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Why your input should be fun

by Tomasz P. Szynalski


Reading a boring text for the sake of learning English is not a good idea. When you do so, you’re not just reading a boring text — you’re reading a boring text that’s hard to understand. Nobody’s going to put up with that sort of torture for very long. You can go like that for a few days, if you’re highly motivated, but not for a month.

And you don’t need a way to learn English for just a few days. You’ve already studied English for a few days on a couple occasions and you probably know these irregular, one-time efforts don’t work. You need to make a permanent change to your lifestyle to ensure steady improvement.

That is why you need super-fun, thrilling and funny sources of English. Your sources should be so cool that you will look forward to reading, watching or listening to them. You need something that will make you get your English input and develop your English every day.

Which sources of English are super-fun? The answer will be different for every learner. For example, I like watching Futurama and Desperate Housewives, movies by the Coen brothers and Alejandro González Iñárritu, the music of Radiohead and Pink Floyd, LucasArts adventure games, TED, and The Onion, among other things.


Suppose you’re a big fan of The Matrix. (If you’re not a big fan of The Matrix, insert the name of your favorite movie.) When watching The Matrix, you can learn much more English than if you watched some random movie you don’t care about.

  • You are more likely to watch the movie scene-by-scene, listening carefully to every line (or reading it, if you have a version with subtitles) and thinking about how it is phrased.
  • You are more likely to look up difficult phrases in a dictionary and add them to your SRS collection.
  • You are more likely to practice your pronunciation by imitating lines said by your favorite characters (for example, Morpheus’s “Unfortunately, no one can be told what The Matrix is.”)
  • You are more likely to repeat your favorite lines to yourself, which means you’ll be constantly reviewing the grammar and vocabulary contained in those lines.

Attitude to English

Finally, fun input lets you change your attitude to English. At first, you may think of learning English as a necessary evil — sort of like getting up and going to work every morning. But when you find enjoyable English-language books, movies, TV shows, websites, etc., learning English will become a way to have fun every day by reading a funny book, watching a cool movie, or communicating with someone you like.

When this happens, you will find it easy to study English, even in ways which are not strictly “fun”, such as reading about English grammar.

What if you’re a beginner?

When you are a beginner, you have a small vocabulary. In this state, reading books or watching movies is too difficult. Even if your content is extremely fun, all the unknown words will make it very difficult to enjoy it. You need input which will teach you new things, but not input in which everything is new.

How can you get fun content when you’re a beginner? One of the best answers is simplified books. Simplified books are books written in simple English especially for English learners.

Thousands of titles are available, so you can choose something you will love (many people like detective stories). And, you will not get frustrated, because the number of new words and phrases will be limited. If you read these books regularly using the “pause and think” method, the progress you can make is amazing.

Further information