Learn English: Tips and Resources

Manuel Campos


English is spoken at a useful level by some 1.35 billion people worldwide. The majority aren’t native English speakers, however.

About 360 million people speak English as their first language so if you want to communicate with someone from another country then the chances are that you will both be speaking English.

These are the ten best reasons to study English:

  1. English is a global language
  2. Studying English can help you get a job
  3. Learning English can help you meet new people
  4. English is the language of the media industry
  5. English is the language of the Internet.
  6. Traveling is a lot easier when you know English
  7. English is one of the most important languages for business
  8. With English, you can study all over the world
  9. English gives you access to multiple cultures
  10. Lots of information about different fields is written in English

If you are considering learning English by yourself, you should consider some of these tips

How to Learn English by Yourself

Learning a language takes time and effort but sometimes you have some challenges like

  1. I don’t have much time to study English
  2. I don’t have enough money to hire a private tutor.
  3. I don’t know where to start

Those challenges and struggles can be real however there are practical solutions to those three problems.

Considerations for Learning English Well

These are some considerations for learning English well

  • Don’t you dare to think that you are learning based on the fact that you are passing classes: Passing a class is not an indicator that you are learning. Most universities don’t certify the levels of the students who graduate, so you will see students getting a degree being proficient, others being independent users of the language, and others being basic users of the language.
  • Stop building upon the sand: As mentioned in the previous point, sometimes learners pass a class because they were lucky enough to have a teacher who didn’t care to help them or to fail them,  and that’s why you see students pretending that they understand the passive voice even when they have issues with the simple present. When they finish their courses, they end up learning a little bit about something with huge gaps of knowledge here and there.
  • Stop blaming others. We all know somebody who thinks that his/her lack of competence and proficiency is the result of others not doing their jobs. Of course, we all desire to have teachers who are proficient, passionate about teaching, and who have expertise in the subject matter they teach, but you must remember that you go to classes for three hours a week and a week is made up of 168 hours, so try to spend some time studying on your own.
  • You don’t need a teacher for everything. There are many resources available in the palm of your hand to learn English, don’t think that you have to start your car, drive for an hour and sit through a lesson to learn English. You can do a lot of work by yourself. Universities and Language Institutes don’t have a teaching and learning monopoly.
  • Worry about results: When you start working out, you expect to see results after a few weeks of training, if you are studying by yourself or attending classes, you should have the same mindset that you have when you start working out. You need to be able to see some results. Attending a class for several weeks, months, and years and not being able to see results that you are happy with doesn’t pay off.
  • Pay attention to others: There are people who have succeeded in learning a language, so why not ask them about what they did to achieve that success? 
  • Identify what you know and what you don’t know. The best way to know if you are learning or not is to make a list of what you know and what you don’t know. If you are worried about your grammar, just open a grammar book and check the index. When you have identified your strengths and weaknesses, make sure to make plans to move some topics from one column to the other.
  • Enjoy learning. Sometimes I see students complaining too much about learning English, when you do that, it means that you aren’t in love with the language and that you are trying to force something that is not your thing. Study English for the right reasons.
  • English is a means of communication: You don’t learn English sitting quietly in a corner while other classmates do all the talking. Using your receptive skills is awesome but we have to see the results, the only way to see if the classes are paying off is when you dare to write or say something in English.

Tips for Learning English by Yourself

These are tips for learning English by yourself

#1 Music

One of the hobbies that you should have while learning a language is listening to music. Listening to music is crucial to successful language learners because:

  1. Listening to songs in English, again and again, will help you increase your vocabulary size.
  2. Repetition is necessary to remember new vocabulary.
  3. You will get used to listening to English speakers and different varieties of English accents.
  4. You will reinforce the pronunciation and other pronunciation features such as intonation.

You just need your phone and install musixmatch to understand what you are listening to. You can listen to music as you commute to work or university and even when you exercise.

Try spending some time checking songs in English on Youtube, most popular songs have lyrics videos.

#2 Grammar

Let’s just say that you want to improve your accuracy but you don’t know where to start. If you are an independent learner, you don’t need to hire somebody to fix problems that you can fix yourself.

My best recommendation to make huge improvements in your grammar and pronunciation is to buy or downloading these two books:

  1. Basic Grammar in Use
  2. English Pronunciation in Use

You can download those two books and check the holes in your game by yourself, you can teach yourself grammar and pronunciation with both books, they have a very practical approach.

#3 Apps

Nowadays everyone has a smartphone, You might be reading this article in expensive one so why don’t you put that cellphone to good use?

Try searching for applications to:

  1. Increase your vocabulary size
  2. have a more accurate pronunciation
  3. improve your grammar

#4 Netflix

If you haven’t been living under a rock for the last decade, you might know what Netflix is. In case you aren’t a Netflix user yet. I can give you a hint of what you can get there.

In Netflix, you can choose a show or a movie from a huge collection of titles and in most cases, you will have the option to watch your show or movie in English and with subtitles in English.

If you think watching a show or movie in English is quite challenging, watch the movie in Spanish first or with subtitles in Spanish and then give it a try in English with subtitles in English or without them.

#5 Books

Start reading in English, you might start with books that don’t have a complex plot such as the little prince. I like to advise people to use the Google Play  Book app since you can buy books and download some for free.

The benefits of using an app are that you can get books easily for free and the best book apps will give options such as an integrated dictionary.

#6 Start Writing

When you have some time off, start writing sentences in a notebook or in a note app such as Evernote.  Write a few sentences every day, then start writing a few paragraphs about fun topics. Show your work to a classmate or a teacher, I bet that he or she will be happy to help you.

#7 Fluency

If you consider that your grammar and pronunciation are kinda accurate and that your vocabulary size is decent enough for exchanges and small conversations, try to enroll in a class in which communication is a priority or find a partner to practice with.

#8 Accent

Once you know what you are supposed to know and your grammar and pronunciation are accurate, you start dreaming about the idea of an American, British, or Australian accent.

Some teachers and learners give that dream a thought or two and abandon that quest meanwhile others want to get one but what’s the accent? why are some people so obsessed with the idea of getting one? and what accent do you want?

Well, the accent is defined by Wikipedia Collaborators as “a manner of pronunciation peculiar to a particular individual, location, or nation” If that definition is accurate, why would you like to sound British if you lived in Brazil? That’s like living in Costa Rica and using a hack to catch Pokemons in California.

This is not over yet, Wikipedia continues and states that “An accent may identify the locality in which its speakers reside, the socio-economic status of its speakers, their ethnicity,  or social class  or influence from their first language”

Did you read that last part? If you are a non-native speaker, people might identify the country that you are from because of your accent.

Let’s move on, this is far from over.

Wikipedia states “The most important factor in predicting the degree to which the accent will be noticeable  is the age at which the non-native language was learned” 

Sorry if I shot your hopes down and if you think that your age is just a number. Age is a factor.

There is more, here comes another nail in the casket, Wikipedia states:

“The critical period theory states that if learning takes place after the critical period (usually considered around puberty) for acquiring native-like pronunciation, an individual is unlikely to acquire a native-like accent, Most researchers agree that for adults, acquiring a native-like accent in a non-native language is nearly impossible”

Nearly Impossible?  Tom Cruise wouldn’t take that mission, I am sure.

Do you want one more quote? it is not about age, I promise,  Here it comes:

“Getting an accent depends on factors other than age, such as length of residence, the similarity of the non-native language to the native language and the frequency with which both languages are used”

That hurts, so if you want to get that accent, you have to move, right now to that place. Have you ever wondered what professionals in the field recommend?

Listen to what Jack C. Richards has to say.

What should be the focus then?

Focus on getting accurate pronunciation, and good fluency and try to speak how a native speaker would speak, I mean learn what phrases they usually use for certain activities. Don’t get obsessed over something that it is very unlikely that you get.

If you think that you can get an accent without leaving your home country, be reasonable and ask yourself if that’s something way out of your reach. If you have an accent, who can certify that?  You might not sound like you think you sound.

If you are reading this and you don’t know me, don’t get mad at me for being reasonable, I am a not native speaker and I do my best to have accurate pronunciation and I am proficient, that’s all that matters.

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