Though people may say English is one of the easier languages to learn, it is in fact dependent on what your native language is. If your native language is Spanish, Italian, French, or German, then English will not be hard to adjust to. However, if your native language is Russian, Hungarian, Hindi, or languages not associated with Germanic and French origins, then English can be demanding. Learning English as a second language, in terms of difficulty, is more subjective than objective.
But what are some general tips for people who want to learn to speak English fluently?
Here are 12 tips that anyone learning English can use:
1. Learn English Every Day
English language learning success depends heavily on your habits. Do this test: learn English in any form every day for one month straight. After the month is done, it should become a habit of yours to learn English. If you try to go to sleep without learning English, you will feel that something is not right. The learning can be anything: watching English movies with subtitles, using a language-learning app, reading a book in English, listening to radio programs in English, and so on.
Why is it important to learn English daily? If you skip one day of learning English, your memory can falter, your learning will be less, and you might stop learning altogether. Forming a language learning habit is crucial in succeeding to become fluent.
2. Listen, read, speak, write
Don’t limit yourself to only one side of learning when it comes to a language. Listening, reading, speaking, and writing all benefit each other. For example, when you listen attentively, you will speak better, and if you write well, you will understand how to read better and speak better. If you focus on only one side of learning, you will not only make more mistakes, but you will be disappointed when confronted with tasks or activities you cannot do. Of course it depends on what you want to achieve, but even if all you want to do is speak well, knowing how to read, write, and listen well will make you progress quickly in speaking. Just like the best diets are those with the most colors of food involved, so is a language best learned with all its elements being focused on.
3. Make learning fun
Most people do not get a kick out of reading through grammar textbooks, or reading about etymology for extended periods of time. Though these types of boring tasks can be useful to understand certain peculiarities of a language, if you focus too much on the technicalities, your motivation for learning will be much less. You can learn technical information about a language indirectly through watching films in the language you want to learn (preferably with subtitles in your native language), reading memes, reading comics, listening to music, or attending a speaking club. Do what engages you the most in the language, and what attracts you most to the culture that is connected to the language. Say you want to learn French because you are crazy about French food. You can read French cookbooks in their original language. The main idea is to keep yourself motivated through enjoying the learning process.
4. Set goals
Not to add stress to the learning process, but it is important to know what you are striving to do while learning English. Set not only a general goal, but also the time you want to complete it. You can add some leeway to the time, but make sure it is not too relaxed. You should feel you have a responsibility to learn English. You can even tell your friends and family about your goal in order to have some added responsibility and liability. If you don’t meet your goal, they will ask what happened, and remind you about achieving what you set out to do.
5. Combine courses
What I mean by this is taking a course through an app such as a Duolingo, and also attending a course in-person at an education institution. This will ensure that your learning will be enriched and comprehensive. It is beneficial to ask questions in your in-person class about what you are learning from your digital course as well. In both, you can feel competitive, and feel driven to achieve greater success in English.
6. Don’t worry about mistakes
Humans error, and that is our nature—especially when learning languages. You are at the level you are at, and you have to accept it. No matter what, you can’t become fluent within 6 months. It takes years of hard work and daily dedication. The best method is to accept what you know and don’t know in a language, and move forward. Try to have a conversation in English every day, even for five minutes. Pushing yourself to do this will give you the reward of expanding your vocabulary, improving your memory, and putting your lessons into practice. You don’t need to apologize for your mistakes. The ideal thing to do is to learn from your mistakes instead of feeling guilty about them.
7. Be brave
Speaking in a new language to strangers or friends can feel like you have something stuck in your throat. You might be afraid that you will seem like a fool or an idiot when you speak, however you must remember that they understand you are a learner. If they don’t know, you can tell them. Trying to hide that you are learning English will not help you. It is better to be upfront with your language learning status and to face people honestly. It is also essential to push yourself to speak, write, and read in English, even if it makes you uncomfortable. Take it as a personal challenge that will make your personality grow.
8. Think in English
Try to notice what language you are thinking in. Most likely, you are thinking in your native language most of the time. However, you can change that. You can consciously switch to thinking in English about things. As soon as you start thinking in English, your fluency will grow tremendously, as thinking constitutes your inner being and how you will express yourself through speaking. If you are not thinking of anything in particular, you can even have pretend conversations in English in your mind to practice your lessons mentally.
9. Have a language journal
In this journal, you can write in English about your journey in learning the language, words you are not familiar with (providing example sentences along with entries), write about any difficulties you are having, and collect souvenirs that have English on them. It can be your secret English-learning notebook. You don’t have to show it to people, which might be stressful. Let it be your personal notebook that is for keeping track of your progress and your experience learning English.
10. Be an imitation machine
Some people are better at imitating accents and such than others, though every person can imitate how people speak to some degree. You can see it as a fun exercise. There might even be laughter involved from native speakers. But by copying native speakers’ accents, manners of communication, even gestures, you will understand English to a much greater degree. You will start to notice that native speakers will use words and phrases not found in your courses. These words and phrases are ideal to copy, as they will make you seem much more native if you use them. Words like “um” are not taught in textbooks, but used so often that is not right to ignore their usage. Incorporating these elements of English into your speaking will make you feel like you are much closer to your goal of fluency.
11. Record yourself and listen
You might think you are a rockstar of the English language, however you should record yourself in order to listen to how you match up with native speakers. Even better is to record yourself in front of a mirror to see if you making the correct gestures and mouth movements to accompany the words. You don’t have to be overly critical of yourself, but you do need to have a introspective mind about how you are progressing and how you sound in English. You can use any smartphone to record yourself, or traditional recording devices. If you have a penpal, it is good to send recordings of each other back and forth.
12. Have a pen pal
Having a native English speaker as your pen pal or friend can help a lot. It can happen as well that this pen pal wants to learn your native language, and therefore you can complete a language exchange. You can write to each other, call each other, record messages for each other, and communicate in a fun way (sharing your favorite videos from YouTube, for instance). Besides being an enjoyable way to learn and build a friendship, having a pen pal garners motivation, as you both do your best to keep each other on track with your goals.