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What’s the best way of learning English? Part one.

This is the first part of a multipart series to answer the question: “What’s the best way of learning English?”

I’m quite often asked this question. There are really three “best” ways:

  1. Arranging to be born in an English-speaking country.
  2. Moving to in English-speaking country and integrating yourself into the culture.
  3. Finding an English-speaking wife or girlfriend.

Unfortunately, option one would entail waiting for a potential reincarnation, and this is a bit too long-term for most people.  Furthermore, most students don’t have the time or resources to integrate themselves into foreign cultures which generally rules out option three. Finally, people are generally unwilling to base their love-lives on linguistic competence so option three, while potentially quite effective, isn’t really that good either.

Very funny Bob. So what about something practical?

OK, so let’s rephrase the question to - “What’s the best way of learning English for people with limited time and resources who don’t want to go and live in a foreign country?”

This is a much better question but now we still need to refine it further. You need to ask questions like:

  • What is my real objective?
  • What do I really need to do with the language?
  • At what level of ability would I be reasonably satisfied?
  • How much time effort and money am I prepared to invest?

Possible objectives include, but are not limited to:

  • I want to pass a specific exam. I want to speak English well enough to travel to English-speaking countries.
  • I want to be able to attend conferences and understand what is being said.
  • I want to be able to read English fluently. I need to be able to write scientific papers.
  • I need to be able to speak English well enough to operate within my particular field.
  •  I just like languages, and so on.

Really you need to think about which mixture of the four primary skills – speaking, listening, reading and writing – is best for you, along with whether you want an academic qualification.

In the next post I will look at options available to students.