How to Learn English: 3 Burning Questions Finally Answered!


Have you ever wondered why you should pick English over any other language?

Do you want to know what learning English really involves?

Or how you can do it successfully?

The answers to these three questions can make a difference when taking such a huge step.

At the end of the day (when all things have been considered), if you are going to invest your time and money in this beautiful language, you will first want to make sure it is going to be worth it.

So let me walk you through (show you) this journey and give you all the answers you are looking for.

Let’s begin!

Why Should You Learn English?

Starting to learn a foreign language is a great responsibility.

It is also an amazing experience, and there are many reasons why choosing to learn English is the way to go:

  • English is an international language. With one in five people being able to speak English in the world, it is not a surprise that this is the main language chosen among people from many countries to communicate with each other.
  • Knowing English will allow you to study anywhere in the world. If you dream of studying in an English-speaking country, you will first have to know English. Besides, now that you can learn online without even leaving your house, knowing English will allow you to take online courses and MOOCs offered by universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, Yale, etc.
  • Learning English can help you get a better job. English is one of the main business languages in the world. Someone who speaks English will have a better chance at getting a promotion or even landing (getting) an amazing job overseas (in a foreign country, especially one across the sea).
  • Your traveling will get much more enjoyable. You do not need to speak English to travel to the USA, but imagine being able to not only traveling there but also understanding what is going on (happening) around you, knowing how to order at restaurants, fully enjoying the culture… Plus you will feel safer knowing you can also call for help or go to the doctor without trouble.
  • Your internet searches will get boosted. It is estimated that over 60% of the internet’s content is written in English. That is more than half of all the existing information available! Would it not be awesome to be able to search for the information you need both in your native language and in English? You would have a never-ending source of information.
  • You will be able to understand English media. From movies, series and YouTube videos to podcasts, books and e-books, by learning English you will have access to literally millions of opportunities to watch, read and listen to English media. There might be English books that have not been translated into your native language, or movies you can only find in English on Netflix. English will create the bridge between you and all these goodies (nice things).
  • English can help you make new friends, flirt and even find love. Online chats, forums and dating apps are mushrooming (growing up in number) as you read this. There are many ways to make online friends thanks to social media and so many opportunities to find the man or woman of your dreams. Do not let English stand in your way (prevent this from happening).

What Exactly Do You Need to Study?

You know why you should start learning English, and I hope the previous section managed to convince you, but what exactly would you need to learn once your journey starts?

Every language consists of seven crucial (very important) components: vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation and the four main language skills (speaking, writing, listening and reading).

Let’s have a look at each of these components separately.

English vocabulary

Why is it important?

Words are needed to do anything in English, whether it is to learn grammar, practice conversation or reading a book. Vocabulary is the basis of every language, and without it, we would not be able to understand other people or express our thoughts in English.

What are the resources available?

Vocabulary is one of the aspects of a language for which there are more types of resources available. The most common places to look for are:

  • Vocabulary books and workbooks
  • E-books
  • FluentU
  • Dictionaries
  • Vocabulary apps
  • Online vocabulary exercises
  • Online vocabulary lessons and video lessons
  • YouTube videos
  • Movies and series
  • Scripts and transcripts
  • Actually, any place where there are words written in English!

Practical tips

There are several ways in which you can learn English vocabulary at any level. Here you have some ideas:

  • Create your own flashcards.
  • Use spaced repetition.
  • Write down new words and phrases.
  • Choose a topic and learn the vocabulary related to it.
  • Use post-its all around your house.
  • Read as much as you can.
  • Play word games and have fun while you learn.
  • Read the dictionary (Yes! Some of us love reading dictionaries.).
  • Take online vocabulary tests.
  • Learn families of words.
  • Learn the lyrics of your favorite songs.

English grammar

Why is it important?

Grammar is the glue that holds all the other language components together.

Without grammar rules, we would not be able to know how to build phrases and clauses, use the different English tenses or put the vocabulary we have learned into practice in the form of sentences.

What are the resources available?

English grammar can be learned from:

  • Grammar books and workbooks
  • Grammar courses (either online or in-person)
  • Grammar exercises
  • Grammar apps
  • Grammar lessons online
  • Grammar videos

Practical tips

The best ways to practice grammar easily are:

  • Have at least one great grammar book.
  • Study one single grammar topic at a time.
  • Study grammar in short intervals (20-30 minutes).
  • Listen to native English as much as possible.
  • Watch videos with grammar content and explanations (such as the ones at FluentU).
  • Write down grammar rules and create sample sentences for them.
  • Play grammar games online.

English pronunciation

Why is it important?

Pronunciation is your business card when you speak English. It doesn’t matter if you know every word and grammar rule in the world, if you have bad pronunciation, other speakers will think your level of English is low.

Besides, pronunciation is essential if you want people to understand what you are saying, since many times it can change the meaning of words in English.

Finally, pronunciation is important if you want to understand English in general, because if you know how a word is pronounced, you will recognize it when you hear it.

What are the resources available?

In order to improve your pronunciation, regardless of your level of English, the best resources out there are:

  • Pronunciation books and guides
  • Pronunciation dictionaries
  • Pronunciation courses
  • Pronunciation apps
  • Pronunciation activities and exercises online
  • Online dictionaries like Forvo
  • Videos on pronunciation and conversation created by native speakers
  • Actual conversations in English!

Practical tips

Here you have some tips on how to actually boost your English pronunciation:

  • Try shadowing.
  • Record yourself.
  • Use a speech recognition program, website or app.
  • Make dictations in order to improve your word recognition skills.
  • Watch YouTube videos on English pronunciation.
  • Listen to English as much as you can (this will improve your pronunciation, rhythm and intonation).
  • Do pronunciation exercises and take pronunciation tests online.

English speaking and pronunciation

Why is it important?

Speaking is the most important of the four major language skills.

It is the main tool that will help you communicate with the world in English. You need to communicate in order to express what you think, want and need, and this is done by speaking for the most part.

As a productive skill (it makes you produce language instead of receiving it), speaking will make you put more effort into what you are doing. Besides, this skill will also improve all your other English skills if you use it appropriately.

What are the resources available?

In order to practice speaking, try:

  • Language exchanges
  • Speaking programs
  • Speaking apps
  • Online speaking courses
  • Online speaking MOOCs
  • Conversation classes

Many learners think about English speaking and pronunciation as being the same thing, but speaking tends to be a more active skill and it is better practiced with a native speaker, while pronunciation can easily be done by yourself.

Practical tips

  • Find a conversation partner.
  • Hire a native tutor.
  • Try shadowing.
  • Think in English.
  • Talk to yourself in front of the mirror.
  • Describe what you are doing or seeing.
  • Learn whole phrases and sentences and use them in conversation whenever possible.
  • Read out loud.
  • Listen to podcasts actively.

English writing

Why is it important?

Writing is the second and last of the productive language skills, which means that it also allows us to communicate our thoughts, desires, feelings, etc.

Additionally, writing is the best way to remember words and grammar rules, and it is normally less stressful than speaking because you can normally do it on your own.

Writing will improve your other language skills and help you boost your spelling.

What are the resources available?

In order to practice English writing, the best resources available are:

  • Writing practice books and workbooks
  • Online writing courses and MOOCs
  • Dictations
  • Writing apps
  • Writing prompts

Practical tips

Writing is possibly one of the language skills learners are more afraid of. However, you should start practicing it from day one and build it up as you learn more English.

Here are some superb ways to practice writing in English:

  • Write down new words and create sample sentences for them.
  • Read a lot!
  • Use a spell checker to improve as you write.
  • Write to-do lists and grocery shopping lists in English.
  • Comment on social media in English.
  • Journal your life.
  • Write a bucket list.
  • Try creative writing when you are ready.
  • Remember to practice writing every day, even if it is only for 10 minutes.

English listening

Why is it important?

Listening is one of the two receptive skills (together with reading). It is a crucial (very important) skill because it allows you to understand what other people are saying.

When we are born, we still do not know how to use our native language. However, our ears and brain are already working, using all the information they receive and trying to make sense of it.

This is also what happens when we learn a foreign language. The input (the information that is put inside our brain) we get teaches us how to recognize words and patterns, what the correct pronunciation of a word is, how intonation is important to communicate our needs (statements vs questions, for instance), etc.

In a word, listening is a skill that makes us aware of the language and gives us precious information that can later be used when practicing the two productive skills.

What are the resources available?

There are tons (a lot) of different resources you can use to practice your English listening skills. The most commonly used are:

  • Radio and podcasts
  • Audiobooks
  • Movies and series
  • TV programs in general
  • YouTube videos
  • TED talks
  • FluentU
  • Music (lyrics)
  • Listening exercises and tests

Practical tips

The best ways to practice your listening comprehension skills are:

  • Pick any short audio in English and try to recognize specific tenses, phrasal verbs, adjective + noun constructions, etc.
  • Listen to an audiobook while you read its corresponding book or ebook.
  • Watch English movies with subtitles (hear and read the same at the same time).
  • Listen to the same podcast for seven days in a row.
  • Practice both active and passive listening on a daily basis (every day).
  • Do listening exercises and test yourself often.
  • Try dictations.
  • Listen to different English accents.
  • Search for “Learn English while you sleep” on YouTube.
  • Whenever possible, listen to the same audio at different speeds.

English reading

Why is it important?

Just as it happens with listening, reading exposes you to vocabulary, grammar structures and correct (for the most part) spelling, which is super beneficial when learning a foreign language.

What you learn while reading can be later used in conversation and writing, so the more you read in English, the better.

What are the resources available?

The number of resources where you can practice English reading is huge! The most common and obvious places where you can read in English are:

  • Reading comprehension books and workbooks
  • Online exercises and tests
  • Children’s books
  • Novels
  • Short stories
  • Newspapers and magazines
  • Publications and essays
  • E-books
  • Graded readers
  • Subtitles
  • Actually anything with English words on it, from instructions and labels to street signs and text messages

Practical tips

Some great ways to practice and improve your reading comprehension are:

  • Read every day. If you are just starting, use children’s books and graded readers and read your way to full English novels.
  • Read different types of texts.
  • Reread books and stories you have already read (you can also read books you have already read in your native language).
  • Switch on English subtitles whenever possible.
  • Read while you listen (for example, you can download video or podcast transcripts and ebooks together with their audiobooks).
  • Do reading comprehension exercises and tests a least once a week.

How Can You Learn English?

Let’s now have a look at how to learn English so you can make this a reality for yourself.

But before giving you a list of what I think are the best tips on how to do that, let me tell you about a tool that will help you make your dream of learning English in a fun and engaging way come true: FluentU.

learn english


FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.

Thanks to the hundreds of videos available at FluentU, you can now be the creator of your own English learning path.

FluentU allows you to choose the videos you want to watch and it will use them to teach you English in one of the most amazing and enjoyable ways possible.

Learning English with this tool is as simple as picking a video and start watching it!

You will immediately see that every video includes a set of contextual subtitles. These are no ordinary (normal) subtitles. If you are watching a video and you do not know a word, just hover your mouse over it and you will get its translation in context. This is especially useful when you are starting your learning journey, because you will learn what the word means in the specific context of the video you are watching.

learn english

If you want to know more about the word, click on it and an interactive flashcard will pop up (appear on screen). FluentU’s system of flashcards is simply out of this word (amazing). Each of them includes grammar information about the word, its pronunciation, and translation, sample sentences with their translations and a list of other videos where you can find the word being used.

learn english

After you finish watching a video, you can do exercises and quizzes related to it. Remember FluentU is completely personalizable and it adapts to you and what you watch, so you can be sure you will only be tested on the videos you have actually (really) watched.

learn english

FluentU uses spaced repetition to maximize your learning results. The system will bring vocabulary and grammar topics you have already studied back to you at specific intervals. Thanks to this technique, you can be sure you will never forget what you learn.

Finally, FluentU has a powerful video dictionary. When you search for a word or a grammar concept, you will get flashcards related to it and a list of all the videos where the word or grammar concept is included.

learn english

FluentU is possibly the best, most enjoyable way to learn English in the market right now. If you want to see these features for yourself, give it a free try and start learning now.

In the meantime, have a look at some tips you can easily implement (put into effect, use) to make your learning English adventure a successful one.

learn english

Set realistic goals and be consistent

Do not try to achieve fluency in three months. That is simply impossible.

Instead, set several (many) small goals, for example, weekly and monthly goals, and do your best to reach them.

Be consistent with your learning. Learning every two weeks is not going to do the trick (will not work).

Keep it simple, keep it short

You might not believe it, but learning a language for 30 minutes five days a week is going to help you much more than studying eight hours in one sitting (without stopping).

Keep your study sessions simple and short. Pick the skill you want to work on that day and focus on it.

Practice all the language skills every week

You will only reach fluency if all of your language skills are on par (at the same level).

Try to hit all the four major language skills every week (one session for each of them), and then focus another day or two to improve your vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation.

Study grammar rules and vocabulary

As I have just mentioned, grammar and vocabulary also need to be studied regularly.

Obviously, many grammar rules and new words will appear when practicing the four main language skills, but it would be great if you used one of your weekly learning sessions to specifically learn new words and grammar rules.

Use resources that are appropriate for you

First of all, do not be too greedy (want more and more of something). Practice your English with resources that are appropriate for your level (or a tiny little bit above it). This will allow you to make the most out of your study sessions and really learn rather than suffering.

Remember also that there are literally millions of English learning resources available. Work with the ones you feel more comfortable with, and leave the rest for the future.

Read your way to fluency

I talked about the importance of reading earlier, and how it has a great impact on the other main language skills.

Try to read in English every day, at least for ten or fifteen minutes, and make sure you choose reading material that you really enjoy.

Listen to English often

You do not need to listen to podcasts or do listening exercises all the time to have continuous (without interruption or pause) contact with English.

For example, you can watch movies in English to practice your listening, or listen to your favorite English songs.

Speak English any time you have the chance to

This might sound very obvious, but I know many learners, especially during their beginner stages, get stressed or embarrassed and avoid making the effort to speak English when they can.

Be proud of your journey and speak as much as you can. This will help you be more confident and improve your English skills overall.

Watch films, series and videos in English

This is another obvious tip. Watching your favorite series or movies in English will help you improve your pronunciation and listening comprehension. If you add English subtitles to the mix, you will also be practicing spelling and reading.

You can use FluentU to have access to hundreds of videos with subtitles. Give it a try for free and you will never want to use any other method to learn English.

Do not forget about writing

Remember that writing is super important in order to get better at spelling. This is crucial in English because you write and pronounce words differently.

Writing will also help you remember vocabulary and grammar structures, and will allow you to produce English without the stress that speaking can cause.

Do not walk this path alone

Even if you love learning by yourself at home, you need a little bit of interaction with the outside world.

Having an online friend or a penpal is very helpful because you can help each other and keep each other accountable (responsible).

Join a community or a forum where people talk in English about topics you are interested in. Try to be active and use every opportunity you have to communicate in English.

Do not be afraid to ask for help

Do not be ashamed or embarrassed about asking for help.

Some concepts might be difficult, and it is completely normal if you do not understand everything!

It does not matter (it is not important) if you ask your question online or to your teacher/tutor/friend, never be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

To err is human

Use your mistakes to learn from them. Analyze what you do wrong and work on it until you master it.

Take your mistakes and transform them into an opportunity to review specific topics or vocabulary lists.

Most importantly, do not feel bad. We all make mistakes. The trick is to make the most out of them (get the maximum advantage).

Get immersed in your home country

If you do not want to or cannot afford to go abroad, bring English immersion to you.

Use English everywhere you can, change the language of your social media, commit to only watching movies in English, think in English, etc.

There is so much you can change very easily in your daily life to feel surrounded by English!

Ger immersed in an English-speaking country

If you have the chance and can afford it, travel to an English-speaking country.

Even just one week of complete immersion can be more helpful than one month of self-study.

By traveling to a country where you are forced to use English for everything, you will be giving your brain the chance to absorb the language much faster and efficiently.

Apply what you learn

The theory is important, but the practice is key as well.

Do not just memorize grammar rules. Use them to create sample sentences and to practice your speaking and writing skills.

Do not learn new vocabulary that you know you will not use. Instead, choose topics or words that you need on a daily basis, like food, colors, family, animals or school/work.

Do not give up

The most important piece of advice I can give you is to never give up.

There will be days, weeks or even months when you will not feel you are making any progress. This is very common, especially during the so-called intermediate plateau.

Just remember every one of us goes through such “worse” moments, and the only way of reaching your goal is to keep on learning and never give up.

 

With these three questions answered, you should now have all the necessary info to make an informed decision about whether studying English is for you or not.

Learning English is a journey that can take a few years, but if you know how to do it and you keep your final goal in mind, you will get there sooner than you expect.

If you still think English is not for you, I recommend you at least give it a go (try it). Who knows? Maybe you will end up realizing you want to be the next Shakespeare, or you will understand that what you really want is to learn Spanish instead of English.

Stay curious, my friends. Happy learning!


Francisco J. Vare loves teaching and writing about grammar. He’s a proud language nerd, and you’ll normally find him learning languages, teaching students or reading. He’s been writing for FluentU for many years and is one of their staff writers.

If you liked this post, something tells me that you’ll love FluentU, the best way to learn English with real-world videos.

Experience English immersion online!



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