How to Learn English:
Before I Teach You How to Learn English, Let’s Talk about You and Your Goals
How to Learn English: The Fluency Equation
Methods and Tips for Learning English
As you have just learned, the methods that you use to learn English are important.
What’s also important to know is this:
You need to be an independent English learner. You need to take responsibility for your learning. You need to do things that work.
And one last thing before I talk about the methods. Know that there are four skills. These are:
Again, know why you need to learn English and what you’re going to use it for. This will help you become more effective with your time.
Now, here are the best ways to learn English:
Get Lots of Input
This is what I call immersion. This is where you read, watch, and listen to things in English.
The majority of language learning is subconscious. This means that you don’t study a language, instead, you immerse yourself in it.
Getting input allows you to subconsciously learn English. You see words and grammar repeated over and over again. These patterns get stored in your brain. And then, you can write and speak without thinking about rules.
Most learners don’t get enough input.
The good news is that it’s easy to get more. And the easiest way to get more input is by listening more. You can get English listening practice even when you’re doing other things.
Where you live isn’t important. Thanks to the digital revolution, anyone with internet access can get all the English input that they need.
Learn English in Context and through Sentences
Do NOT memorize single words. Do NOT memorize “50 Idioms about Sport/Business etc.” Do NOT memorize language you don’t know how to use.
Instead, learn English in context. This means:
- Learning through sentences
- Getting sentences from strong context
Doing this helps you learn how and when to use English words and phrases. And because you are learning words through sentences, you are learning grammar too.
Learning from a strong context means learning something from a book, a TV show, or a conversation. This context tells you in which situations this English is used.
To learn more about learning English in context through sentences, click here.
Work on Your Pronunciation
The majority of English learners I meet never had pronunciation training at school.
A big reason for this is because grammar is easier to teach in large classes.
But, like I said before, you need to become an independent learner. Luckily, you can improve your pronunciation through self-study.
Here is how:
- Know what you need to do to make the different sounds of English (click here for a great resource)
- Practice the sounds and record yourself making them
- Compare your recording to the original
- Practice, practice, practice.
Mimic English Speakers
The following method is really powerful:
- Find relevant audio of people speaking
- Listen to the audio and repeat what is said
- Record yourself
- Compare it to the original
Copying is good. In fact, the better you copy someone, the faster you will improve.
Copy the speaker’s intonation, rhythm, and stress. Copy the sounds that they make. This will improve your pronunciation and you will learn new words and internalize grammar.
Get audio that is specific to you and your goals.
For example, if you want to learn British English, then get audio from British speakers.
Get Feedback on Your English
As an English learner, you are going to make mistakes. But you will progress faster if you learn from them.
The best way to do this is to get feedback from others, preferably an English teacher. When you write something, get someone to check it for you. Talk to people who will correct your mistakes.
Textbooks are boring.
The good news is that you don’t have to use them. There is no reason to do boring things when learning English. In fact, you will learn English faster if you have fun.
Listen to things you find interesting. Talk to people you like. Read books that you enjoy.
Enjoy the journey.
Get Lots of Repetition
Earlier, you learned that it’s important to learn English through sentences. This is how:
- Copy sentences that are relevant to you into spaced repetition software (Anki)
- Spend 5-10 minutes every day reviewing them
If you do this on a consistent basis, you will internalize vocabulary and grammar in the most efficient way. You would be able to form sentences flexibly without thinking about the rules.
(Note: this is what I call the Sentence Method. You can learn about this here.)
In addition to repeating sentences, you can get smart repetition through narrow reading and listening.
This is where you read / watch / listen to similar things. For example, you could read a news story, listen to a podcast on this story, and then watch videos on this story.
The vocabulary and grammar will be repeated in a natural way (in strong context).
Make English-Speaking Friends
I get so many messages from learners asking me to speak with them. The reality is that I’m too busy to speak to everyone. Additionally, I need something in return.
This is how friendships work. You both offer something to each other.
Instead of asking people to practice with you, offer something valuable to English speakers. This might be a mutual friendship, advice, or even money.
Here is a video that talks about how you can get more English speaking practice by making friends.
As you already know, getting into a relationship with someone who speaks English will make a huge difference. But again, most people aren’t in a position to do this.
Finding the Time to Learn English and Staying Consistent
“I’m too busy to learn English.”
If you have said this, you are not alone. Finding time is one of the most important things to do as an English learner.
Here are two things you can do if you don’t have enough time:
- Make English a priority
- Do things in English while doing other things
If your reasons for learning English are strong enough, you will make it a priority. And as you learned before, setting a fluency goal with a deadline gives you the motivation to make it a priority.
Additionally, you can learn English (get input) by listening to things in English while doing other things. Listen while going to work, cleaning the house, walking the dogs, exercising etc.
If your goal is to reach an advanced level of English within 12 months, then you’ll need to spend a lot more time learning English.
It takes thousands of hours. I wish it were different. But it isn’t. This is the reality. Going to a language school for two hours a week isn’t enough.
You have to do more.
You Have to Be Consistent Too
A good plan that you do over 12 months is better than the perfect plan that you only do for 2 weeks.
That’s why immersion courses are a waste of time for most people.
Learners spend THOUSANDS of dollars on a two-week intensive course. They think that this will make a big difference to their level of English.
But in most cases, they don’t do enough before and/or after this two-week period.
Reaching fluency is about doing lots of small things right over the long-term.
It’s about listening to your favorite podcast each week. It’s about changing the language of your devices into English. It’s about doing something every day.
To stay consistent, you need to:
- See that you’re making progress
- Enjoy what you’re doing
- Make your plan sustainable
If your plan isn’t sustainable, then you will run out of energy very quickly. You will lose motivation and stop learning English.
A good way to start is to make small changes to your daily routine and keep building on this over time.
Focus on the Process
This small change makes a big difference.
Instead of constantly thinking about your level, concentrate on the process.
Don’t see fluency as an event. Instead, think of yourself constantly making small progress over time.
Fall in love with English podcasts. Enjoy learning new words and getting the repetition you need. Have fun when learning the sounds of English.
Focus on the daily practice and the results will come. And that is why habits and routines are so important.
Make English Part of Your Daily Routine
If something is part of your daily routine, it’s easy to do. If it’s not, then you need to use your willpower to do it, and we only have so much willpower.
Humans are habit machines. We are the sum of our habits. And if you get into the habit of learning English, then it becomes effortless.
Learn English at specific times. Write these times on your calendar, commit to them, and make English part of your routine over the long-term.
How to Learn English: FAQs
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions I receive about learning English.
How do I learn English grammar?
By getting lots of input and repetition.
Explanations help, but to be able to use correct grammar without thinking about the rules, you need to see patterns repeated over and over again (that is what makes the Sentence Method powerful).
Here is my full explanation on how to learn English grammar.
Do I need to move to an English speaking country to learn English?
If it’s something you want to do, then do it. You’ll be in a place where you can practice your English all the time.
But many people move to English speaking countries and don’t learn English. And many people live in non-English speaking countries and become fluent.
The most important thing is the environment you create. You can learn English from anywhere in the world if you use English on a daily basis.
How long will it take me to become fluent in English?
This depends on the methods you use and how much time you spend using English (fluency equation).
It also depends on what level you have now.
If you have a B1 level, then you can reach a C1 level in 12 months. This is reasonable.
It’s possible to go from a low level to a C1 level in 3 months (see here). But this takes a lot of commitment. Most people have jobs, family, and other things that take up their time.
How can I improve my speaking?
I made a full lesson on this here. But in summary:
- Get lots of input
- Improve your listening skills
- Improve your pronunciation
- Learn new words and phrases that are specific to you
- Get lots of speaking practice
Again, focus on making lots of small changes and enjoy the journey!
Any other tips?
Yes. Here are three more:
Learn high-frequency words and phrases
You don’t need to learn every new word or phrase you see. Instead, focus on learning words and phrases that are frequently used.
Make it easy to learn English
Make it easy to do something in English. For example, change the language of your devices into English. Only have English podcasts on your smartphone. Keep English books by your bed. Make Google.com your homepage. Only follow English-speaking companies on social media.
Doing this makes you constantly use your English.
Do something in English in the morning
I made a video where I recommended getting up early to do something in English.
Doing something in the morning helps you do something every day. And if you learn English in the morning, you are more likely to do something else in English later too.
What should I avoid?
Don’t learn single words out of context (if you read the article, you will understand why!). Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Don’t spend too much time learning grammar rules. Don’t give up.
What to Do Now?
I have made a lot of videos on how you can learn English. Browse the videos below and enjoy!
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