They say “the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.”
Have you heard this saying before in English?
It means that the easiest and fastest way to get from one place to another is to just go straight.
So how can you learn English “in a straight line”?
But have you ever wished there was just one method of learning that would make learning English incredibly easy for you?
There is no one straight line from “learning” to “fluent,” but according to science, there might be three.
Below we’ll show you these three methods for learning English, who they’re best for and how to get started with each.
Why Finding the Easiest Way to Learn English Might Not Be So Simple
You’re not the only person who is looking for the easiest 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 easiest 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.
Before we get to the methods, 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 take a look below, and find the easiest way to learn English—for you.
What’s the Easiest Way to Learn English? Here Are 3 Proven Methods to Choose From
Here are three of the most powerful English learning methods. You’ve probably already used them, or at least seen them in use. The trick is to figure out which method works best for you.
We’ll show you how to effectively use these methods in your studies below.
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 to learn English actually changes the way your brain works, to look more like the brain of a native English speaker.
This method also exposes you to more English every day. This is important because according to some studies, you might be able to get a good grasp on English by studying one hour per day, 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 has many blog posts and resources for surrounding yourself with English. You can find posts about good English movies to watch, where to find a speaking partner online, and even more tips on how to make English a part of your everyday life.
One great site for subscribing to English-language magazines is Magazine Line. 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.
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, learning a language is a bit like building. 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, and even 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.
If you’re looking for an online teacher or tutor, you can start by checking out Verbling.
Verbling is all about online language learning. You’ll be able to explore hundreds upon hundreds of language teachers and find exactly the one who’s right for you. When you search, you’ll get to search based on prices, availability and even the other languages they speak—so if your native language is Chinese or German, you can find an English teacher to teach you in that language. Plus, the technology here makes accessing tutoring sessions extra smooth, because you don’t need Skype or another third-party program. It’s all here!
To meet 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 English grammar tutors and English writing tutors. After you find the perfect local tutor, you guys can meet up in a nearby coffee shop for English class! Follow this link to see who's available close to home.
There are many textbooks to choose from, but not all of them are good for learning on your own. When choosing a textbook, 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.
There are many websites where you can test yourself on your grammar skills. You can find practice English tests at Exam English or more focused grammar quizzes on Grammar-Quizzes.com (you’ll find quizzes on 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.
Which of these methods will you be using?
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!
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