'English is just badly pronounced French.'

So said Georges Clémenceau, former Prime Minister of France. He may seem to be implying that learning English, or any foreign language, is easy. 

It is not. If it was easy — the grammar,  new words and phrases, dialects, reading and speaking, tenses — we'd all be multi-lingual.

In the current global climate, a second language can drastically assist us both personally and professionally.

English is considered an international language. If you decide to learn English, not only will it help develop your cognitive abilities, your ability to communicate with a wider range of people will improve. Speaking English is useful.

There are many ways to learn English, and not all of them require you to attend classes or lessons.

This article will cover lots of different, fun, and quick ways to help you improve your English.

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Improve Your English With Movies

You don't always need formal worksheets or books on grammar or vocabulary to improve your English.

Watching movies on TV or online will assist you with your listening skills.

Exactly how can you learn English online by watching movies?

What movies will help me learn English?
Dramatically improve your listening skills by watching English movies. (Source: peakpx)

Watching movies will broaden your English vocabulary and assist you to better understand and use English pronunciation.

Awareness of the different accents in English speaking countries is important, so choose carefully — the Australian accent can be tricky if you only ever listen to American English. However, the more frequently you listen to spoken English, the better your listening fluency will become.

Listen carefully to dialogue, then try to use those phrases and vocabulary in your own conversations with native speakers.

Remember to think about your level of English before you choose a movie:

  • Beginner level: choose a movie you've seen — focus on specific phrases and vocabulary
  • Intermediate level: choose something you aren't as familiar with, and watch it with the support of subtitles in your native language
  • Advanced level: try movies you haven't seen, and watch without subtitles to really test your understanding

In all cases, it is a good idea to watch a preview first so you can assess whether the level of English is right for you.

And remember — it's your choice. If you choose a movie you're not interested in, it's less likely to help you improve.

Concentrating for long periods to understand other languages can be tiring. Don't be afraid to take a break to re-energise.

Keep notes — interesting or funny expressions, new words you like — look over them and practise using them later.

Be brave and test yourself. Listen to conversations between pairs or small groups of English speakers every now and then. You won't understand everything, but you're sure to notice improvement.

Learning English by watching a TV series

A series you like on television can be another fantastic tool for learning conversational English.

Whether it's English for beginners or advanced speakers - a TV series can help you to learn.
Whether it's a Hollywood blockbuster or a long-running series - TV can be fantastic for English learning. (Source: pxhere)

While your aim is to eventually watch your chosen series in English, it's okay at first to use the subtitles in your native language. The reason for this is that you want to understand the plot of the series first, so you can later concentrate on the language more effectively.

Compared to movies, the shorter episodes in a series make it easier to practise your English comprehension on a daily basis. Thirty to sixty minutes of focused viewing and listening is optimal for learning English.

The difference between watching a TV series and a movie is similar to daily, one-on-one tutoring sessions and long, focused revision before your exam — both are effective strategies for English learning.

Equally as important as learning English grammar and vocabulary, watching a TV series set in an English speaking country will also provide you with cultural knowledge. This knowledge includes localised idioms, which vary between cultures and can be difficult to translate. For example, think about the common Australian expression, 'to have a crack' at something.

If you're using subtitles, you can work on matching what you hear with the words on the screen. Listening to English speakers on the TV series, while reading the translations can assist with vocabulary and grammar development, and your pronunciation. Of course, one-on-one tutorials are more effective, but informal practice such as this also plays a role.

Using dubbing rather than subtitling is common in some countries, however, if you want to learn how to speak English, a subtitled series is better.

Once you start learning English this way, and are familiar with your chosen TV series, you may even decide to watch it with English subtitles.

Increase Your Vocabulary in English

What are some ways of improving your English vocabulary?

Easy resources to help me learn English.
Create your own flashcards and word sheets to help learn vocabulary. (Source: LC Experts)

Flashcards are one quick and easy way to learn English vocabulary. Organise your flashcards however you like: by parts of speech, new words, important vocabulary — just make sure you have a variety of words, and store your flashcards where you can find them easily.

Be a definition detective — use a dictionary to look up meanings of new words and find out what they mean in different contexts.

The most effective way to learn English and continue to improve is to practise your speaking skills. Speak English every chance you get! It will reinforce new vocabulary and grammar, and helping your English become more fluent.

If you do face-to-face English lessons or learn English online, you will have an English speaking tutor or ESL teacher to talk to. If you are learning English independently, you might want to find a native English speaker to do a language exchange with, or apply to do a language homestay in an English speaking country.

Don't forget apps and other digital resources which are not only enjoyable but help you to learn and improve your English skills. Consider testing yourself with quizzes as well.

Whatever you do, don't give up. Language learning takes time and perseverance is the key to success.

If you find yourself becoming discouraged, take some time to think about the advantages of being multi-lingual. Remember your career goals and, if that doesn't motivate you, think about how many friends you'll be able to make around the world.

Be easy on yourself though. A small break can do wonders for your motivation.

If you find yourself becoming overwhelmed — stop, breathe and review your plan and longterm goals to make sure you're getting the most benefit from your second language learning efforts.

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Learn English Online and Check Your Progress

Whether you want to learn English online, or simply assess your English proficiency, all you need is a smartphone or any other device.

Evaluate your proficiency level online - whether you're doing English for beginners or advanced level English.
An online test can be a stress-free and quick way to gain information about your level of English. (Source: crewconnection)

There are plenty of sites offering English quizzes or tests — all you need to do is find one that suits your purposes.

For a bit of fun, look for game-based quizzes. Or, if you want something more serious which tests other English skills, such as reading and writing, you may wish to take the IELTS or TOEFL test.

When choosing a site, remember to consider the style of English you want to learn (formal or informal), your specific focus (grammar, vocabulary) and your level (beginner to advanced).

If you are unsure about your level, find a test to evaluate it for you.

Online Programs and Apps to Help Improve Your English

Options for learning a foreign language have come a long way with the advent of digital learning and you now have choices even if you don't have the money for formal classes.

Where can I learn English as a Second Language?
There are no barriers to where you can learn English. What about the beach? (Source: pxhere)

Learning English: Programmes and Apps Which are Free

Free English language teaching programmes allow for flexible learning, suit all ages and cater for your needs, whether they be comprehension, vocabulary and grammar, beginning a level or brushing up on speaking skills.

Your choices online are almost unlimited.

Alternatively, if you want something even more flexible, and portable, get a free app for your phone instead.

Apps are great if you want to prepare and practice before traveling to an English speaking country for business or pleasure. There's a huge range available on both iOS and Android.

Free apps are perfect for on-the-go English learning at your own pace.

Free smartphone apps include:

  • ABA English
  • Babbel
  • British Council apps
  • Duolingo
  • EWA
  • Memrise
  • Quizzlet

And many, many more.

Learning English through Podcasts

In addition to English lessons through an app, you can also use podcasts.

What are great podcasts for learning English?
Vary your learning - listen to a podcast instead of watching TV. (Source: Red Gruppen)

What are Podcasts?

A podcast is like listening to the radio. You can download these audio files onto your device for free and listen to them wherever, whenever, and as often as you wish.

You can subscribe to English language podcasts on a whole range of topics, from the Arts to politics, and from history to fictionalised serials.

Advantages of podcasts include:

  • Flexibility — you choose when to listen
  • Repetition — rewind if you don't understand, or listen again for extra practice
  • Building familiarity — the more you listen, the more your ear will pick up on accents and expressions
  • Freedom — listen wherever you are

Disadvantages of podcasts include:

  • Speaking rate of presenters is often fast
  • Different accents can be confusing
  • Require a good level of English to understand
  • Too many podcasts mean finding one that suits your learning needs could be hard

It's well worth giving it a go, though. Make a list and then download around five podcasts that interest you and are suited to your level.

There are thousands to choose from but if you have time to search, you may just find a gem.

How Do I Know Whether to Take the IELTS or TOEFL Exam?

The question is common among English as a Second Language (ESL) learners: TOEFL or IELTS? Which exam is better?

The answer really depends on which one will be more beneficial for the individual's learning needs and future study path.

Which one should I take then?

It's not a case of just picking one. If a learner wants to continue their education in another country, the answer to this question is important because in English speaking countries, universities rarely offer their regular courses in any languages other than English.

Moreover, to successfully gain entry to a university course in English speaking countries, potential students need proof of proficiency in all English skills.

There are some similarities. Both exams:

  • consist of four major sections that focus on active skills (speaking and listening) and passive skills (reading and writing)
  • comprise of true/false questions, multiple-choice, short answers and a longer written assignment

Differences between the two exams include:

  • format of the speaking section — one is recorded and analysed separately, the other involves a face-to-face interview
  • time to complete the exam — one allows four hours, the other allows two hours and forty-five minutes
  • method of completion — one is computer-based, the other involves writing by hand and face-to-face interaction.

The question of which exam is 'better' depends on your preferred exam and assessment style.

What are Your Personal Learning Objectives and How Can You Reach Them?

Goal-setting, and reaching your English language objectives, involves several steps.

The first of these steps is to evaluate your English language level, from beginner through to fluent.

One way of doing this is to ask yourself questions about what you can and can't do. Another is to consider your formal, school-level training in English

Once you've worked out your level, the remaining steps are clear.

Develop a study plan

What will you focus on each day? It doesn't matter as long as you stick to your plan, work consistently and use a range of resources.

Improve your memory

Practice makes perfect, and that includes practising exercises to aid your memory. A great memory equals faster English learning.

Find enjoyment in your English study

Enjoying what you are learning is conducive to progress. Regularly review your list of the ways learning English is going to benefit you.

Search for a method that suits you

Everyone learns differently, so we're lucky there are so many ways to learn English. Work out what you prefer: independent study by watching a movie, reading or listening to a podcast; private tutoring; or perhaps your preferred method is to learn English online?

No method will suit everyone, which is why it's important to discover the method that works for you. Often, this will involve a mix of methods — this way, you keep the learning fun and interactive.

Check your progress often

The best way to find out what to do next is to take an online test or sit an exam.

Book a trip overseas to an English speaking country

Being immersed in a new language is the best way to learn. Your pronunciation, comprehension and speaking skills will improve before you realise.

Where can I do a language exchange?
Living for a while in an English speaking country is the best way to develop fluency. (Source: Imgur)

Whether you apply for a school exchange or travel on your own, just do it. Go and visit another country.

If you immerse yourself in the English-speaking community, you'll improve your English in a matter of weeks. Get a job where you have to communicate, share an apartment with a native English speaker, go out and meet people. Speak English! Embrace the language and culture.

It doesn't matter where you go — try Australia, UK, Canada — there are so many options for adventure, learning, and fun.

But, if you're not ready to take that step, or can't afford it yet, private lessons may be the best option for you to start learning English in your own country.

Your ideal tutor is probably waiting on Superprof!

Whether You're at the English For Beginners Stage or Advanced, Try These Pronunciation Tips

Whether your English level allows you to:

  • say 3-4 random words in English,
  • function in English when on holiday, or
  • conduct professional business interactions

there will always be room to improve your pronunciation and your ability to speak like a native.

How can I sound like a native English speaker?
Check out Marion Cotillard in Batman! Can you speak English as well as her? (Source: Syfy)

As mentioned previously, the most effective way to learn English is to study or work and live in an English-speaking country.

If you want to study overseas, why not check out all the options that allow you to study in Australia? Alternatively, try the UK, USA, Canada or New Zealand.

If you don't want to study, think about applying for a job instead. Or, if you only have a short amount of time, a holiday in an English-speaking country is a great option.

Remember all the resources and tools you have access to if you want to improve your English: TV, radio, podcasts, movies, web-based programs ... or perhaps look for someone you can do a language exchange with on Skype!

Apply for a Working Holiday Visa in Your Chosen English Speaking Country

Working in an English language environment will certainly build your English skills.

Consider a working holiday — making sure you check the conditions, such as time limit and hours of work allowed.

Studying English in Australia, while working or travelling.
Improve your English while you work or study in Australia, and leave time for traveling. (Source: Students Explore Australia)

A working holiday visa allows young people (from around 18-30 years of age) work and travel in their chosen country for a specified period. There is often also an option to renew.

You can have the best of both worlds, income, and security like a permanent resident and the freedom to travel and explore.

Countries like Australia, New Zealand and Canada have agreements with a range of other countries to allow people to enter on working holiday visas. Other countries also offer great opportunities to practise your English.

The opportunity to speak English every day, while living in an English-speaking country, is too good to miss.

If you've always had a yearning to visit Australia, or to master that tricky Australian accent, a working holiday visa is the best way of immersing yourself in English and Australian culture.

Do You Want to Improve Your English Writing?

English for Beginners classes often focus on speaking. It's more fun and quicker to learn. However, becoming proficient in English requires writing and reading skills as well.

It can be daunting but with a few hints and tricks up your sleeve, you'll be on the way to improving your English writing as well.

Check out English language newspapers, available in hard copy or online. Look for The Australian, TheWeekly Times, the ABC News or any of the hundreds of regional newspapers.

Borrow novels or short stories from the library, or download them online.

Watch movies or TV shows in English. Keep a notebook where you list new words, interesting expressions or linking words — anything that will help you write well in English.

Invest in a quality dictionary.

Most importantly, embrace mistakes. If you are making mistakes, you are trying and this means you're learning.

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Kellie

Kellie is an editor, a children's writer, blogger and a teacher. Any remaining time she has is spent on a dragon boat.