How to Master the English Language
Before you learn HOW to master the English language, let’s understand WHY you want to master the English language. Why does perfect English grammar or strong vocabulary or advanced writing skills matter to you? Why do you think it is necessary to seek the services of an English language tutor?
According to the 2019 edition of Ethnologue, English is the most spoken language worldwide with 1.27 billion speakers. Out of these, only 370 million are native speakers i.e. those who speak English as their mother tongue. The remaining 898 million speakers are non-native speakers. Non-native adopters of the English language are 2.5 times more in number than all the native speakers put together!
Here’s what is even more mind boggling. According to the award-winning intercultural communication expert Marianna Pascal, only 4% of global conversations are driven by native speakers. The English language is not just a passport to the 59 countries where it’s the official language, it’s a passport to the world. It is the language of the internet and the leading language of the scientific and technical domain. Little wonder, even native English speakers often hire English language tutors to improve their skills.
You’re on the right course if you already have a private English tutor to put you on a fast track toward mastering the English language. Depending on your circumstances you may choose between an English home tutor or an online English tutor. In this article we aim to equip you with add-on strategies to achieve your goals in the shortest possible time.
Have the right attitude to learning a new language
You need to start motivated and remain motivated throughout the learning process if you want to master the English language. Success depends on attitude. Even before you reach out to an English language tutor, ask yourself the following questions. Do you have a reason for wanting to learn English? Is it compelling enough to keep you charged up? Are you excited about learning it?
You must be convinced about how learning English is going to impact your life because, trust me, it’s hard work. A good language tutor will collaborate with you and put a structure to your effort. But it is ultimately your attitude towards learning that will keep you prepared for the highs and lows of learning a new language. So give it a good think, and jot down your reasons.
Aim for progress, not perfection when you’re learning a new language. Don’t let the fear of making mistakes daunt you while you’re still learning. Feeling shy is natural but one must develop a healthy attitude towards mistakes and learn to laugh them off if one wants fast progress. A private English tutor is going to help develop confidence.
If you’re looking forward to the process and you feel ready for the hard work, there! you have the right attitude to get started.
Define your outcomes
Once you’ve decided to improve your English, you better get specific. Otherwise your investment of time, effort and money will likely go to waste. Let me give you my own example. I had a big challenge in front of me when I was about to enter the field of teaching which prompted me to look for an English tutor near me. You see, I didn’t trust my English grammar. The thought of facing a room full of judging pupils made me lose self-confidence. My goal was straight and simple. I needed to perfect my grammar and systematically fix the “bad habits” in my speech before the academic year started. With this in mind, I approached an English tutor near me.
A Korean friend of mine who was a graphic designer was struggling with proposal writing in English for his projects. I recommended a writing tutor for him having seen the benefits of language tutoring first hand. He found an excellent online English tutor who focused on vocabulary and business writing in their sessions. Within six months he could write complex proposals independently with the help of the writing tutor.
Ideally, a goal should also be measurable or assessable. “I want to speak fluent English” isn’t a goal that is easy to track the progress on because fluency can mean different things to different people. On the other hand, “I want to write business proposals independently” is an assessable goal. You should frame assessable goals and encourage your English tutor to test your skills regularly to see if you’re making progress.
A goal is different from strategy. “I want to read for 15 minutes every day before bedtime” is what I’d identify as strategy. A goal is a higher purpose or a desired outcome. It is very important that you define this outcome at the outset so that you select an English language tutor who’s the right fit for your goals.
Get an assessment done
If you’re reading this you are perhaps already self-aware that your English needs work. While that’s a good place to start, an independent review of your skills is recommended. In fact, it may be a good idea to include it in the selection process of the private English tutor. Share your goal with the tutor and ask for a proficiency assessment. It may match your own or throw up some interesting results that you didn’t expect. In my case, my English grammar wasn’t as bad as I’d imagined, but my vocabulary was poor. An assessment gives the English tutor a proper handle on what you need.
Use the results of your assessment to initiate a discussion on how your English language tutor plans to address the skill gaps. See what your tutor has to say about teaching methods and strategies. Assessments should be an integral part of your English language learning process. Have your progress reviewed by your tutor periodically. This will keep both of you mindful of your planned outcomes.
In addition to searching for English tutor near me, be sure to explore online English tutors because online tutoring offers safety, convenience and flexibility in the post-COVID era compared to having your English tutor home on a fixed schedule. Besides, you get to choose from a wide pool of tutors for every need and budget. The concept of assessment is well accepted by any online English tutor.
Read more about the 7 Reasons for Choosing Online Tutoring Services.
Listen > Read > Speak > Write framework for learning English fast
Once you have your English language tutor on board, your outcomes defined and you possess the right frame of mind, there are a variety of activities you can pursue on the side to accelerate the learning process and master the English language in record time. There are essentially four activities at the foundation of learning a new language – listening, reading, speaking and writing. Let’s examine these one by one.
Listening is the first and foremost activity to pursue when you’re on a mission to master the English language. Waste no opportunity to listen to spoken English. There are so many different listening resources, that a beginner in the English language can easily get overwhelmed. I’ve often observed traditional English tutors recommending the BBC news to their pupils. It’s a great resource but it doesn’t work for everyone because the level of English is also a factor to consider. New age online English tutors and international communication experts are well aware of this problem and have devised ways to incorporate listening sessions that are more conducive for learning.
- There are podcasts designed by reputed organizations specifically for English language beginners. British Council and Voice of America podcasts are two such resources. These even allow you to progress to more advanced levels.
- Watch English movies and TV shows with English subtitles – not subtitles in your native language! I’ve observed that romantic comedies and children’s movies are rich in content for everyday speech. Your English language tutor will definitely have some suggestions for you.
- Listen to English songs with the lyrics in front of you. Music is pleasing to the mind and beginners often pick up lyrics in slow songs quite rapidly.
- Stream English YouTube videos in the field of your interest. If you like cooking, then cooking videos by native English speaking hosts will help you get familiar with a variety of useful cooking terms. Beware, YouTube has user generated, non-curated content. Get your channels signed off by your online English tutor.
- Finally, surround yourself by native speakers. Listen carefully to their speech. It’ll be very different from the English spoken in your learning tools due to colloquialisms. Discuss these differences with your English language tutor. This will be the most important learning source to naturalize your spoken English.
Take it slow. Quality is better than quantity. Just 15 minutes of focused listening where you pause and repeat, note down unfamiliar words and practice pronunciation is far more effective compared to hours of garbled listening.
Your English language tutor will initially provide you with level appropriate material. But reading outside your syllabus exposes you to different contexts. Reading is a great way to improve your vocabulary and understand contextual usage of words and expressions in the English language.
- Read novels. Everybody likes a good story. It takes one good book to fall in love with the language. Children discover language through fairy tales and thrillers. If you can’t handle a 500-page book, pick up short stories. Stories mirror the culture behind the language. So if you’re trying to master British English try reading British authors.
- Pick up news, journals and magazines on topics that interest you. It could be fashion, science or celebrity tabloid news. If it’s a topic you like to talk about then you must definitely read about it.
- Read food labels, sign boards, billboards, bulletin boards – basically anything that has English written on it. If anything unfamiliar catches your eye, discuss it with your language tutor.
Speaking breaks ice. For an absolute beginner in English with little prior speaking experience, the best place to start practicing speech is with the English tutor. But most learners of the English language simply hesitate to start using new words and expressions in front of their friends and colleagues. There are ways to overcome hesitation.
- Test the new word in a sentence. In fact, you and your English language tutor should use the word in multiple sentences.
- English grammar is the most common hiccup for learners. An English grammar tutor can help you master aspects such as tenses – past, present and future tense. This should help you overcome some bit of the hesitation around speaking.
- Often, English pronunciation is counterintuitive. Hesitation stems from unfamiliar pronunciation. Say it the right way from the first time even if it sounds funny to you. Don’t develop wrong pronunciation habits.
- English is full of idioms and expressions that have a different meaning in usage. This is an area where progress is made steadily over time. You can discuss the usage of one idiom or expression every day with your language tutor.
Speaking should be made a habit right from the beginning. Repeat everything loudly in the comfort of your home before using them outside. Repeat full sentences in imaginary conversations. Do a little bit of this every day and it will add up to a lot in no time. Finally, lose the fear of making mistakes. It’s how you learn.
Writing is a very important skill to have and often the core outcome of your English language tutoring. You’ll be tested and judged for your writing proficiency in English if you’re a student or a professional. Good writing is a function of vocabulary, grammar, punctuation, style, and content. Much of your writing lessons will come from your English language writing tutor who plays a critical role in building this skill. Here are things you can do to supplement tutoring.
- Make writing practice fun for yourself. If you like cooking, try noting down a new recipe along with cooking instructions in English and ask your online English tutor to evaluate your translation.
- Start writing long emails to friends and family in English, provided they understand English. If they’re not private letters, share them with your English writing tutor.
- Maintain a journal. In fact, school kids trying to learn a new language must be encouraged to write a few lines about the day. This is one of the best ways to learn English and ramp it up for everyday functional use.
It is alright to ask your English language writing tutor for feedback on your various important writing projects particularly in the beginning. As you gain confidence you can be more independent.
Follow a simple agenda to master the English language fast
When you’re excited about learning the English Language, you’ll be tempted to try everything out there. Learning a new language needs not only hard work but also consistency and long-term commitment. It doesn’t help to crowd your day with activities and burn yourself out. Prepare an agenda that you can follow through day after day.
Here’s a sample agenda to illustrate the point:
- 20 minute podcast during your ride to work for listening practice
- 10 minute video watching during your lunch break
- 5 minutes for word/idiom of the day along with evening tea
- 10 minutes for journal entry before you wind down
- 15 minutes of reading aloud at bedtime
All of these put together take under 1 hour a day which is reasonable.
First, discuss your options with your English language tutor. Then, make a plan to incorporate them into your daily routine. Whatever you choose to do, be systematic about it. As long as your strategy is sustainable you’ll achieve success and master the English language.
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