Pictures are a fantastic resource for students to use.
Talking about pictures can help you speak English and tell a story.
In the following guide, let me show you how to use pictures to improve your English.
Why Use Pictures?
When looking at a picture, it is often easier to talk about abstract ideas.
Pictures can help you learn vocabulary — in context.
So if you are looking at a picture of a circus, you can see the ringmaster, the circus ring, the audience, the trapeze artists, etc etc…
And while having classes with a teacher is very useful, if you are only in a class where the teacher is standing at the front and talking, this can be very boring.
I always approve of reading as this is a great way to improve your English.
But I think couple this with looking at pictures, and trying to tell a story yourself from the pictures you are looking at.
You can check my other useful guides to help you improve your English speaking skills
Picture We Can Use For Learning English
These are some of the pictures we can use for learning and practising English.
- Pictures of Food
- Picture Books
Of course, for beginners, flashcards are a great way to help us learn new words.
We might look at a picture of a tiger and learn that the English word is TIGER.
But we can also learn how to describe a tiger.
The tiger has different parts of its body
So a simple flashcard can help us identify all these parts and learn the English words for them.
But it can also help us learn how to describe the tiger.
A tiger has stripes, so we might learn how to say.
A tiger has black stripes on its body.
Flashcards can really help us learn a lot of new words.
Photographs are great to use for English learning.
Firstly, you can find them anywhere.
Secondly, there is usually a lot of detail in one simple photograph.
And thirdly, they are a great resource for storytelling. And this can really help you with your English speaking.
I will talk later in the article about how to use photographs for your English learning.
Another useful thing you can look at is illustrations.
These can help with technical things you might want to talk about.
So, for example, maybe you want to talk about volcanoes and how they exist.
- What are all the parts of the volcano?
- Where are they and what are they called in English?
Or you might want to know about bikes.
- What are all the parts of the bike called?
Illustrations are a great resource for helping us learn all the English words and names for things.
Yes, you can find paintings online. And they can help you practice English speaking and learn new vocabulary.
But I think a better way is to go to an art gallery or a museum and try to talk about the paintings in English with your friend.
Many older paintings are very realistic and show people or buildings in a real form.
But modern paintings often show abstract images.
How to talk about these in English?
You are more likely to talk about how the painting makes you feel.
What kind of images does the painting represent?
What kind of thoughts does the painting invoke in your mind?
Go to an art gallery and look at the paintings there.
Now try to talk about them in English.
Pictures of Food
We all like to eat.
And we all have a favourite kind of food we like to eat.
Looking at pictures of food can help us express ourselves more clearly in English.
Also, if you are looking at pictures of food that may be a part of a recipe, this may help you to talk about the process of making the food.
What ingredients are needed?
And how to make the dish you are looking at?
Maps are a great way for you to learn how to give directions. Or talk about your neighbourhood and the things that are in your area.
The great thing about comics is that they come in the form of a series of illustrated pictures and they tell a story.
As I said before, storytelling is a great way for you to improve your English.
You can use any comic in any language and use the pictures to try to tell your own story.
And children’s picture books can be used the same way as comics.
Plenty to choose from.
The Process of Using Pictures When Studying English
Below are the steps on what you should do when using pictures to help you study English.
Find a Picture
This is the easy part.
You can find pictures online easily. Just go to Google and search for pictures of anything.
Type ‘picture of a street’ into Google and see what pics pop up.
Now you have a ton of images to use.
You can also use online picture libraries.
There are many of these but three that I found immediately are:
These sites have thousands of images for you to use to help you study English.
Choose One Picture
Now choose just ONE picture and let’s talk about that.
For example, I found this picture.
So, how to talk about it in the right order?
Here are the steps you should follow:
- Introduce the Main Picture
- Introduce the Main Subject of The Picture
- Talk about The Background
- Talk about The Details
Let’s go through these one by one with our picture.
Introduce the Main Picture
So what can you see?
I might say something like this:
I can see a picture of a man playing guitar in a town square.
This is a picture of a man playing guitar in an old town square.
You might learn the English words below
- Street musician
- Classical guitar
Then you can use those accordingly
This is a picture of a street musician playing classical guitar in a plaza.
Introduce the Main Subject of The Picture
Now you can go into a lot more detail.
So we can see the man playing the guitar. You can describe him.
- What colour is his hair?
- What style of hair does he have?
You could say
He has long blonde hair.
He has long, blonde hair tied back in a ponytail.
- What is he wearing?
He is wearing jeans and some pointed shoes.
He is wearing a leather jacket.
- You can also describe his face.
Is the man good-looking? Handsome?
I think he has a kind of feminine face. So you could say that.
He has a very feminine face.
He has feminine features.
Talk about The Background
And now you can talk about the background. This is all the area behind the man in the picture.
You could describe
- the buildings
- the people
- the statue
- the canopies
So you could say the following:
There are many buildings in the background. The buildings look old and some of the roofs are like domes. The windows on the buildings are quite small. And it looks like all the buildings are in the shape of a large square.
There are many people in the background and I think maybe they are tourists. Some of the people are in small groups, so maybe they are looking around the square together.
There is a statue in the background. It looks green in colour, so maybe very old and affected by the weather over the years. I don’t know which person the statue is of but maybe someone very famous in the town or city.
There are some yellow canopies to the right in the background. It looks like they are covering some area where people might sit down and eat.
Talk about The Details
And then you can talk about the details of the picture.
For example, you could talk about the building with the green dome to the left of the picture.
There is a building with a green dome roof and it looks like it is in the middle of the square or plaza. Maybe a religious building of some kind.
It looks quite small, maybe only one floor high and the green roof on top.
There is a small round window on one side of it. And on top of the dome, there is a structure that looks like a small bird cage.
At the front of the building, there is an extended entrance — like a doorway.
Just try what you can.
But you will find that as you try to describe these parts, you will be reaching for your dictionary to find the right English words to use.
Tell a Story of the Picture
And you can use any picture you look at to tell a story.
Just by looking at the picture of the man playing the guitar, you can find all kinds of stories to tell about this one image.
So, for example, you might tell a story like this:
Michael came from a poor family, and his mother and father were farmers. They struggled every day to pay the bills and earn enough to live.
The only skill Michael had was playing the guitar. He had learned to play the guitar from his grandfather. He had practised from a young age, and many people considered him to be a great guitarist.
Finally, with no other options available, Michael went to the city to try to earn money to send home.
He played the guitar in the town square every night until his fingers ached. The tips of his fingers were near to bleeding from gripping the strings of his guitar every evening.
Michael played his guitar for hours every day.
The tourists liked his playing and put coins in his hat. But sometimes the police would stop him and tell him to move on.
Michael was undeterred. He went back to the town square and played his guitar to earn money to send home.
I think you get the point!
Just try to tell a story… Any story…
Storytelling can really help you improve your English speaking skills and broaden your English vocabulary.
I hope this guide gives you some useful ideas on how to use pictures to improve your English.
You don’t need to use all the ideas above, but find the ideas you like to use and continue to use them.
Let me know your results below!
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