You are on this journey of learning a new language, specifically English. You are probably thinking how do I master the English language? When will I know if I have mastered the English Language?
- A person’s level of fluency is subjective to the use and needs of that language. For instance, some people need to be fluent to travel and interact with the locals.
- Some people need English for professional purposes and to focus on the technical side of the language.
- Some will require a level of fluency to practice their profession or study in an English-speaking country.
If you are reading this article on English-Masters, you are most likely at the intermediate to advanced stages of language acquisition or study. You are aware of how much time, effort and consistency is needed to learn a language.
According to CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference), the level C2 indicates proficiency or mastery. However, there are many factors that can influence the number of hours to achieve this level of mastery. These include: background, teaching methodology, resources, programme intensity, etc.
From beginner level you will need to accumulate 1000-1200 hours of guided teaching hours to achieve a C2 level.
Now you have a realistic viewpoint of the time and effort needed to reach your subjective level of fluency.
Based on your learning factors and the needs and use of the language; here are 10 useful tips to becoming fluent and to master learning the English language:
1. Know what your goal is and the reason for learning English
Knowing your goal is the first tip because of the time and effort needed to become fluent. This does not include the self-study or unguided hours you spend learning English. This seems daunting and time-consuming to learn and it requires a lot of motivation to be a dedicated language learner.
Thus, I would recommend writing down your goal or reason (some people may have several reasons to learn English). Put this goal where you will be reminded to remain dedicated to learning.
Write a SMART goal
What is a SMART goal you may ask?
Well, SMART is an acronym to help you remember the criteria for writing this type of goal:
Specific (Specific goals help with effective planning)
Measurable (Define what evidence will show you are making progress or need to re-evaluate)
Achievable (Your goal for fluency is attainable based on the hours needed for each level)
Realistic (Your goals should align with values and long-term objectives)
Time-based (Set a realistic time-frame or deadline for prioritization and motivation)
Now that you have written the reasons for learning English and have set a SMART goal to help you remain motivated. Let’s move onto the next tip to master the English language.
I am a firm believer that to obtain a goal successfully, planning is essential. An expression we use is: “Failing to plan, is planning to fail.”
3. Learn the core vocabulary words first
Core vocabulary words are small sets of simple words that make up 80% of words used in everyday communication. These core vocabulary words are used in all contexts, across all ages and in all parts of speech.
Learn core vocabulary words first. This will help you hold a conversation more easily, and build you confidence.
Increase your ability to move to the next level of fluency and do not waste time memorizing unnecessary vocabulary. Thus, making your progress visible and increasing your motivation, which then helps you remain dedicated to your language learning.
4. Practice makes Progress
By now, you are fully aware of the time and effort required to be proficient in English. It is so important to have a plan to help you to have a routine and to be consistent. Studies show that studying for shorter periods, such as 7 days a week is more effective than studying for longer periods, 2-3 times per week.
For example, if you plan to study 6 hours per week; instead of studying 2 hours on Monday, 2 hours on Wednesday, and 2 hours on Friday. The study suggests studying shorter periods every single day, thus to achieve your goal of 6 hours, you would need to study just over 50 minutes per day. This can then be done in ever shorter study times throughout the day, for instance, 20 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes in the afternoon every day.
5. Learn using multiple resources
In the previous tip, I mentioned a few tools and methods one can use to support their language learning in your self-study or unguided teaching time. Currently there are an overwhelming number of English resources on the internet. English-Masters recommends using a variety of these resources, to find the best tools, applications and methods that suit your specific learning style as well as your SMART goals.
Using a language text book is acceptable, however this method or tool teaches formal English. This does not sound natural to native speakers. Yes, formal English is necessary for specific settings and contexts, however informal or neutral English is more acceptable and will sound less strange to a native speaker.
The list of possible tools, methods and realia is extensive; however, this article will mention a few more common ones. These all help with intonation, pitch, comprehensive input, vocabulary, body language (videos) and so much more.
- YouTube: there are a huge selection of English videos, created by English teachers on this platform. Some videos focus on general English or Business English, specific topics, comprehensive input, or tips and tricks. The is an extremely helpful resource that will be specifically targeted to your needs in your self-study time.
- Watching series or films: there are a few streaming platforms to suit your needs, such as Amazon Prime or Netflix, to name a few. I usually watch the series or film with this application to help with subtitles, slowing down the rate of speech or using the vocabulary support.
- Listening to music: this is usually a very difficult skill, depending on the genre and style of music, however there is an application that helps with the listening, reading and writing component of using this type of method to study English.
- Podcasts: similar concept to YouTube, where there is an audio component created by English teachers. Some of these podcasts have the option of a transcript, others do not.
- Bilingual Reading: this is a method where you read a book of choice in English and you have a copy of the same book that is translated into your native language. The focus is to read the English book and have the translated copy as support when you are not sure of a phrase or vocabulary while reading.
Incorporate different tools or methods in your week of study to ensure you are able to work on various language skills and comprehension (reading, writing, listening, speaking).
6. Make Mistakes because it speeds up learning!
Mistakes are often the greatest teachers, as there is no better feeling than getting the phrase, sentence, vocabulary word or grammar mistake right after getting it wrong. Every mistake you make will accelerate your learning as you learn from it and then do it right the next time.
Why do children learn languages better than adults?
We also have the misconception that children are better at learning a language than adults. Children’s abilities to learn are described as absorbing information like a sponge. This may be true to an extent; however, we see it that children are more willing to make mistakes when communicating. They speak in their native language or in another language for the main purpose to communicate their needs and wants to another person. The objective is to only be understood and communicate for mere survival purposes.
Thus, when in class or practicing speaking or writing, think like a child would and communicate for the main purpose of being understood. Make mistakes! The key is to remember that we need to learn from these mistakes.
7. Speak with native speakers
We now know that making mistakes is crucial to learning a language and this is the reason we should not practice a language in isolation, but rather with a native speaker or a teacher in order to get feedback. Here at English-Masters, we offer individual and group classes with native English teachers with a neutral accent. Each class is personalized and customized to your learning needs and you are given the vocabulary, grammar and necessary materials to help prepare for each class. Here, you will receive feedback in real time and be given a lot of support and guidance.
There are other options to speak to native speakers, such as various application, such as, HelloTalk that connect you to other language learners. This is a language exchange method, whereby you teach the other person your native language and they exchange this with teaching you English. Another option is to speak to friends and family who speak English, or meet up with English expats in your city.
Speaking with native speakers while learning a language is important because it would be like trying to learn how to drive a car only with an instruction manual and never actually driving a car with a driving instructor. When you practice speaking with feedback it helps you to express your thoughts intuitively and naturally without needing to actively translate from your mother tongue into English before speaking.
8. Learn about English Culture
A language is more than vocabulary and grammar, it represents people and culture, in other words if you value the people and the various English cultures, you value the language. A great way to learn about the different English cultures is through films and TV shows and the internet is a wonderful resource. These will teach you new words and phrases used in those specific English-speaking countries and how the culture has defined the colloquial language. This you cannot get from a textbook and it opens a whole new world to explore when learning English.
9. Listen and listen and listen!
Comprehensive input is about listening. The more you listen the more you will learn. Not only will you improve your listening skills, but you will improve your ability to think in English, to intuitively correct your mistakes when it does not sound natural to yourself.
This is the best way to acquire a language the same way a child would learning their native language. As adult language learners, we tend to focus on the ‘study’ part of the language learning and forget that acquisition is the most natural and effortless method to speak in English, or any other language. Of course, the best approach to comprehensive input is to immerse yourself in the language; for some people this means they will live in an English- speaking country for a few months; for other people this means using all other applications and resources mentioned earlier, as often as they are able to.
10. Don’t give up!
This is the most crucial tip. Do not give up! Learning English is a massive challenge and takes vast amounts of time and effort to master it. However, leaning English is a valuable tool and will easily make up for the effort once you have mastered it. I often feel discouraged when I watch these polyglots on YouTube saying they learned a language in 3 months. I personally do not think they are motivational.
If you remain consistent and put in time and effort and enjoy the journey of learning English, valuing the culture and people and practicing as much as you can, you will find that mastering English can enrich your life and teach you new perspectives as well has help you achieve your goals.