Here’s some good news: You don’t have to spend hours a day studying English.
Of course, it does help—the more you study and expose yourself to the English language, the better you’ll become.
There are many ways to learn English while you do other things during your day.
This is called passive learning. Do you watch English TV or listen to English songs? Do you put yourself in places where you can listen to or speak English? Do you read in English? Excellent! You’re already learning English passively.
Passive learning is when you learn as you do your everyday things. It’s all those times when you’re learning English without having to sit down and actually study.
Even if you don’t always realize it, anytime you’re around English you’re learning.
To learn English even better, though, you need to do some active learning too. Active learning is when you focus your attention on what you’re really studying.
The Power of Active Learning
Since you’re putting all your focus into the task of learning, active learning can help you:
- Remember vocabulary words better
- Learn grammar rules
- Understand what you read (or hear)
- Discover new phrases
Lucky for you, just a little bit of active learning can make a huge difference in your English skills.
By using the steps below, you can learn English in just 35 minutes a day!
How to Learn English in 35 Minutes a Day
7 Minutes: Learn a New Vocabulary Word
Words are all around us.
Even if you don’t understand all the words you read or hear, a lot of times you can understand the basic idea of what they mean.
Instead of using context clues (the words around a vocabulary word in a sentence), take just 7 minutes a day to really learn one word well.
Where can you find words to learn? You could subscribe to a daily email from the Merriam-Webster Learner’s Dictionary, which has useful words for English learners with simple definitions written so that learners can understand them.
Or you can visit this website. Or this one. Yes, that’s right—you can learn vocabulary from a comedy website or a fashion magazine!
Magazine Line is one great source where you can find magazines to subscribe to at a discounted rate (lower price). There are magazines for all interests, including cooking, gardening, sports, news, travel and lots more. Plus, if you’re currently a college student, you may be able to save even more money—check the “Student and Educator Rates” section at the bottom of the home page to find out how.
You can also use FluentU to find new vocabulary words to learn.
FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.While watching videos on FluentU, you’ll be listening to native speakers as they use English naturally. You’ll hear all kinds of new words being used when they speak: common words, formal words, complicated words, easy words, slang words. These words all have one big thing in common: they are all words that are used by native speakers. This is great, because you don’t want to learn weird words that native speakers never use.
You won’t just hear words, either. By watching FluentU videos, you can hear words being used in sentences and in conversations. This will help you learn how and when to use these words correctly in your own English conversations.
While watching FluentU videos, any word that you don’t already know will be a good vocabulary word for you to study that day.
7 Minute Vocabulary Word Exercise:
1. Get a blank piece of paper (or an index card).
2. Choose a vocabulary word to learn.
3. Divide the paper into four parts.
4. Write the vocabulary word in the center.
5. In the top left, write the definition and the part of speech (e.g. noun, adjective, verb, etc.) of the word.
6. In the top right, write a sentence using the word.
7. In the bottom left, write synonyms for the word. Synonyms are different words that mean the same thing.
8. In the bottom right, write the different forms of the word. For example, for “swim” you would also write “swims,” “swimming,” “swam” and “swum.” Try to understand when you would use each form.
Now use your new word during the day!
5 Minutes: Learn a New Phrase
Phrases are just as important as individual words. If you only learn the meanings of single words, you might be able to say “how are you?” but you won’t know the phrase “what’s up?”
It’s not always obvious when something is a phrase and not just a regular sentence. One way to tell is if you hear the same words repeated in the same order more than once. You can also search for the phrase on the Free Dictionary’s idioms section.
Another way is to look them up on websites like English Daily, which has a huge list of English idioms. Not all the idioms you find on websites like English Daily are actually used in everyday English conversations though, so you’ll need to learn how and when they’re used as well.
You can also check PhraseMix, which has many lessons about more common English phrases available for free.
5 Minute Phrase Learning Exercise:
1. Choose a phrase from any of the sources above.
2. Read the phrase and the sentence that the phrase is in.
3. Answer these questions: Does your native language use a similar phrase? When might you use the phrase?
4. Come up with your own sentence using the idiom in a way that you would in your everyday life.
5 Minutes: Strengthen Your Grammar Skills
Ask a native English speaker about the grammar in their sentences, and they’ll probably just say that it “sounds right.” Can you name all the word forms and tenses in a sentence in your own native language? You probably can’t!
As a language learner, though, it’s important to understand grammar rules. There are so many new rules and words connected to English grammar, though, that learners sometimes don’t know where to start.
Take a deep breath and learn a little at a time! Choose one grammar rule to learn each day. You might be surprised at how much better you remember things when you learn them one at a time.
There are plenty of websites that give very short and clear explanations of single grammar rules. One good source is 5 Minute English.
Another great website is the British Council’s Quick Grammar Reference. You can test yourself here with interactive quizzes for each grammar rule. You can also check out Grammar Bytes, which has super clear and quick explanations with lots of examples.
There are lots of websites like these, so choose the one that works the best for you.
5 Minute Grammar Building Exercise:
1. Read a short grammar lesson from any of the websites mentioned above (or your own source!).
2. Visit any website you love that has at least a little writing. For this example, you can find an article in Elle.
3. Look for examples of the grammar rule being used on the website. For example, if you’re learning about conditionals, you can search the page for the word “if” (just press Ctrl+F and enter the words you’re looking for).
Can you think of your own examples of English grammar usage?
13 Minutes: Read the News
Your English learning can help you know what’s going on in the world as well. Just read the news!
Reading the news in English not only helps you learn the language, it also gives you something current to talk about when you meet with others who are speaking English. Find some news that you find interesting every day. You can then join into the conversation when others talk about what’s going on in the world.
There are many websites with news articles written for English learners. Voice of America has articles that are easy enough to understand but still have some challenging words and sentences. Breaking News English and News In Levels have different levels of news that you can choose based on your English skill level.
You can also visit any English news website like Yahoo News or ABC News, but keep in mind that the articles on these websites can be harder to understand.
Don’t really care about world news? We won’t force you to read any! Find what you do care about and read news about that. If you love technology, you might enjoy TechCrunch. If you prefer music news, maybe MTV is the better website for you.
13 Minute News Reading (and Speaking) Exercise:
1. Find a news article that interests you.
2. Scan the article for words you don’t know and find their definition. That means you should look through the article without actually reading every word.
3. Read the article.
4. Did you understand at least the basic idea of the article? Explain out loud what the article was about, as if you’re talking to someone about it.
5 Minutes: Review What You Learned
In just half an hour you’ve learned a new vocabulary word, phrase and grammar rule, and you’ve found out a little bit about what’s going on in the world today.
This article could’ve been about how to learn English in 30 minutes—but these last 5 minutes are very important!
Take 5 minutes to review (go over) the things you studied. How much do you actually remember from what you learned?
The human brain remembers the last thing on a list better than the rest of the list. So make sure you take a moment to go over everything!
5 Minute Review Exercise:
1. When you do this exercise, do everything out loud to practice speaking. Write everything down on paper to practice writing. You can also quietly review it all in your head.
2. Use your new vocabulary word in a sentence.
3. Use your new phrase in a sentence.
4. Use the grammar rule you learned in a sentence.
5. Summarize the article you read in a sentence or two.
If you feel like you don’t have enough time in the day to learn English, now you do! All it takes is about 35 minutes per day and you’ll discover how fun and easy learning English can really be.
And One More Thing...
If you like learning English through movies and online media, you should also check out FluentU. FluentU lets you learn English from popular talk shows, catchy music videos and funny commercials, as you can see here:
The FluentU app and website makes it really easy to watch English videos. There are captions that are interactive. That means you can tap on any word to see an image, definition, and useful examples.
For example, when you tap on the word "searching," you see this:
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
The best part? FluentU remembers the vocabulary that you’re learning. It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. You have a truly personalized experience.
Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or from the Google Play store.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn English with real-world videos.