E nglish is one of the most widespread languages in the world and is becoming increasingly more so with spread of English speaking culture. Learning a new language is a daunting task and English is definitely one of the more difficult languages to master as it is so different to any other in structure. Don’t let that dissuade you though – knowing how to learn English starts with knowing where to begin.
The most obvious starting point is to take classes. English lessons are easily accessible worldwide with the development of the TEFL program (Teach English as a Foreign Language). This allows native English speakers to become accredited teachers and most language schools will only employ teachers with a TEFL qualification. As the TEFL standard is very high and internationally recognised, you know you’ll be in capable hands so looking up your nearest language school is an excellent place to start. If you choose to progress with lessons, you can go on to sit your Oxford or Cambridge English exams that prove fluency and are essential for study or work in English speaking countries. The world over, particularly in Asia, more and more people are using this option because being able to speak English means more opportunities for education, employment and ultimately a higher standard of living.
Going to class can be a drag, especially if conversational English is what you’re more interested in. The best way to learn a language is to immerse yourself in it and luckily, this is very easy to do with English. Most books, movies, TV shows and a lot of popular songs are in English so get involved with listening/watching/reading as much as you can. As the developing world becomes more Americanised, popular culture and advertising in English is becoming more widespread and so a lot of people end up picking up words and phrases without even realising it. When you hear a non- English speaker in Colombia telling you to “have a break, have a Kit Kat”, you’ll know what I mean! By exposing yourself to the popular elements of a language, you’re more likely to pick up commonly used words and phrases, not to mention plenty of slang which is really useful to know when travelling.
If you have the opportunity, the most surefire way to get your English up to scratch is to move to an English speaking country or, at the very least, make some English speaking friends. When you are out of your language comfort zone, you have to learn quickly – it’s a sink or swim situation. At first, this may seem a bit drastic but bit by bit, you’ll pick up conversation until one day, you’ll find yourself understanding every word that is said!
English is seen as the “must learn” language in Europe and is the language people like tour operators, hostel receptionists and airport staff will learn in order to help communicate with foreigners. Learning can be as intense or relaxed as you want it to be and it could be as simple as downloading some Rosetta Stone or Micheal Thomas language podcasts to your iPod to keep you occupied on long bus journeys. English really is the international language and a few words are a must for any one planning to travel in English speaking and non-English speaking countries.