How to Study English - 9 Steps to Follow
This is a mind map walk you through each step you need to follow for how to learn English. You can create a mind map like this effortlessly.
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How to Study English: 9 Steps to Follow
#1: Set a Goal
Your first step for how to learn English is to set a goal for yourself. Setting a goal serves two purposes. First, having a goal makes you more motivated because you have a concrete aim to work toward. It makes it easier to track your progress and decide how well your studying is going. Second, remembering your goal and the reason you started learning English in the first place will help keep you motivated when your English studying gets tough or boring.
Remember, there’s an important reason why you decided to study English! Some sample goals for learning English include: Reaching a certain score on the TOEFL, reaching a certain score on another exam that tests English language skills, being able to understand your favorite English show without subtitles, or being able to hold a conversation with an English speaking friend. There are many more goals you can pick, so choose one that’s important to you.
#2: Create a Study Schedule
Once you’ve set a goal, you need to figure out when you’re going to work on reaching it. A study schedule is the best way to do this.
With a study schedule, you’ll set aside time so you know when you should be studying, and you can set regular goals. It’s often helpful to set aside the same time regularly to study. This makes it easier to remember when to study and helps you plan the rest of your schedule around your English learning. Below is a week-long sample study schedule.
The more detailed your study schedule is, the more it’ll help you. Try to plan out exactly what you’ll be doing for each study session, like in the example above. Also, make sure you’re setting aside time to practice each of the four main English skills: reading, writing, listening, and speaking.
#3: Decide Which Tools You’ll Use
Your next step is to choose the tools you want to use to help you with how to study English. Below are six of the most common English-learning resources. For each one, we give an overview of what it is, as well as pros and cons. During your studying, you’ll likely use more than one tool, and you may end up using all six.
Individual tutoring is one of the fastest ways to learn a language. In my experience learning French, the week I spent studying with a French tutor taught me more than the month I’d spent trying to learn the language on my own. With one-on-one tutoring, you’ll meet with a tutor (either in-person or online), discuss what you want to learn and where you want to improve, then each session your tutor will have a lesson prepared that you’ll work through together.
The lessons can be tailored to focus on specific English skills you want to learn, or you can ask to study all parts of the language. Tutors can be expensive, but a good one will figure out exactly what you need to study, make lessons tailored to you, and motivate you to keep learning.
Effective way to learn English
Lessons are tailored to your needs
Can learn all the English skills this way
You need to find a time that fits both your schedules
Some people find one-on-one tutoring intimidating
Quality of tutors can vary, and you may need to try several before you find a good fit
In a language class, you’ll meet regularly with a teacher and a group of fellow students. Each class, the teacher will lead you through a lesson plan. The best classes are interactive, have small class sizes, and teach you a variety of skills. They can be a great way to practice your speaking skills, meet other people learning English, and keep yourself accountable with your English learning.
However, you tend not to learn as quickly in a class as you do from one-on-one tutoring, since the class often moves at the pace of the slowest student. There are many English classes available, and you can probably find one near you by Googling “English language class [your town]” or contacting a local university to see if they offer classes.
Cheaper than one-on-one tutoring
Good way to meet other English learners
Regular classes help keep you motivated
Can still be expensive
Need to find one near you and that fits your schedule
Usually not the fastest way to learn a language
Another option is an online program such as Rosetta Stone or Duolingo. These programs give you structure and lesson plans to follow, but they don’t have a teacher guiding them. This makes them cheaper and lets you study whenever you want, but their quality can vary widely. You can find other examples by Googling “online English learning program” or something similar.
Can study whenever you want
Cheaper than tutoring or in-person classes (some are even free)
Provide structure and pre-made lesson plans for you
Quality can vary widely
LIttle or no individualization
Some people are less motivated when they don’t have an actual teacher
A textbook can be a great way to help improve your English skills, and the best ones will teach you many different skills and make the learning interactive by having regular exercises and quizzes. Good textbooks will also include audio clips so you can practice listening and speaking skills as well. However, be careful not to rely too much on a textbook. Reading a textbook is one of the easiest ways to study, and it can be tempting to just sit on the couch and read a few pages rather than doing something more active like writing or speaking in English. A textbook can be a good resource, but make sure it’s not your only resource.
Great way to learn and review grammar rules
Can read it whenever and wherever you want
Usually include tests and quizzes so you can check your progress
More passive than interactive learning
Doesn’t provide much or any speaking practice
Can be boring, which can cause you to lose motivation
Listening to podcasts is a great way to strengthen your English listening skills and learn about a topic that you find interesting at the same time. Podcasts are audio recordings that are usually less than an hour in length.
There are many available, so you should be able to find some on a topic that interests you, whether that’s sports, celebrity news, science, and more. Some podcasts specifically for English learners include The English We Speak and Breaking News English. In order to make listening to podcasts more active, make a list of any words you don’t know while listening and look them up afterward.
Great way to practice listening skills
Usually can find a podcast on a topic that’s interesting to you
Can listen anywhere from your smartphone
Most are free
Passive, rather than active, studying
Primarily only good practice for listening skills
Flashcards are another good tool to add to your English resources list. You can either make your own flashcards by using index cards, or you can create a deck online. When making your flashcards, one option is to write the word or phrase in your native language on one side and its English translation on the other side.
You can also write the word in English on one side and its definition, part of speech, and a sample sentence on the other side. Flashcards are a great way to learn vocab. For other ways to learn new English words, check out our guide to learning English vocab (coming soon).
Best way to learn new vocab or short phrases
Free or very low-cost
Easy to practice in short sessions when you only have a little free time
Can’t be used to study more complicated phrases or grammar rules
#4: Try to Find Other English Learners
If you can, you should also try to find a study buddy who is also learning English. The best way to learn English is with someone else! First, a study partner can help motivate you and keep you accountable because they’ll also know if you’re sticking to your plan and making progress. Second, studying with other people makes it much easier to practice certain English skills like speaking and listening. You can certainly speak English to yourself, but you’ll learn how to speak English much faster if you have a conversation with someone else.
Third, even if their own English isn’t perfect, your study partner can still give you advice and feedback on how to improve your English and catch any mistakes you haven’t noticed. And, finally, studying with friends can make learning English more fun. Instead of sitting in your room with a textbook or in front of your computer, you can practice your English by getting a meal with your friends and speaking in English, watching an English movie and discussing it together, or many other activities. Learning English doesn’t have to be boring!
If you don’t know any other people who also want to learn how to speak English, there are lots of places to find someone online. Meetup.com is a site that allows people to create groups on topics that interest them. Many areas have a group for people looking to practice their English, and if there isn’t one by you, you can start your own. Italki and Verbalplanet are two other sites where you can connect with other language learners.
#5: Start Studying!
Once you have your study plan, goals, and the resources you’re going to use organized, it’s time to start learning English! Remember to keep referring back to your original goals, and don’t be afraid to make changes to your study schedule or the resources you’re using if you feel you aren’t making the progress you want to be. In the following steps, we give advice on how to keep your studying interesting and efficient.
#6: Don’t Be Afraid to Make Mistakes
One of the main things that holds English learners back from improving their language skills is the fear of making mistakes. When I first moved to France, when my language skills were still pretty weak, I was terrified to talk to people. I knew I’d make lots of mistakes and sound like an idiot. Many people learning a language have the same fears, but, if you want to make progress in English, it’s important to accept that you’ll make a lot of mistakes and also realize that making mistakes really isn’t a big deal.
You may find it less intimidating to practice with other English learners who are also probably making mistakes, or you can study with a native English speaker who is learning your language so you can both correct each other. Above all, it’s important to remember that making mistakes when learning a language is inevitable, and it’ll happen to everyone. Try to find the humor in it and laugh it off.
For example, I had a friend who was studying abroad in Central America while learning Spanish. One day, she tried to tell her host family that she was afraid of cockroaches (cucaracha), but she actually said she was afraid of spoons (cuchara). It took her weeks to realize why her host family always gave her cereal with a fork, but once she understood, she just laughed and made sure not to confuse those two words again.
#7: Incorporate English Learning Into Your Daily Life
Once you’ve gotten the hang of studying English, it’s important to start incorporating the language into your everyday life. You can do every lesson or practice session you put in your study schedule, but if that’s all you do, you won’t be making as much progress as you could be.
When learning any language, repetition and consistency are important. You want to be frequently thinking about and using English, even if it’s just for a few minutes or seconds at a time. Doing this regularly will ensure that the language stays in your head and makes using it feel more natural.
When I was learning French, I’d often try to practice the language during free time I had. If I was waiting for the bus, I’d read the signs nearby and see if I understood all the words. While waiting in line at the grocery store, I’d see how many foods I knew French names for. Little things like this don’t take a lot of effort, and they can really make a difference in how quickly you learn the language.
Here are other ways you can incorporate English into your daily life:
Write your grocery list in English
Put English subtitles on while you’re watching TV
Listen to music or a radio station that’s in English while you’re working
Keep an English diary and jot down notes about what you did that day
Write your social media posts in English as well as your native language
Download an English dictionary on your phone so you can easily look up any word you don’t know
Translate any posters or billboards you see nearby into English
Read the labels of products that are in English when you’re shopping
#8: Make It Fun
Many times, people think that learning English means spending hours stuck in your room with a grammar book or flipping through stacks and stacks of vocab cards. While not every second you spend studying English is going to be enjoyable, it can still be a fun experience overall!
The best way to study English is to make it fun and interesting for you. By making learning English fun, you’ll be more motivated to keep learning even when things get a bit boring or you’re frustrated at your lack of progress. The key to making English studying fun is to connect it to things you already like to do and interests you already have.
Love cars? Get some English-language car magazines and read through them. Into sports? See if you can find matches with English-speaking announcers and watch those on the television. Have a favorite book? Find an English translation of the book and use that as your reading practice. Talk about your favorite TV show in English with a friend, join an English-language online group for a hobby you love, learn the lyrics of your favorite English song, etc. There are lots of opportunities out there to make learning English something you’re excited to do.
#9: Assess Your Study Plan Regularly
As you continue learning English, you should pause periodically and think about how well your study plan is working. Are you making the progress you want? Does your study schedule fit the rest of your schedule? Do you still feel motivated to keep practicing?
Learning English is a long process, and you shouldn’t think that the study plan you came up with originally will work perfectly the entire process. About every month or so, stop and think about how well your study plan is working and where you can make improvements. Not making the progress you want with your speaking skills? Change the way you practice and maybe try some new resources. Keep missing your study sessions? Change the time you set aside for studying so it works better with your schedule. Losing motivation to keep learning? Try a new method or recruit a friend to help you keep studying.
By regularly updating your study plan, you’ll ensure you’re doing exactly what you need in order to reach your English goal.