s why I have capabilities and potential to improve my spoken English.” I also thought that I could use descriptions like “fairly good; moderately good; good, potential to improve” etc. However, when I was attending a course where we were instructed how to make a good CV, I was told that the description is way too long and rambling to a CV and it’s also better to avoid vague words such as “good”, “satisfactory” etc. They didn’t have any better suggestions, though. Perhaps the best solution would be to describe what I can do with my spoken English skills, but that’s actually my problem because I don’t have much experience and I don’t know how good or bad my spoken English performance really is if I had to give a presentation in English, for example.