Learning English can be very easy if you take it seriously. It is well-known that organization is one of the keys to success in learning a language or incorporating any habit into our routine. Organization and a fixed schedule. So, no matter what happens, whether it rains, hails or thunders, that time will be dedicated—without fail—to studying the language. There are many ways to study a language, and time is limited, so how do you do it? Which method is more effective? Don’t despair; in this guide you will find the right study method for you!
According to the study “Language Teaching Methods and Learning Theories“, there are three main methods for studying languages that have been used throughout history. The first focuses on the study of grammar and vocabulary. This form of study is perfect for people who are characterized as meticulous and very orderly; people who need to write to learn, writing down every grammar rule or new word in a sacred notebook that is dedicated solely and especially to “English.” As if it were their notebook for a school subject, they take care of it as if it were gold. They underline words in it and highlight as much as possible.
The second method is the direct method. It involves learning each word by associating it with objects, gestures and situations. Those who study in this way are Post-it lovers, and have a house full of them, sticking one on each object with the English word.
Finally, the audio-lingual method, as its name suggests, consists of learning by listening and reading. Watching TV series, movies and YouTube videos, listening to podcasts and reading easy texts, such as children’s stories, focuses on assimilating sounds, words and grammar rules by repetition. This is also known as unconscious or implicit learning, since language is incorporated by the differentiation of sounds.
Don’t identify with some of these methods? Don’t worry! Today, there are many more tools available for learning languages, options that you have at your fingertips but may not have discovered yet. In recent decades, with the advent of the Internet and increased access to technology, the emergence of social networks and the development of applications, learning English has become much easier.
While there are still traditional methods, such as taking a course at an academy or taking private lessons, there are other simple, fun tricks that you can include in your daily routine to learn English while doing other activities.
Let’s think about the activities we do every day. It is no news that our electronic devices, such as cell phones and personal computers, have become indispensable to us. We spend a lot of the day looking at them, seeing if we have any notifications and opening Instagram or some other social network, almost by instinct. We even spend an average of more than two hours a day on social networking sites or applications, according to a study by the research firm Global/Wrblndex. But what if we switched the language of our electronics to English and, for that time—more than two hours—we were fully exposed to the language we want to learn? What if some or all of the content on our social networks was in English? Would that help? It certainly would.
These tips, and others as simple as watching Netflix without subtitles, listening to an English-language podcast on a topic that interests you, following YouTube channels, downloading an application to practice, going out with someone who speaks native English to force you to socialize and let go of the language, are just some of the ideas listed below.
Like everything in life, learning English also needs a purpose, a goal. It can be for entertainment, because you are going to travel and want to be prepared, for work, study or simply because you realized that it’s something pending in your life and you take it as a personal challenge. For more, check out the Eight Reasons to Learn English in Today’s World.
Creating a habit is essential for learning anything, especially a language, as it has many aspects: vocabulary, grammar laws, pronunciation, punctuation, etc. But how do you create a habit from scratch? There are many theories about how to put a habit into practice; some speak of 21, 30 or 66 days. What’s the right way?
In 1950, plastic surgeon Maxwell Maltz noticed a pattern in his patients: a person who had just had a nose job took about 21 days to get used to seeing his new face. Almost 10 years later he published his research in the book Psycho-Cybernetics, which became a worldwide success. “These and many other commonly observed phenomena tend to show that it takes a minimum of about 21 days for an old mental image to dissolve and a new one to harden,” Maxwell said in his work.
Although Maltz assured that “at least” 21 days were needed, the figure was distorted and many took that number as an absolute truth. Years later, in 2009, health psychology researcher Phillippa Lally published a new study, in which she analyzed the behavior of 96 volunteers against habits they themselves chose to carry out over 12 weeks. Lally found that it takes exactly 66 days for a new behavior to become automatic.
Although technology and the Internet have greatly simplified the way to learn English, there are still traditional methods, such as taking classes in an academy or hiring a private teacher who can teach face-to-face or online. With Zoom, Skype, Google Meet or the different platforms that have appeared, such as Preply, UpWork, Fiverr or many others, having classes via the Internet has become an everyday activity. In addition, it has the advantage of being flexible in schedule and allows you to be anywhere you have an Internet connection.
Duolingo, Babbel and Busuu are just some of the many applications available for learning English. In general, there’s not much science when it comes to using them: they divide the teaching into chapters, and you can do it at home, in the subway, on the bus, or wherever.
Being organized is vital. Try to organize every grammar rule or new word in one notebook dedicated only to English. Divide it into categories so that it will be organized, and then it will be easy to find something specific when you need it. Review, read and reread it.
And, best of all, writing down everything not only benefits you in the short term when you want to consult your own notes, but also helps you understand what you wrote down in the long term, which was confirmed by a study conducted by psychologist Pam Mueller from Princeton University.
No matter what you’re doing, incorporate English into your life. Buy colorful Post-its and attach labels to every object in your house to learn how to spell and pronounce that word in English. Sooner or later, you will remember how to say everything without having to look at the notes. In this way, you will learn by association. The study “The Role of Associations in Vocabulary Acquisition” showed that word association plays a very important role in vocabulary knowledge, because “associations help create a meaningful, rich and dense network for learned words.”
Singing helps to memorize, and you’ll learn English better if you are humming or trying to remember that song you were taught as a child to learn the alphabet and vowels in Spanish. But this way of teaching is not something that a teacher just came up with; the effectiveness of this method was proven in a study carried out by the psycholinguistics Fernanda Ferreria from the University of South Carolina. In an experiment that involved 66 adults who tried to learn Hungarian through three different methods, those who obtained better results were those who learned by singing.
So what are you waiting for to start singing? Make a playlist of the songs in English that you like the most and sing them out loud. It doesn’t matter if it’s karaoke with friends, you alone in front of the mirror or in the shower, everything works.
We all have a famous idol, a well-known actor or an Anglo-Saxon celebrity that we have lost track of on social networks just because of the language barrier. But is that a real limitation? Take advantage of this language difference to learn English. Follow him on social networks, watch his Instagram TV videos, pause them over and over again until you understand what he’s saying.
Social networks are already part of our lives. According to Statista’s figures, Facebook and YouTube are the leading platforms in terms of number of users with 2.6 billion and 2 billion, respectively. Recently, Instagram, Spotify and TikTok have also been gaining ground. Take advantage of technology and immerse yourself in the ocean of content that you can find in English: memes, videos and podcasts, among other sources. Find a topic that interests you or that you have always wanted to learn and use it as a springboard to learn the language.
As well as writing and listening, reading is another method with which you can learn English easily and quickly. It works the same as in Spanish: the more you read, the more vocabulary you’ll have, and so on.
Children’s books are a good option to jump into the pool with reading in English. In general, they use basic language, do not have as many idioms or phrases and are ideal for practicing words and conjugations. When you have a more advanced level, try a book that interests you and that has been on your reading list for some time. Another good way to start is to watch the movie based on the book (if it exists) before reading the work, since understanding the context could make it easier for you to understand and, therefore, learn.
Flirting in English can be a very interesting challenge that will force you to socialize and practice your pronunciation, as well as your ability to tell stories about yourself.
Start with a “Do you want to go out with me?” and you’ll see that the rest will follow!
Don’t limit yourself; everything is good for learning English! From signs in the subway, a restaurant menu, movie posters at bus stops, advertisements, to the ingredients of an imported product sold in the supermarket. Everything is used to build vocabulary.
And then speak up again! Daring to speak is an infallible technique. At the slightest question in English, go ahead and show your ability to speak the language of the United States, Australia, New Zealand and England. One way to practice the language is through Couchsurfing, an online travel network. Although, in recent times, it’s become more of a social network used to organize events, it still works with the original concept, and serves to find or provide accommodation for travelers. If you have a free sofa or a guest bed in your house, you can offer them for a traveler to stay with you. Not only will you have the possibility to make friends, you can also practice English if you receive or visit an English speaking person.
And if you want to go a step further, there are also language exchange meetings and cultural or student exchange trips. Traveling to another part of the world for a period of time is an option, but there are also places like Verbling, Hellotalk and Tandem where you can connect with someone who speaks the language you want to learn. This way you can have a language exchange via video call or audio from WhatsApp from the comfort of your home! In exchange, you would offer to teach your native language. How about a language exchange?
One of the most organic ways to learn English is to live in a place where English is the official language. There are many schools that offer three-to-six month English courses that allow you to travel and learn, with the added bonus that you can put it into practice right away at the supermarket, at work, or simply by asking for street directions.
Technology came into our lives to stay. These days, not having a cell phone feels almost the same as walking around with no clothes on. We spend most of our time waiting for notifications from our phone, sometimes even checking it just out of habit. So, if you’re one of those people who shops, orders food, communicates and even works through your cell phone or computer, one way to practice English is to change the language on your technology items.
You know, for a habit to become automatic, you need to hold it for at least two months. Get organized, review your routine and add some of these tips to get started. You’ll see that you’ll become an expert, and there won’t be anyone to stop you!
Today, there are many tools that you can use to your advantage to learn English, a language that continues to boom and is internationally recognized as the language of communications, commerce, finance and business. Do you really want to stay out of this wonderful parallel universe called English? Download an application, buy a notebook to write words down, listen to music in English, watch movies without subtitles, travel, change the language of your devices—start today!