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If you want to get fluent in English, you’re in luck. It’s the second most spoken language in the world. So you won’t have to look very hard to find lots of English resources and lots of chances to practise both spoken and written English.
What if you want to learn English fast? Then there are some steps you should follow so that you don’t waste any of your precious study time or lose interest in studying.
Let’s get to it! Here are my 9 steps for how to learn English fast.
Step 1: Find a
Good GREAT Reason to Learn English
Are you surprised that the first step isn’t about how to learn English words or grammar? Don’t be! Finding your Big Why is much more important than knowing which words to learn (“the what”) or the best study methods for English (“the how”).
Before “the what” or “the how”, start with “the why”. Get a pen right now, or open a text document on your computer, and write down why you want to be fluent in English.
Don’t write a reason just because it sounds cool. Really think about why learning English is important to you. You don’t have to show it to anyone. Just make sure that your reason is great enough to motivate you throughout your English mission. The more motivated you are to study English, the easier English will be to learn.
During the remaining eight steps in this article, if you ever find that you’re losing interest in studying English, come back to this step and remind yourself why learning English is a great idea.
Step 2: Decide Exactly What You Want to Do in English — And When You Want to Do It
I’ve studied a lot of languages in the past 15 years. I’ve learned that I make much faster progress when I have a clear goal in mind than I do when I’m just studying aimlessly.
In this step, take the same sheet of paper you used in step one. Write down exactly what you want to achieve, and when. If you’re reading this article, then you probably want to learn English fast. In that case, your goal should be ambitious. Even if you’re not in a big hurry to get fluent, make your goal clear and specific. Here are some examples of bad (unclear) and good (clear and specific) goals:
- I want to speak English fluently
- I want to go to university in another country
- Get a girlfriend/boyfriend who speaks English
- Within 8 months, I want to be able to read and understand any article in the New York Times.
- Within 6 months, I want to score at least 6.0 on the IELTS English exam so I can apply and be accepted to an exchange program at Swansea University.
- Within 3 months, I want to be able to talk with English speakers in social situations about everyday topics such as sports, music, films, travel and food.
Notice how the bad goals have no time limit. When do you want to complete your goal? This is important. If you have a time limit, then you can evaluate your progress during your studies and figure out if you need to change your routine to meet your goal. Each of the good goals has a very clear deadline.
The bad goals also don’t include a clear measure of success. What do you mean by “fluently”? Which university do you want to attend and what are the English requirements there? If you want English friends or romantic partners, what do you want to talk to them about?
Before you move on to step 3, write down a clear, well-defined goal that you want to achieve in English.
Step 3: Find English Resources that are Just a Little Bit Challenging
If you want to learn English fast, this step is key.
If your English is still basic or lower intermediate (for example, if you find this article a little bit difficult to read), then don’t try to read the New York Times yet! It will only discourage you. Instead, look at resources such as VOA Special English News where you can listen to news stories in clear, slow English.
Make sure your study resources aren’t too easy, either. If you’re an intermediate English speaker, reading children’s storybooks or Wikipedia in Simple English might make you feel confident if you understand every word. But in fact, you’re just wasting your time. Are you really learning English if you’re only seeing words you already know?
The perfect English resources will be just easy enough that you can understand the basic ideas without looking up any words in the dictionary, but difficult enough that you have to look up several words if you want to understand everything in detail.
Try out as many different English resources as you can. Discard the ones that are too easy or too hard, and keep using the ones that are just right for your level.
Step 4: Find English Resources that Match Your Goal
Make sure everything you do in your English studies brings you closer to your goal.
If your goal is to talk with native English speakers about films, then watch English films. If you want to pass an English exam so you can study abroad, get a tutor who’s qualified to prepare you for that exam. If you just want to learn how to have casual conversations in English, then go to meetups and language exchanges where you can chat about everyday topics.
This is why it’s so important to have a good, clear goal. If you aren’t sure where you want to be in three months, six months or next year, then you won’t know where to start looking for good practice material.
Step 5: Learn New English Words — Lots of Them!
I’ve met too many English learners who put all their effort into perfecting their accent and grammar. They’re already trying to sound like a Wall St. stock trader or a BBC Brit, before they know enough vocabulary to talk about these subjects.
This is a mistake. Your English will take you much farther if you have a wide vocabulary than it will if you speak with a perfect accent but don’t know very many words. Most English speakers in the world speak English as a second language. Nearly all of them speak it with a foreign accent. So we native English speakers are used to hearing foreign accents, and we don’t mind it at all.
Perfect grammar also isn’t as important as vocabulary at first. Lots of native English speakers haven’t mastered English grammar, and they get by just fine. You can still be fluent in English and make some grammar mistakes. But you can’t be fluent if you only know a few words.
What you can say makes a bigger impact than how perfectly you say it. Even the president of the EU speaks English with a foreign accent! So don’t worry about it. You can still go very far in life even if you don’t sound like a native English speaker.
6. Speak! Speak! Speak! Speak English!
No amount of listening, reading or writing practice will make you a good English speaker. If you want to speak English, you need to practise speaking it.
The easiest way to do this is to take English lessons at home on Skype. Start by searching for tutors on italki. If you don’t have money for tutors, you can search for conversation partners to do a free language exchange. A language exchange is a conversation that you have with a native English speaker who wants to learn your native language. You take turns talking in English and your native language.
There is no substitute for speaking practice. Do it as often as you can.
7. Practise Your English Every Day
Daily practice is important for a few reasons.
It keeps you motivated
If you do something every day, it will become a habit. Once you create a habit, you’ll be motivated to continue it.
It saves time
When you only study once or twice a week, you forget a lot of the new things you learned in your previous study session. So you have to waste a lot of your valuable study time reviewing things you’ve already learned. If you study every day, material that you learned the day before will be fresh in your mind, which means you’ll spend less time in review.
You can skip a day without big consequences
If you decide to study for a little while each day, then it’s not a big deal if you have to miss a day of studying for some reason. But if you study for a long time once or twice a week, then missing a day means losing a lot more study time.
Try to practise all four skills every day: reading, listening, speaking and writing. If you don’t have time to do all four, then I recommend at least speaking and listening.
8. Make Time to Actively Study English
Reading online in English, watching English TV, and having English conversations will all help you use what you’ve learned. But you still need to set aside active studying time each day. This is time where you do flashcard drills, quizzes, lessons with a teacher or other structured study. This way, you’ll be sure that you’re really learning new material instead of only reusing things you already know.
9. Make Mistakes! Fail Fast and Fail Often
Failure is an essential part of language learning. Mistakes are actually a really easy way to improve your English.
If you’re like me, you were probably taught that mistakes are bad. That might be true if you’re an engineer, but not if you’re an English learner. You’ll never speak English fluently if you’re too afraid to make mistakes while you learn. The more mistakes you make, the sooner you’ll be corrected, and so you’ll learn faster.
Don’t be worried about looking foolish when you talk to native English speakers. Most English speakers don’t speak any other languages. So we’re very impressed when foreigners communicate with us in English, even if they make mistakes. If you make a genuine attempt, English speakers will be more than happy to help and encourage you. Try it and see!
Above All, Don’t Give Up
I know you can learn English fluently. How do I know? Because millions and millions of people all over the world have proven that it can be done. The more you practise, make mistakes, and speak, the faster you’ll get fluent in English. So why not start today?
And finally... One of the best ways to learn a new language is with podcasts. Read more about how to use podcasts to learn a language.