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10 Effective Tips for Learning English as a Second Language

I am a professional teacher, writer, researcher, and learner. I always try to learn because there is no age for learning.


If you’re an adult who wants to start learning English, there are some simple things you can do that will make your journey easier. Whether you’re living in the United States or any other English-speaking country, taking part in fun activities and practicing regularly will help you reach your goals faster. In this article, we’ll go over 10 tips that you can use to learn English as a second language.

1) Set Realistic Goals

Setting goals is important if you want to learn English, but it’s just as important to set realistic goals. Don’t say I’m going to learn X amount of words in X number of days. Instead, break your goal down into actionable items. How are you going to accomplish your goal? What steps will you take? What resources will you use? Keep your goals attainable and measure your progress along the way. Learning English takes time, so don’t rush yourself! Take things one step at a time and celebrate every success.

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2) Use Listening Material

It is important to get familiar with the English language before you start learning, so use listening material and pick up new words by listening to various accents. It is also necessary to understand their difference in pronunciation because when you hear some of those words repeatedly you tend to say them similarly. You can use videos or music of your choice because it will be easy for you to remember. It's essential not just to practice grammar structures, but also to understand and writing skills should be developed alongside your speaking skills.

3) Turn On English Subtitles

The importance of being able to understand spoken English cannot be overstated. At any given time, there are hundreds of thousands of jobs that require English proficiency. You’re going to need to be able to comprehend both written and spoken communication to succeed. Research has shown that our ability to learn second languages improves with age, so use your life experience and wisdom when learning English. This may mean studying at night instead of partying with friends (or maybe it means doing both?). Put your kids in an English-speaking school, or buy some English-language DVDs and watch them with subtitles on. The most important thing is to turn on English subtitles; you can still work on your accent while hearing correct grammar and pronunciation.

4) Watch TV Shows in English with Closed Captions

Watching TV shows with closed captions is an effective way to learn English. If you're new to watching videos in English, I recommend starting with TV shows. The best part? It's free! You can even choose between multiple languages and dialects like British, American, Canadian, or Australian accents. You can easily find many English-language TV shows by using your favorite search engine and putting in things like watching English movies online or watching British TV shows online. These searches will bring up websites that host movies or show links organized by episode name (Season 1 Episode 1). Click on an episode link to watch it with closed captions.

5) Set up a Vocabulary Booklet

Learning a second language is easiest when you already have an extensive vocabulary in your first language. Vocabulary plays an important role in forming a foundation of knowledge that is necessary to learn new words and communicate effectively. Keep track of all new words, including how they are spelled, their part of speech, and how they are used in sentences. For example, Use sneaks as it's part of speech. The word can be used as a verb: I need to sneak around because I don't want anyone to notice me. It can also be used as an adjective: That guy is sneaky. Alternatively, use synonyms or related words that describe actions or objects without having to memorize every single possible meaning for every single word.

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6) Practice Your Pronunciation Skills

Learning English is more than just memorizing vocabulary and grammar rules. The fastest way to become proficient in a second language is to get out there and speak it! If you’re studying English, try learning with others. Practice your pronunciation skills with someone who speaks your native language or find an ESL (English as a second language) meetup group in your area. Becoming comfortable in conversation will help you learn while also improving your communication skills overall.

7) Read Books in English

One of the best ways to learn any new language is through reading, and it’s an activity you can enjoy no matter what your level. Start with a fiction book in English and make sure you have a dictionary nearby. You can switch to textbooks and other non-fiction books once you’ve mastered some basic vocabulary. Make sure that all materials are written in clear, simple English (the kind of language you will be using) and that they are pitched at your level. Watch Movies in English: Movies are another great way to learn vocabulary without having to translate text into your native tongue. Take note of words that aren’t familiar so you can look them up later, but don’t worry about understanding everything perfectly right away.

8) Get Outside Help

Though it can be hard to admit when you need help, learning another language—especially at an advanced age—can require some outside assistance. Consider hiring a tutor or signing up for a class at your local community college. You’ll also want to surround yourself with English speakers and listen to or watch plenty of native-English media, like TV shows and podcasts. The more exposure you have to real English, in all its forms, the better off you’ll be.

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9) Join an Online Community or Classroom Program

Getting your questions answered is key to learning effectively, especially when you’re learning on your own. Joining an online community or classroom program can help answer those questions and keep you motivated. At Duolingo, we’ve found that people learn languages most effectively when they’re supported by their peers in a welcoming environment—which is why we built our free language-learning platform with peer-to-peer classes. While all of our instructors are native speakers and certified teachers, everyone learns with their friends (and random strangers) in Duolingo courses around the world. There’s no better way to get personalized feedback on your English or any other language.

10) Go Out And About In The Real World

The Internet is full of all kinds of resources that can help you learn how to speak, read, and write in another language. The real world is just as full—maybe even more so. Learning a new language is partly about finding places to use it. If you’re learning English, take some trips out into an area where people are using it. Make small talk with store clerks who don’t speak your native tongue. Strike up conversations with total strangers on planes and trains. Once you get out there and start using your new skills in real life, you might feel more motivated to keep practicing them in class or online (or both). Then again, maybe not—at least that’s what I tell myself every time I fly somewhere.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Ghulam Nabi Memon

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