What’s the Best Way to Learn English? Here Are 3 Proven Methods to Choose From
English learners are always looking for ways to become fluent faster.
But have you ever wished there was just one method of learning that would make learning English incredibly easy for you?
Below we’ll show you three methods for learning English and how to get started with each.
3 Best Methods for Learning English
You’ve probably already used these powerful methods for learning English, or at least seen them in use. The trick is to figure out which works best for you:
1. The Immersion Method
The immersion method is also called the “natural method.”
The word “immersion” means to become completely surrounded by something. To learn by immersion, you need to surround yourself with English, all the time.
This method doesn’t just help you learn English, it helps you think like a native. Using the immersion method actually changes the way your brain works—and makes it more like the brain of a native English speaker.
This method exposes you to more English every day. This is important because according to some studies, studying one hour per day can give you a good grasp of English, but it won’t be easy to get to a native level of understanding.
Why does this work? Think about how babies learn. They come into the world not knowing any words, and are immediately surrounded by a strange language.
Little by little, from listening to this language used and watching other people, they learn certain words. Then they learn how these words are put together. Finally, they start speaking fluently.
That’s why this method is called “natural”—the more you surround yourself with English, the easier you’ll learn.
Try this method if you…
- …are living in an English-speaking country.
- …are having trouble learning by memorizing grammar rules.
- …want to begin having conversations in English faster.
- …learn best through speaking and listening.
How to learn by immersion:
To learn with this method, you will need to surround yourself with English. If you’re living in an English-speaking country, you’re already halfway there!
Here are some things you can do to expose yourself to more English every day:
- Change the language to English on your phone, social media and any other websites you use regularly.
- Join online and real-world groups that speak in English. Find groups that share your interests, so you have something in common to talk about.
- Speak to your fellow English students in English as often as you can.
- Watch TV shows and movies in English. Even if you don’t understand the words, you’re learning patterns without even realizing it.
- Watch the news and listen to the radio in English. Subscribe to an English magazine or newspaper. Make English the first language you see every day!
FluentU is a program that immerses you in authentic English videos like movie clips, music videos and news segments. But instead of letting you watch videos without understanding them, the program includes many tools for learners to make sense of what they’re watching and hearing.
For example, if you hear a word you don’t know in a video, you can move your mouse over it to see a quick meaning. Click on the word for a full definition, grammar information, and audio pronunciation, along with example sentences and video clips that include the word.
You can make flashcards from any word and take personalized quizzes to practice vocabulary words and more. If you’re on the iOS or Android app, FluentU even lets you practice your pronunciation skills with speaking questions.
To practice your reading skills, another great option would be English-language magazines, which you can get at MagazineLine. Not only do they have a large selection of magazines for all kinds of interests, but you can get discounted (lowered) prices, so you don’t have to spend too much on quality reading material.
You can also use Meetup to find English practice groups that meet in person, or search Facebook for groups to join.
2. The Classroom Method
Don’t skip this one just because you don’t take English classes! Classroom English learning doesn’t mean you have to take formal English classes. It just means you learn like you would if you were in a classroom.
With the classroom method, you start with the grammar rules, spelling and vocabulary lessons, and the foundation of the language. These are the parts that hold it together.
Before you can start speaking a language, you need some basic knowledge. Otherwise, where would you start?
According to some studies, you start with a few basics, like “I walked to school,” then you add to them little by little.
As you learn the rules, you can start creating your own sentences with them, which naturally involves making mistakes. For example, “I sing at school” is correct, but “I singed at school” is not (it should be “sang”). You advance by building your knowledge, making mistakes and learning from the whole process.
Try this method if you…
- …like structure and order when you’re learning.
- …don’t feel comfortable jumping into conversations unless you know enough grammar and vocabulary.
- …prefer to study for a chunk of time each day instead of surrounding yourself with English all day.
- …want to understand English deeply, not just know how to speak it.
- …are a beginner to English.
- …learn best in a classroom setting, or will be taking English classes.
How to learn with the classroom method:
To learn with the classroom method, you need some structure. You can learn this way in a classroom or at home, but it helps to have someone to help you along, like a tutor. That person can tell you when you’re making your (very important) mistakes.
To learn by the classroom method, try these tips:
- Sign up for English classes. (This one makes sense, doesn’t it?)
- If you’re not taking a course, find a tutor or a native speaker willing to help you.
- Get a few good textbooks. It’s a good idea to have different kinds of textbooks (one for grammar, one for vocabulary), or just one big textbook that separates the learning by type. This way you can focus on one thing at a time when you’re studying.
- Find some good online resources for testing yourself, like interactive learning websites or quizzes.
- Set aside a block of time every day for studying.
- Don’t let yourself forget the things you’ve already learned. Refresh your memory often by reviewing old notes. One day of studying each week can even be dedicated to review.
On this blog, you will find vocabulary lists for topics from spring and winter to hotel management. You can also find grammar help like common grammar mistakes and correct use of tenses.
If you’re looking for an online teacher or tutor, you can start by checking out Verbling. This lets you find hundreds of language teachers based on prices, availability and even the other languages they speak. If your native language is Chinese or German, you can choose an English teacher who can teach you in that language!
For meeting a tutor in person, Wyzant is the right online resource for you. This site is very professional, and it features well-educated and well-qualified tutors in your local area. There are even separate sections of the site where you can find grammar tutors and English writing tutors.
There are many textbooks to choose from, but make sure you’re getting a student’s book, complete with answers. The Cambridge “In Use” series is a good place to start, as is the Perfect Phrases series for ESL students. The textbook you end up choosing will depend on your goal, so choose your books based on what you want to learn.
You can test yourself on your grammar skills online. There are practice English tests on Exam English and more focused grammar quizzes on Grammar-Quizzes.com (you’ll find quizzes at the bottom of nearly every page here).
3. The Dual Method
Does it sound like the two methods above would work great together? They do! It’s called the dual method, and it combines the immersion and classroom methods of learning.
Remember when we said you need to start from somewhere? The dual method usually starts with classroom learning, and then adds immersion elements for half of the study time.
Research usually agrees that it’s a good idea to start with some basics, then move into immersion. The research doesn’t always agree, though, about when that switch should be made.
One study looked at how well students in bilingual classrooms (using two languages) do compared to immersive classrooms (all English, all the time). Results show that the kids learned faster by immersion at first, but eventually slowed down. Bilingual students learned slower, but in the end they learned more.
If you’re wondering what these kids have to do with you, just remember: Even if you’re learning through the classroom method, one day you will need to start speaking to actual people in English. When do you make that switch?
Dual immersion lets you start off ready to speak, while also teaching you the rules of the English language.
Try this method if you…
- …have the time to dedicate to both classroom and immersion learning. The benefit is that more time spent studying means faster progress.
- …learn well in a classroom setting, but also want to learn how to speak.
- …are taking courses that are taught in English.
- …are living in an English-speaking country.
- …are at an intermediate or advanced level of English.
How to learn with the dual method:
The dual method is the best for intermediate English learners. It’s a good option if you feel that you’re ready to start using English in your daily life, but still want to learn in a structured way.
Since the dual method is a combination of both immersion and classroom, you can combine the tips and links for the previous two sections. Make sure you also follow these tips:
- Don’t overwork yourself. Remember to take breaks and to set aside times for English study. Studying for too long can actually harm your learning!
- Try to find a good balance. One way to do this is to learn something new in the morning, then use it throughout the day. For example, if you learn about the past tense in the morning, try telling a friend about your weekend or about the last movie you watched.
- Meet weekly with a language exchange partner. Even if you have a tutor or take classes, a language exchange partner can help you by letting you use your own language to learn.
How to Find the Best Way to Learn English
You’re not the only person who is looking for the best way to learn English. Scientists and linguists (people who study languages) have been trying to find it for years. There have been many studies about how our brains process different languages and language learning, especially in children (who seem to have much less trouble learning new languages).
The problem is that many of the studies are contradictory—which means they say opposite things. Some studies say one way is the best, while other studies say a different method works better.
In reality, there is no single absolute best way to learn English. Why? Because of you, the English learner!
You’re not the same as all English learners, of course. Things like age, location, past learning experience, time spent learning, creativity and so many other factors affect how you learn.
You might learn the best when you’re listening to an audiobook, but your friend might prefer taking a structured class. You might gain a lot from English textbooks, or you might learn the most from watching an English movie every week. How you learn, what you enjoy and how you think will determine which method works best.
But here’s some good news: No matter what you’ve been doing to learn so far, research says you can always catch up. So if you didn’t begin with the immersion method, for example, you can still gain the same benefits once you start. In other words, it’s never too late to try something new!
So try out the methods above and find the best way to learn English—for you.
Remember that there’s no one right way to do things. Use some of the tips and ideas here, or combine a few.
Experiment until you find the one method that fits your daily life and learning style the best!