Imagine you wake up one day and are able to speak English fluently.
This changes everything, right?
You are suddenly freer, more powerful and more flexible.
You can look out on a whole new world of options.
You can travel from country to country, impress your boss or do a degree in the US.
The possibilities are endless, and you are unstoppable!
At some point, every English learner imagines how great it would feel to just suddenly be able to speak the language.
But the reality is different.
You may enjoy learning English every day, but still feel frustrated with your progress sometimes.
You may think, “Why can’t I just learn English faster?”
“Why can’t I just be fluent already?”
Then you hear about intensive English courses, courses that seem to promise faster, better results.
Are these courses the answer to becoming fluent almost immediately?
Well, yes and no.
Intensive English courses can help you to improve your English significantly and quickly.
However, you need to put in a lot of time and work. Just like with an exercise routine, you have to show up every day and make an effort if you want to see results.
You also need to have a good plan and find the course that is right for you.
This post will help you do all of these things.
What Is an Intensive English Course and Why Should You Take One?
So first of all, what exactly is an intensive English course?
Attending an intensive English course is different from learning English as a subject in school. An intensive course is often short but regular. In other words, an intensive course may only last for a couple of months, rather than the whole school year—but at the same time, you may go to class every day of the week. With intensive courses, you go to classes most days and learn for one hour, two hours or even more.
By comparison, in high school or college, students may only learn English for a few hours a week. They may not be under much pressure to really master the language except for an exam at the end of a semester.
For this reason, intensive English courses come with a few different benefits:
- Intensive English courses help you learn English through immersion. You learn and practice English on a daily basis, focusing on learning the language in a short time. You immerse yourself in both the language and the culture. Immersion is the best way to master a language, as it is in the same way that native speakers learn when they are babies.
- Thanks to the intensity, you are likely to find the material more interesting and quickly reach a higher level. When you are stuck making simple sentences to introduce yourself and your family, speaking a language soon becomes boring. However, with the ability to discuss more complex topics more quickly, you can converse with more people, make friends and be your most interesting self! That is a huge motivation.
- Followers of intensive English courses can also progress faster from daily practice and repetition. Practicing more often within a shorter period of time helps you to memorize new words, phrases and expressions better. Daily practice speeds up the process of mastering the language.
Strategies for Being Successful with Intensive English Courses
Have clear goals in mind
It is important that you clarify your goals before starting a course. Intensive English courses are often short and you don’t want them to finish before you even realize it! What your goals are will depend on the course itself, of course. But it is also a good idea to have more specific, personal goals in mind when taking an intensive course.
Set specific goals from the beginning and track them throughout the course. Make them SMART, or Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Timely.
For example, one of your goals could be to extend your vocabulary by learning ten new words by heart (completely, so that you can remember them immediately) every day throughout the whole course. You could set the number higher than this, but you would need to decide if it would be attainable (realistic) considering the speed you usually learn and the time you have for the intensive course.
Another example of a goal could be to learn English for business video calls. Just imagine: What if you could speak fluent English in calls, and connect comfortably with your customers, colleagues and managers? What if you could have an incredible interview and earn a new job or a big promotion over a video call? Now, that’s a goal!
In this case, your SMART goals could be:
- Sign up for Creativa (an online course dedicated to teaching valuable business English skills online)
- Complete one video lesson per week leading up to your big quarterly meeting three months from now
Be realistic about how much time you have
If you can spend one whole month in the summer to attend one intensive English course, great! However, if you have other commitments like work, vacation plans or other studies, you need to consider these when looking at intensive courses. Work out how much time other commitments would take and be realistic. Like every other person, you only have 24 hours in a day!
Keep learning and practicing
An intensive course can boost your English to a much higher level in a month or two, but it won’t stay like that without practice. Though you might not have the time or resources to keep taking in-person intensive courses, you can maintain and improve your English level by practicing daily with immersion tools like FluentU.
Unlike traditional language learning sites, FluentU uses a natural approach that helps you ease into the English language and culture over time. You’ll learn English as it’s spoken in real life.
FluentU has a variety of engaging content from popular talk shows, nature documentaries and funny commercials, as you can see here:
FluentU 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'll 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 is that FluentU keeps track of the vocabulary that you’re learning and gives you extra practice with difficult words. It even reminds you when it’s time to review! Every learner has a truly personalized experience, even if they’re learning with the same video.
You can start using the FluentU website on your computer or tablet or, better yet, by downloading the app from the iTunes or Google Play stores.
You can also continue to take intensive-style courses online with Coursera. Coursera offers many short courses on different English subjects, such as grammar, communication, academic English and more. While online English courses may not give you all the same benefits as intensive in-person courses, they can help you maintain your English and learn news skills, too.
5 Awesome Schools for Intensive English Courses
The Middlebury Institute (US)
At the Middlebury Institute, you can find a suitable intensive English program whether you want to improve your conversational English, academic English or English for a professional purpose. In addition to learning the language, students are taught the cultural skills needed to succeed in the US, either with a job or with graduate-level study.
The specific requirements to enroll in one of the intensive programs (English as a Second Language, English Preparation for Graduate Studies or the American Cultural Experience Program) depend on the program as well as the individual applicant.
If you are not an American citizen, you will need to have either a resident permit in the US or to acquire an F-1 visa status to study English full-time. You can apply online, although a follow-up interview might be necessary in some cases.
Indiana University (US)
The intensive English program at Indiana University is designed to help international students reach a university level of reading and writing in English. Classes focus on building English language skills for academic studies. You will take a placement test, which will decide your level of English and help place you in the most appropriate class.
In order to follow this program, you will need to have earned a high school diploma, be 18 years old or above and have the ability to pay for living expenses and the tuition fee. Visa recommendations can be found under the “application” tab. If you meet all the requirements, you can apply online.
Stafford House International (US, UK, Canada)
Stafford House International has both general English “Intensive” and “Super Intensive” courses. They cover all skills, from reading to writing, listening and speaking. Students also learn grammar, vocabulary and critical thinking. Courses are meant to improve not only the accuracy of your language usage but also your fluency.
You will be able to decide your own learning track, using a “negotiated syllabus” meant to help you develop quickly according to your personal learning goals and interests.
The Intensive courses are available in many cities in the US, the UK and Canada, though you can only attend the Super Intensive courses in London and Toronto. International students are required to have a student visa for the courses in the UK. You need to be over 16 and you will be required to take a test on arrival to help determine the best track for your study.
University of Wisconsin (US)
The University of Wisconsin’s Intensive English Program helps students to improve their academic English. You can choose between a 15-week program in either the fall or spring or an 8-week program in the summer. During the course, you will learn to speak English fluently, express your ideas effectively in writing, read academic books and understand lectures at the university level.
To attend this program, you must be at least 18 years of age and have a high school diploma. Your English level must be low-intermediate or higher. The course is not for absolute beginners. You also need to provide evidence that you can support yourself financially while studying full-time. If coming from outside of the US, you will need a student visa. Online application is possible.
Excel English (UK)
Excel English offers intensive courses for students all year round. You can choose between their five programs: Individual Lessons, Intensive Combination Business English, Intensive Combination General English, Intensive English and Super Intensive. You will have from 15 to 21 hours per week of lessons, focusing on all four basic skills: reading, listening, writing and speaking. There are also guided self-study sessions and social activities to help you improve your English faster.
For all courses, you will need to be at least 16 years old and have an elementary level of English (A1). If you want to attend Intensive Combination Business English, the minimum age is 18 and the minimum entry level is A2. You can find information on visa requirements here. Admission is all year round, and you can apply online.
Taking an intensive English course will help to accelerate your fluency.
The key is to understand the benefits of studying intensively and set clear goals to take advantage of these benefits.
Whatever you do, be realistic during and after the course.
Studying English doesn’t stop after one intensive course.
Keep studying and immersing yourself in the language and its culture.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn English with real-world videos.