How to Learn English

Start Speaking English Today!

As a free website, the one thing I can’t offer is one-on-one conversation classes, but I’m going to talk about what you can do to to start speaking English.

Chinese Mandarin is the most widely spoken native language in the world (1.2 billion/16% of the world’s population), with Spanish second (400 million/over 5%). So, if some Spaniards meet a group of Chinese, how will they communicate? What’s the most likely?

English has ‘only’ 350 million native speakers, but one out of every five people on earth speak English to some level of competence; 56% of all Internet sites are written in English (German: 2nd/ 8%); 80% of all academic research is written in English, and I could go on and on…. Those that believe that Chinese will someday take over English as the world’s leading language should consider that in size, population and as a future economic power, China is closely followed by India – which is largely Anglophone.

So how do you learn English? Grammar, Listening, Reading and Writing are all very important, but if you want to learn English you have to speak it- it’s as simple as that. Speaking is the best way to really learn grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation and everything that comes with a language., and if you start speaking you really will notice progress.

So how are you going to speak English?Let’s look at your possibilities:

Private Classes or Language Schools

This is always a good option (I am a private English teacher- what do you expect me to say?), but standards my vary tremendously according to your teacher, the size and type of class.
In most fields, a certificate is a good guarantee- Here it does not really tell you anything. Someone can have a range of teaching certificates but not have the personality to teach, or vice versa. These are the questions you need to ask the teacher (or yourself)

Most exercises –this whether they are grammar, reading or listening – can be done on the internet in websites like this. If you want to speak English, ask for conversation classes. Likewise, if you have no intention of taking an exam like TOEFL or First Certificate, I do not advise you to go to an exam-focused class. Speaking must mean speaking!
How many people are there in each class?
I never have more than 6. If a class lasts one hour and I speak 10-20 minutes, this leaves each student around 7-8 minutes to talk. Do your sums- There’s no point going to a class with 12 students because it’s cheaper!
What’s the teacher’s style?
If you are not speaking in class, you’re not going to learn- it’s as simple as that. Ask the academy if you can go for a few classes at the beginning just to see if it’s what you’re looking for. If you’re going to spend your time answering questions on a sheet, you could be at home learning English via the web (with me, for example 😉 )

Paying Internet Courses

There are many internet courses of varying quality, most of which are large companies moving a lot of money, and some with hard sell and complicated cancellation clauses. The ones I mention here have been recommended to me by many people, and I would be very grateful if any of you could give me your opinion on these, or other courses.
The underlying problem with these courses is the lack of speaking time. However, they are very effective if they are used together with speaking classes, and some courses have combined individual learning with online classes

Rosetta Stone 
Perhaps the biggest online company, Rosetta Stone is a marketing exercise that claims to have discovered a new system, which is to enable people to learn as they did their native language. Both are – in my humble opinion – mistakes. Do not trust ‘new’ and ‘miraculous’ ways of learning. If you can compliment regular speaking time with Listening and Reading, concentrating on the grammar or structures you do not understand, you will learn. Adults do not learn as children do because their minds work differently. A logical structure will help them learn a lot faster, and not waste time guessing words from pictures.

English Class 101
Not as big or well-known as Rosetta Stone, English Class 101 has a lot of good reviews, which must count for something. It’s not too grammatical and teaches by phrase repetition, which is very effective, especially when you keep repeating those that you have not fully learnt. If you compliment this with conversation, it can be very effective. For me, it’s the best course of its kind that I know of.

English Attack
I mention this because it’s different to most other Internet courses, and goes well with intermediate and upper-intermediate levels.

One-to-One Skype Classes

Expensive in comparison, but you get what you pay for. In fact, using my ‘price-per-minute speaking’ method earlier, it could be the best value for money of all these options. The advantages are obvious- individual (or group) teaching at the time of day that best suits you, with a change of teacher when you want.

English Tutor Online
Great site! I came across this by chance, and as it’s a relatively new setup its prices are very good and the customer service is excellent. It has other services too, such as writing, proofreading (correting and checking), although what we really want here is Speaking.

You can ask for something specific (interviews or business meeting preparation, accent training, etc) and after each class you are sent a personalised class report, so it really is perfect if you are serious about learning.
A good enough example of their attitude is a 20-minute free trial they give you. Give them this reference when you apply: 1768

Language Courses Abroad

Always a great option. Again they are not cheap, until you look at them as All-Inclusive Holidays + Classes combined. It’s probably worth having at least a pre-intermediate level of English before going if you want to make the best use of your time.
Try not to go with friends, if you can, and stay away from people who speak your language. The best way of doing that is to make friends with another nationality on the first day.

Language Bookings
About as good as you can get. I recommend this company because it isn’t as well-known in Spain as others (EF, Interway…) and so you are less likely to be put in a class with 10 other Spanish speakers.
Most language schools are just set up for two months in the summer, and this means that there are Directors that don’t know their teachers, teachers that don’t know the procedures, surprises with the facilities in the centre, arguments between the staff… trust me – as an ex-summer language course teacher, I know what I´m talking about!
Apart from being cheaper, Language Bookings works as an intermediary, and you will be in schools that are up and running all year round, and with a local connection.