How to Learn English

Input is The Key

The key to fluency is input. Input means English going in: listening and reading.

Don’t worry about speaking and writing until later. If you just listen to and read a lot of English, then your speaking and writing will grow naturally.

You learn to speak by listening and you learn to write by reading. Find listening and reading that is easy enough for you to understand. If you don’t understand any of what you’re reading, then find something easier.

Also look for listening and reading that is interesting to you. If you like music, listen to songs; if you like sports, read about sports, etc. You probably won’t learn anything if you are bored. These days there is so much English available that surely you can find something easy enough and interesting.

Fluency First

Most students make this mistake: they try to learn proficiency (being correct and accurate) before they learn fluency (just understanding and being understood in English).

It’s a mistake for two reasons:

1. You can study and try to prove your proficiency forever in a second language, but if that’s all you do then you will never be able to communicate with native speakers.

2. Trying to learn proficiency first makes learning fluency much more difficult when you try to develop it later.

Learn Like A Child

Children learn their first language in this way: they become fluent before they become proficient, and they listen and read a lot before they try to speak and write. Do the same things that a child does, and you will become fluent just like a child does.

A child’s brain is different than an adult’s brain and you can’t learn a second language exactly like a child learns their first language, but if you imitate how children learn language then you will be much more successful.

Do Something Different

Have you been studying English for a long time, but you still can’t understand English or speak it very well? This is very normal. The old, traditional methods of learning English just don’t work. You have to try something new.

Stop going to boring English classes. Stop worrying about grammar. Stop trying to memorize lists of vocabulary.

Instead, just watch movies. Find some children’s stories to read for fun. Listen to and read English for at least an hour a day. If what you are doing is not working, then do something different! Stop wasting your time with old methods that don’t work!

But What About Grammar And Accuracy?

They will come! But they will come naturally and easily if you follow these instructions. Native speakers don’t know grammar rules. They just know what sounds right and what sounds wrong, even if they don’t know why. You can learn English the same way.

After hundreds of hours of listening to people speaking English, and after reading hundreds of thousands of words in English, an incorrect sentence just won’t sound right to you. You may not know why exactly, but you will feel it. And then, later, you can work through a grammar book just to review and make sure.

So, What DOES Work?

In recent years some teachers and linguists have developed new methods of teaching and learning English that are very successful. These methods are quite different from what you are used to, and you need to change the way you think about learning languages.

The work of Blaine Ray developing TPRS, or Teaching Proficiency Through Reading and Storytelling, is especially interesting. Look for a teacher who is interested in new methods.

And use modern technology: computer software and the internet. On the web you can find a zillion games and stories to read and listen to. RosettaStone software is excellent and not so expensive if you compare it to years of classes and schools. I used RosettaStone to learn my second language: Vietnamese.

The most difficult thing is just letting go of your old habits and ideas about how to learn a language. You need to learn how to learn with your intuition and not so much with your thinking mind. It’s more like learning music and less like learning accounting. Let go of the habit of translating everything; get comfortable with not knowing what every word means.

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