6 Essentials Every English Learner Should Have

For decades, scholars dedicated to studying the way we learn languages looked for the ideal teaching technique to help students become multilingual. Eventually, all conclusions pointed in the same direction: The best approach is a versatile one, in which the student takes command of the learning process and becomes an active speaker – even if they make several mistakes per sentence.

Becoming bilingual is about getting immersed in another language, making it a part of your everyday life and learning to think in it. Once you no longer need to translate every word you use into your native language to really understand what you’re saying, you’ve made what might be the greatest leap in your learning process.

Immersion and taking an active role are the key to language learning because that’s how we learned our first language to begin with: By being exposed to it constantly, and forced to use it – even when we handled it poorly.

Books, movies, maybe even searching every new word you learn on Google Images – There is not a single technique to fully immerse yourself in your language of choice. Part of the adventure is about discovering what works for you and how to “hack” your brain so you can begin to think in your second language.

Learning English can be a great way to level-up your career, whether you want to work in tech, academia or professional translation services.

English is the most studied language in the world, those who’ve traveled internationally know it to be a lingua franca, and it’s essential to succeed in almost any industry.

In this post, we’ll take a look at six essentials every English learner needs to have an effective, fun and enriching learning process:

1 An Online Dictionary

Having a go-to online dictionary can be key to gaining autonomy in your usage of the language, helping you go beyond the vocabulary you learned taking English lessons (or using a language-learning app). If you’re writing a text, having a conversation online or commenting on a Youtube video, and you get stuck, or you don’t remember the “English equivalent” of the word you need to use, knowing where to look for answers is key.

Dictionary.com and Thesaurus.com are particularly comprehensive. Other websites, such as Linguee, can help you verify that you’re using a certain term in the right context.

2 A Great Language-Learning App

With our increasingly fast pace of life, few people have the time to sit down in a classroom for one or two hours, once or twice a week, listen to a lesson and then do homework. Language-learning apps can help us speed up our learning process, acquire language and become active students.

When you’re taking English lessons, it’s very easy to let shyness and fear of failure constrain you. So you don’t read aloud, rarely speak the language, and are just passively sitting there, taking notes and listening. Of course, language lessons can be truly beneficial, giving you some guidance in your learning process. But English proficiency won’t be given to you by someone else, you have to earn it by making mistakes, by exercising, by using the language your way.

By gamifying the learning experience, language-learning apps help you set clear goals, acquire vocabulary, and make the mistakes you need to make to take your English to the next level.

3 A Great Book

English learners have an advantage over those learning “rarer” languages. Especially if you live in Western Europe or The Americas, you’re dealing with the language in everyday life. From slogans to pop culture. The volume of English material, and the level of exposition to the language you can get in your home country, just by looking around, make learning English easier than learning a language you don’t see in your day to day life.

If you enjoy reading, look for English-only bookstores in your city, and visit them. Especially if you’re in the intermediate fluency range, reading can be a highly-enjoyable way to train. If you want to make reading a part of your language-learning process, but you still have a very limited understanding of the language, consider going for children’s books or for YA novels that use a very direct, plain prose style.

4 A Subscription to a Streaming Service

As mentioned above, English learners can be benefited from the incredible amount of American and British TV shows and movies we consume.

You’d be rewatching Game of Thrones anyway – Why not do it in with English subtitles?

“Hacking” your TV or movie watching experience to seize it as a learning opportunity can help you immerse in the language, get used to how real people use it to tell stories.

5 A Community

Whether online or offline, having a community of language learners you can share tips with, practice with, and feel supported by, can help you use the language in your everyday life, while keeping you persevering and motivated.

If you’re looking for online language-learning communities, check out Facebook groups, join a Subreddit or look for related Twitter hashtags. Offline learning communities can be found in classes, “language cafes” and book clubs. Look for this kind of offers in your city.

Maybe you’re not an extroverted person, or maybe you just don’t flourish when you’re in a group. If that’s the case, consider getting a conversation partner instead.

6 The Right Mindset

Learning a second language is a lifelong process. Be patient. You might be six months, two years or five years away from a fully-bilingual level of fluency, but don’t give up. Learn to enjoy the ride, learn from your mistakes and don’t’ set unrealistic goals.

As Benny Lewis wrote in Fluent in 3 Months: How Anyone at Any Age Can Learn to Speak Any Language from Anywhere in the World,

“[M]y English isn’t perfect. I hesitate when I’m nervous, I forget precisely the right word every now and again, and there are plenty of topics I am uncomfortable talking about. Applying higher standards to your target language than you would to your native language is overkill.”

Are you an English student? Have you used media and gamification to level up your language learning? What are your five language-learning essentials? Let us know in the comments below!

Written by Sean Hopwood for EnglishClub January 2020
Sean is a language polyglot that can speak 7 languages with varying levels of fluency. He is also the President of Day Translations, a global translation and interpreting services provider.

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