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Our Advice for Improving your English Skills as a Speaker of Another Language

By Joseph, published on 25/07/2017 Blog > Languages > ESOL (English) > Learning ESOL: How to Achieve Your Goals
Contents
  • What Objectives Are We Talking About?
  • Be Patient and Create a Plan to Help You Learn English
  • Your Starting Level in English
  • Memory and Learning Ability
  • A Taste for Languages: The Key Factor
  • Practice Makes Perfect When Learning English
  • Find the Right Approach to Learning English
  • Spend Time Abroad in English Speaking Countries
  • Get English Lessons with an ESOL Tutor

How long does it take to really speak the English language well? How can you go from learning a few new words and phrsaes every day to learning how to speak English fluently as a second language?

This is a question we get a lot.

Unfortunately, the answer isn’t as simple as the question because there isn’t really an answer. You have to take several factors into account.

Here are the main things to consider when it comes to improving your English.

What Objectives Are We Talking About?

Firstly, we need to consider what we mean by “speaking” English and how broad a concept mastering a language can be. A learner could want to gain the speaking skills for having conversations with other English speakers or fully master spoken English to the point where they can communicate fluently.

Do you want to learn business English for work or do you want to practise your English listening skills and learn some slang so you can watch your favourite TV shows?

The amount of time is dependant what your objectives are. What level are you starting from and what level are you trying to get to. In this case, it’s fairly obvious.

What should my English objectives be? Give yourself achievable objectives. (Source: Javier Muñoz)

In any case, knowing that nobody becomes fluent overnight is a good place to start. Make sure you give yourself very achievable objectives.

Once you’re at an intermediate level, work towards perfecting your language. To become a bilingual speaker, you need to practice English frequently over a longer period of time. Nobody starts out by saying “I want to be bilingual”.

Gauge your success on the reasonable objectives you set yourself.

Remember to:

Be Patient and Create a Plan to Help You Learn English

It takes time to learn a foreign language. The amount of time depends on the language you want to learn and your native language.

Some might find Mandarin more difficult that English, for example.

English is generally considered easy in some respects: English verbs, conjugations, and tenses are some of the easiest around, there are plenty of free English resources for you to learn English online, and you can have an English conversation almost anywhere in the world.

On the other hand, English vocabulary is varied, the spelling is ridiculous, and certain elements of English grammar are a difficult for a non native speaker. These can make studying English a nightmare!

How can I stay motivated when learning English? Don’t give up! (Source: Kenny Olowu)

No matter where you go, you seem to bump into a native English speaker. There are also plenty of people around the world who can speak basic or conversational English, have the language skills to talk to tourists confidently, or understand most English grammar rules. This means that it’s never too difficult to find plenty of opportunities learn English with strangers.

Even if English is a fairly easy language, you still need to spend a fair amount of time if you want to learn to speak it like it was your native language. However, if you ask yourself the question: “How long does it take to learn English?”, you already knew that. You’re not going to learn it by tomorrow.

Your Starting Level in English

For those wanting to learn English, there are some who’ve never learnt English before and those that have been an English learner since school. These people are few and far between since most people end up learning at least some English in school.

Surely you’ve had English classes before. You’re not starting from zero.

In the same way, there are plenty of others who may have forgotten what they learnt in their youth. Even though everyone (give or take) is starting from above 0, not everyone will have exactly the same level of English.

Therefore the question “How long does it take to learn English?” will still vary in terms of your starting ability.

How do I work out my level in English? Make sure you choose the right level for you! (Source: Moby Games)

An absolute beginner will take longer while somebody who’s already studied English a bit will be spending their time working on the gaps in their knowledge.

While the starting level is obviously a factor, it certainly isn’t the only one.

Memory and Learning Ability

Everyone’s memory is different. Nobody’s the same.

The time it takes to learn English also depends on everyone’s memory and how committed they are to learning languages.

Learning a language requires a good memory: you have to learn tonnes of vocabulary, grammatical rules, conjugations, expressions, etc.

Don’t forget that you can work on your memory.

How can I improve my memory? Train your brain! (Source: Tech Technik)

If you don’t have a good memory, it’s not the end of the world. There are ways to improve your memory as well as ways to improve your writing in English. Brush up on the subject.

A Taste for Languages: The Key Factor

Some people love languages and have an aptitude for learning them.

It’s really easy to learn something we love. This is true for all learning. Having a taste for a given subject is a key factor when it comes to motivation. We’re more motivated when it comes to learning something we love.

Learning something we don’t like can be very difficult. You probably have experienced this during your childhood or perhaps more recently.

To learn English more quickly, note down all the advantages of learning English on a personal or professional development plan. There are a lot. Not just including the benefits of learning English itself.

If you’re aware of the benefits, you’re more like to be motivated and stay motivated over time.

Practice Makes Perfect When Learning English

When we ask “How long does it take to learn English?”, we’re looking for answers like: 3 months, 6 months, 2 years, etc. We always think in terms of months and years.

However, you should be thinking in terms of hours. How can you say you’ve been learning English for 5 years if you only work for a few hours a month? You can study English all throughout school and still leave without really being able to say a word.

Therefore:

  • Work in terms of hours. For example, it can take between 1,000 and 2,000 of work to gain proficiency in English if you’re starting from scratch.

How often should I practise English? Work regularly! (Source: Haiku Deck)

  • Work regularly: this is key to your success. You need to work frequently in order to learn. Regularly studying helps you memorise things much easier.

Find the Right Approach to Learning English

You can’t just boil it down to quantity or frequency. The quality is also important. In fact, the quality of learning in key. The next question you need to ask is: “How do you learn English?”

There are many ways and approaches to learning English. It’s impossible to define just one perfect method.

The effectiveness of a given approach depends on the person and their own approach to learning. Learn about different ways to learn and try and pick the one that works best for you. On the other hand, don’t fall into the trap of trusting “miracle” solutions (such as those promising fluency in 3 months by working 5 minutes per day).

The effectiveness of books depends on the person using them. Generally, there are two main methods that can greatly help someone learn a language: spending time abroad and having private English lessons.

Spend Time Abroad in English Speaking Countries

The quickest way to learn English is to practice it. You’ll spend much less time learning English if you practice regularly as opposed to reading books and doing worksheets.

A language stay is one of the best ways to learn English. You’ll benefit from absolute immersion with classes in the mornings, museum visits in the afternoons, and dinner with a host family in the evenings. Language stays are often enriching and unforgettable experiences.

How can I learn English abroad? Set off on an adventure! (Source: Positive Changes)

Not just from the point of view of your English, but also in terms of culture. If you’re still asking the question “How long does it take to learn English?”, perhaps it’s because you want to learn English quickly. Like we said at the start, learning a language takes a lot of time.

If you’d like to reduce this time, there is one secret: multiple language stays in English-speaking countries.

If you want an adventure, have a look at our best destinations for learning English.

Get English Lessons with an ESOL Tutor

One of the advantages of language stays is being able to speak English with native speakers. There is another way to do this: a private English course in your own home.

You can make sure that your classes are taking place in English. English tutorials can also help you in your own personal study.

Your English teacher can advise you and provide a personalised approach to help you work on your English learning adventure independently. Having private tutorials is a great way to stay motivated.

At this point you should be asking the question “How do you choose the right English tutor?”

Now you’ve started to learn English, be sure to test your level with Quizzes or take a formal ESOL exam such as TOEFL & IELTS.

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