A question on the forefront of many students minds is “What is the best way to learn English?”
There are so many different methods and techniques available, so choosing the right fit for the student is crucial. This choice will determine whether the student makes fast or slow progress and whether they continue learning or abandon the project as being too hard.
Before we dive into some techniques to fast track your learning, let’s take a step back and look at how a native English speaker would start learning English as a child.
They would start with elementary words that relate to everyday objects and practical lessons that are in use in their home, the family and the daily interactions with the people around them. Slowly over the years would build up a vocabulary where conversational English and understanding is simple, and they have unshakable confidence to progress with the language.
Family members would encourage them, reinforcing positive results and correcting bad habits and the child would steadily progress.
The progress would be exciting, as storytelling and reading become an anticipated activity, and understanding and conversation are a socially rewarding experience.
Once they get to school, this knowledge will be supplemented with a structured approach to learning, adding in a fundamental understanding of grammar, language and reinforced with constant repetition until they have a broad knowledge of the basic rules and can use them instinctively in conversation and written text.
This foundation allows them to explore the language and more complex texts further until they reach a point of knowing 80% of English that will be useful for them in everyday life.
Once they reach this stage, they are thinking in English, dreaming in English and have a good grasp of the language.
Unless further specialized knowledge is needed for career advancement, or future studies and other specific opportunities, there is no need to study English any further.
A 50 to 60% competency will allow a learner to converse with even the most learned English student or linguist.
Let’s have a look at how a person who is not a native English speaker would learn English.
Often if they haven’t learned it at school and start learning the language as a teenager or adult, they may find that when they decide to pursue English as a subject with mastery in mind, the task seems so overwhelming that it fills them with anxiety before they even start.
If we told you, to master English you need to learn the 250,000 or so English words in the dictionary, where would you start?
This seems like an unbelievably hard task, and even if you are the most diligent and determined student, and decided to learn 30–40 words a day, it would still take you 20+ years to learn them all, day in and day out, not taking into consideration the grammar, sentence construction and pronunciation needed to master English.
It would take a lifetime of study to learn English, and unless you are a very disciplined person, in all likelihood would give up.
As an alternative method, how would you rate this?
Do you think it is possible to learn the 100 most used English words, both written and spoken, a total of 200 words for three to six months?
That would mean you would need to learn and be able to recognize and pronounce 1 to 3 words a day.
Does that sound more achievable?
So, the question to ask ourselves is ”What is the best way to learn English?“, and this leads to another question which is “What are you learning English for?”
I’d like to use an example and consider how we would build a house. The first thing we do is sit with an architect and get them to draw a set of plans for the house construction. The idea would be a detailed blueprint that a builder could use to construct the house.
The builder would take this plan and deconstruct it, making a list of materials, progress milestones and recruit the team needed to complete the construction. They would break the building process down into phases.
Phase 1 — foundation
Phase 2 — walls
Phase 3 — roof
Phase 4 — windows and doors
Phase 5 — electrical etc.
Then construction would begin, in a structured, systematic, measured fashion to ensure that the house won’t fall once it is complete.
Learning the English language is very similar; here are some ideas to help you progress towards basic conversational fluency.
Deconstruct the project into phases, eg.
- 100 most written and spoken words.
- Which auxiliary verbs (to have, to want, to need, etc.) and basic verbs (to eat, to drink, to go, etc.) will allow you to begin communicating ideas as quickly as possible. This is an important step.
What is the minimum effort that will be required for you to start with? Here the Pareto principle applies — in other words, which 20% should you learn first to achieve 80% of the result you want?
In which order should you learn the different phases — very important to ensure you “build the foundation before putting the roof on”?
Set up a reward system — what gets measured improves — English Forward is creating a tokenized reward system to incentivize you both by recognition and financially to reach your goals.
Here is an example of a challenge — read two books written by Dr. Suess within your first two months.
The cat in the hat
Green eggs and ham
Dr. Seuss wrote “The Cat in the Hat,” using only 225 words. After his editor bet him that he couldn’t write a book using fewer words, he wrote “Green Eggs and Ham” using only 50 different words.
Once you’ve read them, you would have read №4 (“Green Eggs and Ham”) on Publishers Weekly’s 2001 list of all-time best-selling children’s books.
Well done, you’ve achieved your first significant milestone of reading a best seller English book.
This process can be applied to every part of the English language and help you move from starting to fluency.
Mitch is Co-Founder and CEO at English Forward. He has close to 20+ years of experience in business, commerce and marketing. He is an experienced Director with a demonstrated history of working in the real estate industry. Mitch is an educator and philanthropist, an investor and partner in high profile property projects.