There are many ways to learn English, and it’s all about practice. We’ve created this teaching resource to help English learners and teachers alike. We want articles that give solid practical advice. These are things we’ve found difficult to research or tackles issues that we encounter as teachers. Ultimately we think these tips will better people’s learning experience when it comes to learning English.
The number one question we get from learners is – ‘ as native English speakers, can you recommend the best way to learn English?’
When it comes to learning English at home we find that we tell our students over and over the same thing. Tips like watching English movies, reading the news, and keep practising.
Nine times out of ten we’re told, yes, another teacher said all the same things. With this in mind, we’ve decided to be proactive and write a definitive list of ways to improve a person’s English language skills.
This is a guide to help teachers who get this question every day, and to language learners who are stuck on ways to further their language skills.
How to learn English at home?
When learning a language, students must practice, and there are a bunch of ways to achieve this! Here are the ways we encourage students to practice speaking, writing, reading and listening.
Ways to learn English – Writing
Teacher notes: Writing in English has useful daily applications such as constructing emails, writing reports, preparing speeches, interview questions, or presentations.
For learners, set them a goal to write every day, whether it’s 50 words or 500 words. Practising a little writing every day will improve written skills over time. Write about their day, something in the news or anything of interest! If using a phone or computer, check written skills with an app like Grammarly. Bring a piece of writing to class if comfortable doing so.
Summarize articles or books
Another way to practice written skills is to make a summary (a short description) of something. Use things like news articles, magazine stories, books, poems, or short stories, or even a TV show or film. By doing this, it makes sure they get the ‘gist’ (meaning) of the thing they have read or watched. They can then search online for a description to see if it matches their interpretation.
Re-write a text
To re-write a text is to write something again. A short news article would be best for this. Read it and write it in their own words. Re-writing makes sure they got the meaning of the material and challenges their writing skills.
Ways to learn English – Listening
Teacher notes: A large part of speaking and conversing in English is listening and understanding. Was that a joke? Was that a question? Only then do we know how to respond appropriately.
TV and Film/Videos
Watch native English-speaking TV shows, films, or videos online. Another useful resource is Ted Talks. They have short lectures which cover a variety of subjects. Suggest watching without subtitles. Then watch with subtitles and check they understood the language used. In class, students can discuss something they have watched with a tutor to practice speaking skills.
There is a big range of podcasts to listen to online. As there are no visuals, it forces the person to listen carefully to understand the content. Podcasts are also a good thing to discuss in class!
Listening tests are available online to practice listening skills under exam conditions. Perfect for IELTS students. You can find material on websites like Engoo and Cambridge Assessment (resources listed below). It’s also worth seeing what course materials your online school offers.
Ways to learn English – Reading
Teacher notes: An essential skill for those who read emails every day from international clients, deal with reports or instructions in English or university assignments. Even if you’re just using reading to understand subtitles on Netflix, it’s a vital part of language learning.
Reading news online or in a newspaper is a great way to expand vocabulary. People need to understand the story, so the language must be clear. There are resources specifically for English learners. Great news websites include the New York Times, Financial Times, The Economist, The Guardian, but there are hundreds to choose! Stories can quickly become a discussion point in class. We regularly use news articles for conversational lessons.
Books and short stories
Another great source of vocabulary is maybe quite obvious! Books in the English language. Great English learning tips for beginners are to read children’s novels and short stories. More advanced learners might find novels, both fiction and non-fiction, to be helpful.
Read many types of text
Don’t just stick to one kind of text for English words. Read books, articles, research papers, blogs, poems, etc. Reading will broaden vocabulary, and it shows how the same words work in different contexts. Learn new phrasal verbs, idioms, and expressions and think about how to use them in various situations.
Question what you read
After reading something, question it. Do this in a lesson with a tutor or write it down and examine it alone.
Questions might include:
What did this text make me feel?
What was the message or moral of the story?
Why was it written from this perspective?
Did I agree with the message?
Was the language hard to understand?
What was the tone of the text?
There are lots of questions to explore that for teachers are probably reminiscent of high-school English classes!
Read it again
Did your student fully understand the text? Practice scanning a document and then rereading it to practice gist and understanding.
Ways to learn English – Speaking
Teacher notes: To effectively communicate, students strive to sound more natural. They want to be more fluent! Online classes are a great start for conversational lessons, but there are other techniques learners can practice.
Word or phrase of the day
Every day have a new word or a phrase, write it down, check what it means, and use it in a few sentences that day. Students can talk to themselves or use it in a class. They can find new words and phrases from TV shows, books, newspapers, songs, or podcasts.
Re-tell a story
Choose any story from any language but try to re-tell this story in English. Again, students can bring this to class or try talking to themselves at home.
Use an online dictionary to check pronunciation. There are also YouTube videos with the correct way to pronounce words. A good dictionary is Macmillan and Merriam-Webster who have a little speaker symbol next to words. Press this to check the pronunciation. To learn speaking English without a teacher there can be difficult but this is a good way to do it alone at home.
For better speech flow, try these English learning tips.
Linking words together and using contractions:
I + am = I’m
you + are = you’re
she + will = she’ll
they + have = they’ve
do + not = don’t
Also, check stress and rhythm – the musical aspect of English.
There are materials online that also help with these skills. We’ve listed some below!
Try to study a TV show or film and start shadowing (copying) the speech. Use the subtitles and copy how the character or person speaks. Imitate the script. Watch out for pauses and copy the speech pattern.
Think and talk in English
Get students to talk in English at home. Read a book out loud or a piece of writing. It can be something simple, “Let’s go to the shops”. Getting them to think in English is more laborious. Some ways to do this are to keep a diary of thoughts in English. Students could also record themselves talking in English. This way, they can see what pronunciations they get wrong.
Classes and apps
Using online English courses provides the perfect opportunity to practice speaking to native English speakers. There are also language apps like Duolingo for online English. Another way is to join a language café in the local area. Meet people in real life, practise English speaking, and make friends. Check for these on social media sites like Facebook and ex-pat groups.
Free resources for English learners
A bunch of free resources covering everything mentioned above!
- Cambridge Assessment
- Engoo News and Materials
- BBC Sounds (UK podcasts)
- Online Dictionary
- Duolingo (app)
- Narrative Magazine – Free Short Stories
- British Council – LearnEnglish materials
- National Poetry Library (UK)
- Google Podcasts
- Apple Podcasts
- TedEd – from Ted Talks
- Freerice – New Vocabulary
- EF Standard English Test
Language learning is a difficult task, but so helpful in expanding our knowledge of the world. It makes us better communicators, more employable and it opens us up to other cultures. When students ask for tips and ways to practice, we hope this helps to outline simple, everyday tasks people can do. These tips will also work for any language! If you’re a teacher, why not try these to learn another language?