Knowing how to speak English has become a necessity for getting a job or even for watching a TV series. But there is a big difference between partially understanding the language and being fluent (for real). We have already posted a text explaining what speaking English fluently really means.
If you want to acquire fluency but you don’t know where to start, in this post we will present 8 steps to start learning English. How to choose a teaching method, course material, studying routine. A complete guide to help you get started.
To effectively start the process we need first to think about HOW we are going to learn the language. This is the choice of the teaching method. It will organize the activities in order to enable the student to achieve his goal: acquiring fluency in English.
At this moment, you should consider your level of discipline and your commitment to daily study.
Tip: thinking about learning a new language, a teaching method based on mnemonics and neurolinguistics provides fast and efficient results in the fluency acquisition process.
Mnemonics is the art or technique of developing or improving memory through different processes that happen in our day-by-day lives.
Neurolinguistics aims to study, understand and get to know all the brain structure involved with a human being’s distinguishing characteristic: the ability to communicate.
So, they complete one another and, this way, the learning process happens naturally and, most importantly, in a definitive manner.
To ensure learning, contact with the language must occur on a daily basis. You can only learn a language if you are in touch with it. This can be done wherever you live.
Many people believe it’s necessary to travel to English-speaking countries to effectively learn the language. But this is a myth. Not everybody who travels abroad learns English. Do you know why this happens? Because they aren’t in touch with the language.
This is a common fact for people who go on an exchange program to the USA, for example, but only interact with people from their home countries, who are also living there.
Therefore, being in your home country but maintaining daily contact with the English language, it’s possible to learn the language as effectively as those who study abroad.
But how can you do that?
We recommend 30 minutes of study per day, be it reading (or even writing) texts, training your pronunciation, or watching movies, series or videos. Besides that, you can join conversation groups.
It’s important to be immersed in English and to have contact with the language in all the ways: speaking, listening, writing and reading. Try including the English language to your little daily tasks, like social networks or your smartphone. Try to think in English what you usually think in your native language too.
After making a decision, it’s time to start studying English! But where do we start? When you start learning a new language it’s normal to feel a little lost, insecure about what sequence you should follow. “Should I start by studying grammar, like the verb to be, and then what? ”
There is a process of evolution of knowledge, and it starts with the use of the language. For example, when you introduce yourself to someone, you basically use the verb to be. For doing that, you don’t need to know all the English grammar.
That’s why an appropriate course pack is important: it will guide your study. “But what about the people who learn by themselves?” In fact, some people can find their way on their own, like those who learn by watching videos on YouTube for example.
However, there are different student profiles, and not everyone is able to learn by themselves, without having a previous basic knowledge. That’s why it’s important to follow a course pack designed by specialists in the language, which doesn’t usually happen for those who learn by themselves or on the internet, where there is a lot of content, but little guidance.
Studying more than sitting in front of a book and reading the whole thing. It involves discipline and a few effective techniques we will present below.
A very common practice among basic level students, which is not effective at all, is memorizing the content in order to reproduce it on a test. A few days later, they forget everything they “studied”. This means that they didn’t achieve any actual acquisition of knowledge.
For learning English, this practice doesn’t work. Fluency must be acquired in order to last forever, and should not be temporary. The flipped classroom (LINK), which is a common practice among American students, is very interesting for the English learning process – as it also involves the mnemonics and neurolinguistics previously mentioned.
The flipped classroom consists of studying the content at home before the class, and taking better advantage of the time with the instructor, who acts as a conversation mediator, answers questions and helps the students practice what they have learned.
Now, it’s important to know how the learning process actually happens. From the stimuli sent from the brain to the mouth or hands for the writing, we will present the most important techniques for studying English.
To understand the spoken language
This should be the first stage of the learning process, which is called auditory/neural training. Images and sounds are the elements that contribute with this part of the process. Besides that, repetition makes us perceive details that we didn’t notice or understand before.
In order to learn how to talk, you must first learn how to listen.
Listening without understanding is not enough. You need to create a basic knowledge, make your contact with English a daily activity. Get used to it.
A good and fun way to start is by watching films and series you already know. If you already know and like the story, it’s easier to watch a second or third time with subtitles in English, or even without subtitles.
The same tip works for books and music. Listen to songs you already know and like, and try to follow the lyrics. You’ll see that it will be easier to understand.
To practice the pronunciation
On this stage starts the phonetic training. This is what makes you use the language you have memorized.
Scientifically speaking: there is a part of the brain, the hypothalamus, which sends impulses to the mouth, to produce sounds. From this point, the motor coordination for the pronunciation of the new words you have listened to is stimulated.
And the right pronunciation will also depend on the practice. This is one more reason to be in touch with the English language on a daily basis. In addition, good pronunciation helps you not only to speak well, but also to understand those who already master the language.
To practice your writing skills
Writing is a mostly mechanical skill. For this reason, we need to have good coordination between brain and members, and that can only be achieved through constant practice.
It goes hand in hand with the Reading, so that we have appropriate references to express ourselves through text.
To practice grammar
It may seem weird, but learning grammar is not the most important part in the fluency acquisition process.
Keep in mind: to become fluent we must learn a new language the same way we learned our native language: speaking, writing and after this, composing what we call internal grammar.
Drawing conclusions is a natural communicational skill of human beings. Internal grammar is, basically, learned through conclusions we draw naturally; it’s not taught in a conventional way.
It seems hard, doesn’t it? But it’s actually really easy: internal grammar occurs mainly through repetition. By listening to other people talking, our brains reproduce what we heard, applying the same grammar rules.
So, you should first focus on learning the language, and only after that, on learning about the language. It’s important to have good references to guide you through the process.
It’s important to set a commitment with yourself and make time in your schedule (30 minutes a day are enough, remember?) to study English and keep daily contact with the language, which is an extremely important practice for your success, as we have mentioned before.
At this moment, try to maintain total focus on what you are doing.
Find a calm place without interruptions or external factors. Plan your studies in a calendar and follow it according to your goals for that day.
So, for your planning, keep in mind:
As we have mentioned before, we recommend at least 30 minutes of study a day. Making this time and dedicating it to learn English EVERYDAY may seem hard at first for those who don’t have a fixed routine or those who are very busy, but you should know that it is possible, it’s just a matter of planning.
For the study to be effective it must be a habit, but it cannot take all your time, in a way that it exhausts your mind. Thirty minutes a day is the ideal amount, especially considering that it’s a reasonable period that won’t compromise your other daily tasks.
Besides this time you will set for studying, we all have some free time during the day. Use it to read texts or listen to music in English.
The desire to learn a new language and each person’s personal goals are already a great motivating factor. However, other factors can help you to keep it up and not to give up along the way.
When you set appointments, like weekly English classes, your commitment with the learning process can be much bigger than when you study by yourself.
The same thing goes for physical activities. We may even start working out at home and do it a few times, but your commitment to the activity is much bigger when you go to a gym.
The interaction and contact with instructors and other students in the classroom will make you practice the language even more, by exchanging experiences during conversations. Not to mention the presence of an instructor, who is always ready to answer any question that you may have.
Let’s think about physical activities one more time. Assuming you like to run, if you have the support of a running group, your development may be much better.
Being able to notice our own development is something that motivates us in many areas. Be it when we start noticing changes in our bodies after a few weeks of physical exercises or when we are capable of facing challenges while learning something new. Looking back and seeing all the steps we have taken so far in our journey is something that always motivates us to keep going, to overcome the next obstacles.
So, how about establishing a timetable with milestones? With this, you can create a checklist defining what is important for you to learn, what you want to achieve, and check the items as you accomplish them.
Watching a movie without subtitles, learning the correct pronunciation of a word or sentence or doing the next activity in your course material can all be milestones.
Are you ready to start? With these tips in mind and focus to achieve your goals, you can be sure that the fluency in English is closer than you think!