Which method should I use to learn English?

The best method for you to learn English is the method that gets you motivated and keeps you motivated. That sounds like a trick answer, but it’s true. If you’re not motivated, you won’t study enough, you won’t practice enough, and you’ll give up before you become fluent. Motivation has been proven to be a significant accelerator of language learning speed.

No, but really, which method should you use to learn English? Every student has a different learning style, but here are a few characteristics of all good English methods:

  • A 50/50 split between learning new things and practicing what you’ve learned
  • Little chunks of study throughout the day
  • Developing all skills in parallel (speaking, listening, reading, writing)
  • Not much focus on pronunciation and error correction
  • Task-based work (trying to DO things in English)
  • Leveraging the skills you already have in other languages

Evaluating an English learning method by using it for a week or two is the best way to see if it’s a good fit for your learning style, but that is often difficult. If you’re signing up for an English course in the evenings, you may get one free trial class, but not several weeks’ worth. It’s usually worth buying only a few hours of lessons to begin with before committing to a longer period. If you’re considering buying a published English learning method, libraries sometimes lend out this type of book or have a subscription to an online English service. If you’re cobbling together your own custom English method using free web resources, your old class notes, and your second cousin as a tutor, well then, you’re pretty much on your own.

There is one sure-fire method to learn English: live in an English-speaking country and take an English course. You’ll get lots of exposure throughout the day, have tasks that you need to accomplish in English, and practice speaking English with thousands of innocent bystanders. If you can’t afford a face-to-face English course or don’t have time for one, an online English course is another option, provided it includes a free trial before making you pay for a subscription.

A final note: Don’t be afraid to change methods. If you’ve been learning English using one method and you’re not satisfied with the results, don’t blame yourself. Blame the method. Sticking with an ineffective method just because you paid for it is foolish. You’ll be wasting your time on top of the money you already spent. So if you’re frustrated with your current English method, pick a new one and get back to work.

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