Written by Steve Bannister
English is a fun language to learn but getting good at it can also feel a bit scary. With a vocabulary of over 750,000 words and spelling that can be tricky at times, mastering the English language can be daunting. You needn't worry though, just a few hundred words and learning the basics will get you by and as your confidence grows you'll soon get the hang of it. Give it time and you will soon be speaking the "Queens English"- or at least be able to make yourself understood!
Like all things in life though- if you really want to be good at speaking, reading and writing English as a foreign language you will need to put some serious effort in. It's an investment worth making, English is the world's most popular second language and is used in business in many parts of the world.
To help you on your learning journey we asked some teachers of English as a Second language what their tops tips are for learning English. Here are just a few of them:
Tip 1. Take Notes!
How often do you hear a new word or phrase, repeat it to yourself over and over and then forget it! It happens to the best of us. Get hold of a nice sturdy notebook and whenever you hear a new word of phrase write it down. Don't just write the word, use it in a sentence and record it's meaning. If you prefer you can use your smart phone or use a note taking app. It's a habit that will provide you with a handy reference for the future. The beauty of keeping notes is that you will be building your vocabulary and knowledge of expressions, phrases, idioms and other parts of English speech that are most relevant to your life.
Tip 2. Read, read and read some more.
It doesn't matter what you read. Books, comics, magazines, posters, adverts- the list is endless. Just make sure you take time every day to read, even if its just for a few minutes. Reading will help more than any other activity to build your vocabulary and to see how English words can be used in a a variety of different ways. Reading a novel is a great form of escapism too- you can be transported to magical and far away places and you don't even have to pack a bag! If you don't want to read a book at least next time you watch a film or programme make sure to put the English subtitles on, that way you can read along while hearing how the actors say the words.
Tip 3. Have a chat
Practice your English on real people. Get a group of your friends together and get everyone to speak in English. You'll learn from each other. A common problem is that lots of people can understand English when they hear or read it it but their spoken English is sometimes not as good. The solution? Talking in English! You needn't be embarrassed. Just try to remember that English is not your mother tongue. It's a whole new world you are entering and you can't expect to be expert right away. Give yourself time to learn and try to make it fun.
Tip 4. Take a Holiday
Yes you understood correctly. We are encouraging you to go on holiday! There's only one catch though and that is that you need to head off to an English speaking country. Being immersed in a culture where you have to speak to shop keepers, bartenders and just about everyone else in English is a good way of getting to grips with the language quickly. The British might have invented the English language but that doesn't mean you have to take your trip to England. Thankfully English has been exported to many countries around the world and let's face it, some of those other countries have better weather than England. Australia, New Zealand, USA, Kenya and South Africa are just a few examples- the list is a long one. As of 2019 a total of 55 sovereign states listed their official language as being English.
Tip 5. Practice makes Perfect
Have you seen the film the Karate Kid? Remember the "pick you jacket up" scene where the kid has to perform endless routines time and time again? Practice makes perfect, and if you want to excel at English you will need to put the work in. Get into the routine of studying and practicing every day. Learn three new words a day and over a year you will have added over a thousand words to your vocabulary. Remember that learning a second language isn't easy and that it will take an investment of your time.
Tip 6. Make it Fun
Learning a second language doesn't have to be dull. Take a break from your routine and watch a cartoon or your favourite sport in English. If learning vocabulary lists or idioms from an English language test book is getting a bit boring why not brush up on your English slang for a day? Make it fun, listen to music in English and enjoy yourself.
Tip 7. Take an English as a Foreign Language Course
Learning a second language doesn't have to be a lonely pursuit. Sign up to your local English language school, you will make new friends and can learn together. Not only that, your English teacher will push you and you'll learn English in a structured and logical way. It's a great way of preparing for an Anglia Exam too- especially if it means getting a job or into University.
Tip 8. Visit Chichester English Language School
Ok, so this is a bit of a shameless plug but then our parent company- Chichester College, is a really reputable learning centre. Chichester campus is beautiful, you'll meet students from all over the world, there's accommodation on site and it's rated by the UK government department for Education as "Ofsted Outstanding". That's a quality standard for education in the UK and under Ofsted's new inspection regime there are only two colleges in the UK rated at Ofsted's highest (called outstanding) level.
Tip 9. Be Clear About Why you are Learning English
Perhaps you want to work internationally in business or hospitality? Of go to a university in the UK? Whatever your reason for learning English as a foreign language make sure you know what it is. That way when you are feeling tired or demotivated you can remind yourself why you are doing it to help keep your motivational batteries fully charged.
Tip 10. Be like a tortoise- slow and steady
Have you heard the fable about the Hare (a big rabbit) and the Tortoise who were having a race? The Hare is so confident that he will win the race that he stops to have a sleep and while he is resting the the tortoise walks slowly past him and wins the race. Make sure you take the tortoise approach to learning English. Slow and steady does the trick. While we are on the theme of racing, learning in English is definitely more like a marathon than a sprint. It takes time so be steady and consistent. A steady 30 minutes every day will soon stack up.
If you have other handy hints for learning English as a second language why not head over to our community pages and share your ideas? We'd love to hear from you!
Anglia’s aim is to offer and test the English language step by step. It is unique that you can work at your own level. If you are good at English, you will have an extra challenge. If English is a challenge for you? Then you can work on building your confidence with the Anglia step by step system.