#1 way on How to Learn English

By Anerys McMahon-Ford

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How to Learn English

In this article, I am going to show you how to acquire the techniques that have helped me to learn English over the years focusing specifically on listening and speaking.

Yes, you cannot expect to learn a language in a day, especially if you are not very motivated.

Motivation and passion are what lead you to be constant and learn quickly. So let yourself be absorbed by English culture and try to experience it from your home day by day with all means at your disposal.

My teacher once said “speaking a language is like when we learn to play a musical instrument”.

This means that you have to practice every day listening and speaking to get better, but if you leave it even for a short time, you will lose a lot of progress.

It’s not exactly like going on a bicycle, unfortunately. Constant practice is certainly what makes the difference even in the short term.

Today it is almost an obligation to learn English if you want to find work or open a business, and if you don’t want to, this can penalize a lot on a professional level so roll up your hands and internationalize!

My philosophy on how to learn English has always been that it does not have to be boring, frustrating, or difficult.

Studying listening ad speaking at school plays a fundamental role in this common conception. We all know how bad professors and endless hours have convinced us that English is a language that is too different from our own to speak it fluently and therefore, hard to learn.

But, diversity does not automatically mean difficulties. English has a relatively easy grammar structure compared to other languages.

In verbs, there are no distinctions between masculine and feminine, and the words that are used to make a meaningful speech are often always the same because English does not have all the synonyms and nuances of other languages.

Don’t give up, and learn how to improve English listening and speaking by yourself doing what you like to do normally without being afraid to be wrong!

How to Improve How to Speak English with Your Listening Skills

Listening and listening strategies play a fundamental role to on how to learn to speak English passively.

It serves to accustom our ear to hear the pronunciation, words that then we slowly begin to repeat without even realizing it. It happened to all of us several times when we were kids, to repeat words without knowing the meaning after listening to them, simply because we had a feeling that they could work in that same context!

Once the ear is accustomed, you will learn to absorb to the fullest native pronunciation, and you will talk faster. But how can you improve your listening skills?

Listening to English products is the easiest thing to do and less demanding. You can undertake it every day through music, TV series, movies, and so on, and that’s what could really make a difference.

Listening to English TV Series

TV series have accompanied me for years and have really conveyed a great passion and desire to learn more about this fantastic language.

The wonderful thing about listening to TV series, compared to movies, is that once you get used to the pronunciation of the characters, becomes easier and easier to understand what they say and how they say it in the various episodes, and the ear at the end can relax.

If you are a beginner, I recommend listening to animated cartoons like the Simpsons, Adventure Time, Spongebob, Steven Universe, and everything that interests you normally.

If there’s a TV series that you have already seen in your language, look at it in English, you will have the advantage of knowing the plot in outline, and to remember what happens, you’ll just have to try to understand what the characters are saying.

Another type of TV series that is perfect to learn and train listening is English sitcoms.

The actors articulate the words well because they tell a joke every two sentences and therefore, they want the viewer to immediately understand what they say in order to laugh. Moreover, very often there are some seconds of pause in which background laughter is placed and this gives you the time to process the sentence and understand it.

Personally, I love this genre because it allows me to learn, but also to laugh, and make the whole learning process light. The sitcoms I recommend listening to are “Friends” and “How I Met Your Mother”.

They are the simplest to understand and the most beautiful. Then there are also “Parks and Recreation” and “The Office” but I think listening and understanding these is slightly more difficult, especially for the particular humor.

To name others, we have “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air”, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”, “That ‘70s Show”, “The IT crowd” and “Arrested Development.”

To improve my English listening skills, I also watched a lot of regular TV series in the original language. For example, “Breaking Bad” is pretty easy to understand, especially thanks to Brian Cranston, who is also a professional voice actor, and therefore, listening to his English is not only easy but also enjoyable. Also, all the other characters are simple to understand.

Only listening to Hank, the brother of Walter’s wife, is very hard. He is incomprehensible and I advise you to put subtitles when he speaks because he really made my life difficult.

Game of Thrones? To learn with it, I would say it is quite difficult for a beginner. Listening to GOT to underline the different origins of the characters may be very challenging because they all have different accents and it’s hard to adjust the ear when there is so much variety. Surely the subtitles will be necessary.

In general, I would prefer listening and learning with American TV series because let’s face it, American English is easier to understand, and it is what we normally hear most through songs on average.

The dilemma of subtitles. If your English listening level is low, how can you proceed to learn the skill? Start by setting the subtitles in your language will certainly be necessary but you will spend all your time reading the subtitles and you will not be able to actually learn and connect the words, so it will remain an extremely passive listening exercise.

If you are familiar with it, you can switch to subtitles in English, this is very useful for linking written word to the spoken ones and then doing both reading and listening exercises.

The difficulty level is to take the subtitles off and rely only on listening and lips. Even if it’s difficult, try it every now and then, test yourself. Your brain will force itself to focus the attention a lot more on the listening process and on the words of the actors compared to when there are subtitles.

You could be surprised at how many things you will be able to learn. This is the method that I think is most useful because it allows you to enjoy the movie and better understand what happens visually.

With subtitles, you don’t have the time to see what is going on. Taking them off instead, you might notice that extra detail that might make you already understand the ending.

How to learn to Speak English Listening to English Movies?

Listening to movies also played a key role in my path to learn English. Unlike the TV series, knowing if you will be comfortable with the voice of the actors is a bit like Russian roulette and you can only find out by trial and error.

Plus the films are one-shot, and therefore you don’t have many other opportunities to get used to the voices of the actors unless they are sagas.

But at the same time, it is a quick alternative if you don’t have the time or a way to follow an entire TV series. Here, to suggest you how to start, I would like to recommend listening to children’s films such as those from Pixar, Dreamworks, or Disney.

It is easy to understand what the voice actors have said since English-speaking kids learn to speak their language through these movies.

You might relate to your favorite English films from your childhood. I would avoid listening to historical films set in distant times because the characters could speak complex English as well as archaic or at least use certain terms that are no longer in use today. That would make very difficult to learn the skill.

I would also avoid listening to films produced or set in countries that speak with an accent or dialect that is difficult to understand, such as Australian, Scottish, Irish, and even British.

British can be hard if you are a beginner, but if you like it then challenge yourself and specialize. In my opinion, the easiest English to understand is American or Canadian, especially since it is what we most happen to hear in everyday life listening through songs or videos.

If you don’t want to watch cartoons, you can choose any other genre of films such as comedies, dramas, thrillers, horror, biographies, science fiction, documentaries, action, etc., making sure that the cast speaks the accent you are comfortable with.

If you find that you understand an actor well, watch all the movies in which he or she is the protagonist to perfectly learn its accent. 

The emotional load of the actors’ voices is something that can only be perceived with their authentic voices, so I think that as a cinematic experience it is much more authentic to see these films in English!

How to learn to speak English Listening to English Music

Music is the tool that we most often listen to in different contexts, whether it is on the radio in the car, in headphones if we are around, in the speakers if we want to listen to it at home, in the disco, in shops, on television, and so on.

It is obvious that the songs that are broadcast more in your country are those in English, and therefore It is also one of the best methods to learn the language.

Listening to English-speaking music is a passive listening exercise that we have for good or bad always done without realizing it, which is why it often happens to know the pronunciation of some terms without having ever studied them at school.

Listening only to music from your country can be a disadvantage. Try to extend your knowledge and learn more about international music that is part of the genre you prefer.

If you like pop music in your native language, sure you will also like American pop and so on.

Download an app like Spotify and make yourself a playlist with all the English songs you like best. For some songs Spotify also puts the lyrics at the same time, so you can read them while listening, and understand something more about its meaning.

Do you already have a favorite British singer or band? Good! Take your passion for these musicians to the next level by reading the lyrics and possibly the translations.

You might be amazed by the meanings of some texts that seem light when listening, but which in reality hide sad, shocking, or profound meanings.

For example, Pumped Up Kicks by Foster The People sounds like a happy song just listening to it, but it’s actually about a guy planning mass murder, and I was pretty stunned when I found out.

Genius is a site that I recommend to read the texts because it is possible to click on some highlighted phrases and learn their hidden meanings. Once you have discovered some unfamiliar words, it will be easier for you to memorize them by replaying the song several times for your pleasure!

Listening to Video Games in English

If you are a video game enthusiast and want to learn English, why not combine business with pleasure? All games offer the option to change the language and set the subtitles so try it. Listening to something interactive as a video game will be important to understand what the characters say in order to carry out the missions. For this, you will have to work harder than a movie, a TV series, or other. Use subtitles in your language or English and without realizing it you will learn many words and idioms. My brother never studied English well in school, but he has played all kinds of video games, listening to the original language all his life, and today he has a very high level of English.

How to Learn English Listening to English Podcasts and Audiobooks

These two tools are useful if you are already comfortable with English because they usually do not involve the use of subtitles and it is a type of listening like music. Both audiobooks and podcasts have been the fashion of recent years for those who want to learn and of course entertain themselves on the journey homework or homeschool and vice versa, or on trips, before going to sleep to relax.

Listening to audio books is the perfect alternative for those who are remarkably busy, but do not want to give up their passion for literature. They are easily available on the internet on various websites. Among the most famous there is Audible by Amazon, which provides a monthly subscription, but many books are also available on YouTube for free. I recommend always writing down what minute you arrived so you know where to pick up.

Personally, I find that the best time to listen to an audiobook is before going to sleep so that I can concentrate only on listening. Voice actors usually speak very well, doing it as a profession, and therefore it is possible to understand them in order to learn how to speak English. Certainly, we must avoid getting distracted as they read quickly and there are almost zero breaks. Audiobooks are a great trick to absorb books of all kinds in a short time and are a perfect exercise to improve English in a passive way.

Listening to podcasts, on the other hand, can be another fun way to learn. Podcasts are voice recordings made by characters of various caliber and can be easily found on Spotify even for free. They have a duration that can vary depending on the format of the author, some can last fifteen minutes and others even two and a half hours or more.

There are podcasts of interviews, storytelling, lessons, chats, and you can learn listening to your favorite subject. Usually, they vary based on how the author or authors record them, and sometimes they are episodic series, so you can listen to them all one after the other.

In English, on the other hand, I would like to recommend listening to the TED talks, which are testimonials made by successful and unsuccessful characters on specific topics. They talk about what they have learned through their work, pose dilemmas, or just tell their story. You can train your listening skills in English and also learn new things about the world around you!

How to Improve Your Speaking Skills

If listening is one of the passive parts of learning the English language, speaking is one of the active. That is what most discourages and frightens people because it forces us to leave our zone of comfort.

We are afraid of making mistakes while speaking another language, therefore as opposed to listening, we tend to panic when we are questioned by natives or professors. It’s not enough to learn reading and listening to make us speak English perfectly without ever having said a word.

For that reason, it is necessary to train the language in pronunciation and the mind in the construction of our sentences. To learn the sentence structure in English is objectively simple: subject-verb and complement. To do a full speech is not necessary to complicate things by composing long sentences full of subordinates. Anglophone peoples prefer to go for the KISS aka Keep It Short and Simple.

This does not mean that there should be less talk explanatory, but that each sentence that is composed must be simple and short. This is a big plus as well as reconfirms my theory that this is a whole language overall easy to learn.

Okay, we know how to train reads every day by reading books or comics, we know how to train listening, watching tv series, movies, etc., but how can you train speaking in an equally simple and tangible way?

Here are three points for you on how to improve your speaking abilities!

Speaking English by Yourself

I know it will sound strange and absurd, but this is the method of all made me improve my speaking, making me aware of the English language and it is a skill you must learn.

When I was little, I liked to fantasize aloud creating stories between fictional characters or pretending to be an actor in some Hollywood movie. In middle school, I was passionate about English, and without realizing it, I started to fantasize aloud in that language.

How did that help me learn? Sure, it wasn’t simple and very often I gave up. But then I started not to care about imperfection, and I tried to make sentences, even if I lacked words, simply skipping them.

Over the years I have stopped fantasizing, but I never stopped speaking and listening to English when I’m alone. What am I talking about? Whatever I am thinking, any argument.

After years of training, I learned to communicate spontaneously and fast without paying for courses or anything else.

This is the speaking exercises that gives the best results and which I consider more efficient. When you know you are alone in the house, try to choose a topic and start speaking in English.

Nobody is listening to you so you can make as many mistakes as you like and skip all phrases or words that do not come to you and start over.

Do it every day making it a routine, I assure you that you will see improvement for yourself, especially if you combine this exercise with all the other points that I will list. If you are not alone in the house, try thinking in English.

Practice formulating sentences and thoughts in the language. Eventually, you will learn not to translate from your language to English but directly formulate thoughts in English. But this will only happen with good training.

Do you want to know which is the litmus test to understand if you really know how to speak English?

When you will start dreaming, listening, and speaking in English. You will wake up happy and satisfied to have committed so much!

How to learn English
Learn English and travel the world

How to learn English with Travel

Compared to speaking alone, this takes a little bigger investment, and it is not the method I prefer to learn English because when you travel you usually tend to stay in your comfort zone with your family or friends.

Traveling alone will prevent all of this and force you to talk to the locals a little more. How can you start? You may decide to go abroad to attend college for a few months, or to gain work experience as an Au Pair for example.

The Au Pair experience will allow you to live with the Anglophone family in everyday life, experiencing their habits and their traditions, which will make you understand how they live.

But if you don’t have the opportunity to live with a local family, you can, however, rent a room in a house with English-speaking roommates. If you are comfortable doing this, you can practice how to speak English while talking and listening to them. How fun, right ?

Traveling is not plainly important to speak English, but also to get to know cultures different from ours and to learn to love diversity. Comparing yourself with the natives will motivate you to improve so that every time you can be more capable of making yourself understood with more complex speeches.

Do not be afraid to be judged on how you speak or how you communicate in general, they know that you come from another nation and that you are making an effort to speak their language, and that is why they can only appreciate you.

Just make sure you are listening all the time, so you can become more familiarized with the language.

Is it in your opinion that traveling costs too much and you cannot afford it? How do people do ? Nowadays there is a wide choice of low-cost options that I recommend. First, we want to make sure we get a cheap ticket. How to do it? Learn to use websites like Skyscanner. It has a list of the countries with flights from the cheapest to the most expensive. You will be amazed by the costs of some flights that can start from as little as one dollar. In addition to this functionality, you can directly search for a flight to the country you already have in mind, and it will recommend both the month when flights are cheap and show the lowest prices throughout the month you have chosen. In the end, you will be amazed at how much money you can save by doing this.

Now that you have the flight you will have to think about where to stay. How can you get the best offers out there? I would advise against Booking because in general hotels are always expensive unless it is hostels. What I prefer is Airbnb. This site will allow you to book a room in a local’s home for an affordable price. You will have your privacy and you will be able to go out and enter whenever you want, but you will have also to respect the house rules.

Hosts have always been exceedingly kind to me, advising me what to see, what to do, and how to move around the city.

Speaking with them will make your stay even easier and more pleasant. Not only that, you will learn much more about the place!

This option will definitely make your trip cost you very little. For eight days in Palma de Mallorca, I only spent 150$ between BnB and the return flight. Does it seem absurd? Do your research and test these benefits yourself!

There is an even cheaper way to stay which is all free. You don’t believe it? It is called CouchSurfing and it is becoming popular among travelers. This is a site where you can sign up to offer your sofa or extra bed.

With a short search, you can find all the people who arrange their beds for free in the city you want to visit.

How can I trust this method? If you don’t, there are also reviews from people who have already stayed with that person, this will let you know how their experiences went.

You will learn that some hosts ask for help in return, for example with house cleaning. Others absolutely do not want anything, and they do this out of pure philanthropy. How nice and incredible, right?

How to learn English Studying With a Private Teacher

The last resort is the private teacher, useful for grammar, listening, and speaking. Unlike a friend, the private teacher will tell you which mistake you make when speaking or writing in English so you will avoid committing them again. They can teach you new things or just give you a chance to chat and become fluent.

Private lessons are tailored to your level of English, and the teacher’s attention is focused entirely on you, therefore it is more difficult to get distracted.

There are no other students who can interrupt the lesson and the time to learn is maximized.

The downside is that it is an extra cost so look for it in your city to see if they organize free courses and how they particularly work.

Personally, I have never gone to a private teacher because my other free methods have always been effective to learn both speaking and listening, but the teacher can help if you are not motivated.

The very fact of spending money to get a service will convince you to try harder to not give the impression of having wasted it.

I say this because there are many people who think they can solve their problem by simply paying for private lessons and leaving everything to the teachers without making any effort to learn.

Learning the speaking and listening components of English is a job that starts with yourself and from nobody else.

If your goal is to learn the language, you will have to work hard to achieve it, and no teacher will be able to make you memorize rules without your willpower in learning them.

Be passionate about how to learn English and you will see that even as self-taught you will succeed, obtaining excellent results.

I hope that you will get to work to become a native speaker with my advice!

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