Thursday, 25 October 2012

What's the best way to learn English?

English has about 380 million native speakers living in countries such as UK, Canada, USA, Australia, New Zealand, etc. As a second or foreign language, it is spoken by over a billion people around the world. As these figures show, the English language has truly become an international language. It is often the language of choice for those who want to study a foreign language.

Sadly, not many students learning English at school (at least in Spain) reach a good level for everyday purposes such as greeting, shopping, making arrangements, writing letters... never mind becoming proficient speakers. What is happening to produce such a disappointing result?

What seems to be happening is that the methodology is wrong most of the time. Students at school usually spend too much time doing grammar and vocabulary exercises rather than focussing on what language is all about: communication.

The best way to learn a language is by trying to communicate in that language. Grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation are part of the communication process, not the ultimate aim. Students should be reminded that trying to express themselves in a foreign language involves continuous failure and success. This is how progress is made. The bottom line is: don't be afraid of making mistakes!

It is apparent that immersion is the name of the game. Students should be exposed to real life situations - whether real or imagined -  in which English is used. Then, some support in the form of grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation can be provided to ensure that students are equipped with the relevant language.

Naturally, not every student can afford to go to an English-speaking country, do a course there and benefit from immersion. That's why the classroom has to become an extension of that country where some sort of immersion is created. This immersion can then be continued at home by reading books, listening to music, watching your favourite series and movies, talking to others via Messenger or Skype, etc. In addition, there are plenty of resources on the Internet to improve any aspect of English.

As you can see, reaching a good command of the English language is always possible provided you use the right methodology, put in the time and have enough motivation to work hard and reap the fruits of your labour.


  1. Lisening, lisening, lisening and lisenig.

  2. Francisco, you're absolutely right and your article is so encouraging!
    "The roots of education are bitter but the fruit is sweet" :))


  3. Hi I just stumbled across this one.

    You're not in favour of listening? It might depend what 'listening' is, as all spoken interactions involve some form of listening. If it means listening to a coursebook CD, then there are arguments for and against on this.

    I'm finding with my Czech that a combination of being in the real world, having conversation sessions with Czechs, and doing some study is helpful. In particular I've started a 'reader' - a book adapted for my level, and I much prefer this to some odious grammar exercises.

    Unfortunately it seems most people aren't following the best advice out there. Those that do are like yourself, the exceptions getting better while others keep English or whatever language down on their priority list.

    You need to show up first to get anywhere...

    1. I'm not in favour of just developing the listening skill. I think we need to develop ALL skills.

      Thanks for commenting.