How to learn English alone?
We live in a world full of resources, information and opportunities. These make learning English much easier and more accessible. Today, we are going to see together how to learn English alone! We’ll give you tips, helpful techniques, and the resources to make it possible!
Is it possible? My personal story
Is it really possible to learn English from home?
A foreign language is a tool that we use mainly to communicate . Of course, it would be very difficult to learn a language without ever using or speaking it. However, you can go very far in learning it on your own: you can reach an almost perfect level of comprehension (oral and written) in the comfort of your home. You can master the written language and you can achieve a very good level of oral production thanks to the Internet. You can also familiarize yourself with the history, geography and general culture of the country whose language you are learning.
I’ll start with my personal story: how did I learn two languages , English and Hindi, ( almost ) on my own?
It all started when I was 6 or 7 years old. I loved watching cartoons on Cartoon Network. However, at the time, all these cartoons were in English: I could not watch any of these programs in Bulgarian (my mother tongue). Even though I didn’t understand everything, little by little I started to grasp the general idea , I learned a few words and phrases but, above all, I acquired a general impression of the English language : its pronunciation , intonation, how it is used, etc.
Then finally I started studying English at school and in Bulgaria it is very intensive (I swear, at one point I had 20 English lessons a week!). I learned a lot of vocabulary , a lot of grammar , I started to be able to use English , understand everything I read or watched and say what I wanted.
Being able to speak a second language opened my eyes: the world is much bigger than our own country! There are so many things to discover, so many people to meet, so much food to taste, so much literature to read!… and knowing English allowed me to experience all that.
This aroused my interest in foreign languages, and I didn’t want to stop there: in high school we had to choose a second foreign language and my choice was Hindi. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as intensive or exhaustive as for English: I only learned basic words and phrases and that wasn’t enough for me! I wanted to understand Hindi songs, I wanted to read the classics in their original version and I wanted to communicate with Indian speakers! So I bought textbooks, did lots of grammar exercises, learned vocabulary every day…
It was difficult, frustrating and I felt like I was not progressing, but it was also inspiring, fun and I celebrated every little victory.
What helped me the most in my journey was my motivation : I have always been fascinated by foreign languages and the prospect of communicating with people from other countries and cultures, who have ideas, of life and states of mind totally different from mine. Speaking English and Hindi opened my mind: I don’t regret the time and energy I spent learning foreign languages!
I used everything I had at hand : books , manuals, videos, songs , movies , series , online chats , etc. I studied alone at home for hours and I never had enough : I wanted to become bilingual and speak English and Hindi fluently.
I think I reached a fairly high level in both languages, without even having visited a Hindi-speaking country and only spent a week in Scotland. (Still, Scottish English is almost a different language!) So I consider myself, as far as most of my knowledge of English and Hindi is concerned, to be self- taught .
I swear to you, if I succeeded, you can do it too !
How to start?
Goals and Mindset
It is extremely important to be realistic when setting goals, especially to learn English at home. Better to tell yourself that you are going to study 15 or 20 minutes a day, but be persistent and stick to it, than to set a goal of 2 hours a day, which is not reasonable. Plus, every time you miss those 2 hours, you’ll feel discouraged and more likely to quit.
Set SMART goals:
- S pecific : objectives that are well defined and clear.
- M easurable : clear and tangible objectives; you need to know clearly whether they are achieved or not
- A ction-oriented : your objectives must be useful to you once achieved; learn the vocabulary you will need , read books that interest you .
- R ealistic : you must be sure that you have enough resources and time to achieve your objectives.
- T ime-based : you must devote enough time to achieve your goal, but not too much or you will end up wasting your time.
Having SMART goals and a healthy mindset is as important as learning vocabulary or grammar. I recommend you read The Gift of Languages , if you are motivated, but do not know where to start or how to have a healthy mentality to learn English!
How long does it take to learn English? A lot !
Learning English is a time- consuming activity . All the “Learn English in 30 Days” methods are a lie, a waste of time and money. If you don’t think you have enough time to study English, read our tips for finding time to study English .
Having real goals, a healthy mindset and enough time is important, but the key to success is motivation. If you are not motivated, if you do not have a good reason to learn English, not only would it be extremely difficult to learn English in France, but it would be just as difficult in an English-speaking country !
Take the time to think about it: why do you want to learn English ? Is it a hobby? For your job? For traveling ? To read the classics in their original version? To enjoy English-language films and series without subtitles ? The reasons are endless! Whenever you get discouraged, remember your reasons for learning English to find motivation and inspiration!
Here are some reasons to learn English:
- The lingua franca .
- English has really become THE universal language in the world. No matter where you go, if you meet a foreigner, they will almost certainly speak to you in English automatically.
- Job opportunities .
- Your field of work does not matter: knowledge of English will always be an advantage for you. Almost all international companies use English as their internal communication language!
- The information .
- Did you know ? About 25% of websites are in English. It is the most popular language online, while only 2.8% of sites are in Hindi. This means that you will have access to almost 10 times more information once you have mastered English!
…and many more reasons, here: Why learn English! And you? Why do you want to learn English?
This is the basis for anyone who wants to learn English alone at home. Now let’s see some practical tips on how to learn…
The beginning: the pronunciation
It is imperative to become familiar with English pronunciation : the sooner the better. A very common mistake of Indian speakers is to apply Hindi phonetics and to use Hindi sounds when they speak English. Of course, that doesn’t work very well!
First, it will be difficult for English speakers to understand you if you don’t pronounce English correctly, and second, it will be difficult for you to understand English if you are unfamiliar with English sounds.
Each person has different problems with English pronunciation: maybe you stumble over sounds that don’t exist in Hindi, like /ɹ/ , /h/ and /θ/ for example? Unless it’s the tonic accent that’s the problem?
Whatever your difficulty, you will find the answer by reading our articles on English phonetics and pronunciation, which are the great speciality of this blog!
…or more precisely, to translate word for word!
One of the hardest things about learning a new language is the fact that you think differently , and English is no exception. We use different idiomatic expressions , the order of words is different, the use of grammatical tenses is different, even jokes that are funny in Hindi don’t always work in English!
If you mentally prepare yourself for the fact that there will be things (especially in the beginning!) that you won’t fully understand, but have to come to terms with, it will be easier for you!
Accept a new way of seeing things. Accept that, for example, in English-speaking countries , sometimes it “rains cats and dogs”…
Learning vocabulary requires a lot of energy and time. So be reasonable ! Don’t learn words you don’t use very often: it’s a waste of time! Think about it: do you often talk about animals? Do you talk about cows, horses or monkeys every day? ( Perhaps, if you work in a zoo or are a veterinarian? )
Or household items? I’m pretty sure you won’t be talking about toothbrushes or caps during your next trip to the United States! That’s why it’s up to you to choose the vocabulary you’re going to learn! Decide what will serve you in your daily life!
The Click & Speak™ method applies the law of 20-80 (also known as Pareto’s law ), which says that 20% of the words are used 80% of the time! You won’t waste time learning vocabulary you won’t need, but you’ll focus on authentic and useful vocabulary!
Do you know the parts of speech ? Do you know what a noun, adjective, verb, etc. is? ? If the answer is no, I advise you to educate yourself on the subject, as it will help you enormously in your learning of English (and any language). We are no longer children, we cannot learn like them, without rules and without grammar. If you approach English more analytically, you will understand it better.
Fortunately, English grammar is not too difficult. Nouns have no gender (as in Hindi), nor grammatical case (as in Russian). Adjectives are not matched with nouns, i.e. the word blue remains the same regardless of the noun it describes. ( While in Hindi, there are variations: blue, blue, blue, blue! )
The part of grammar that can be a challenge are the verbs . There are a number of tenses in English, some of which have no equivalent in Hindi, which can be confusing for learners.
Things like choosing the past tense or the present perfect , how to learn irregular verbs in English or the irregular verbs themselves are the main issues.
I advise you, first of all, to accept that English grammar is different from that of Hindi. This may seem very obvious to some, but not to all. It takes time to get used to a new way of expressing yourself: it will be difficult at first but super rewarding afterwards!
When learning a new English tense, read all the ways it can be used and look for examples! It’s good to know the theory, but it’s by seeing and using what you’ve learned that you’ll master the rules.
Knowing how to learn English on your own is knowing how to organize yourself. Thereby…
Knowing what to do in learning English is important, but knowing what NOT to do in your English learning can be even more beneficial!
How do you know how you are doing in your English learning? How to learn English well? Discover the 7 steps to learn English better !
Techniques and resources
We live in a time where you have access to anything you want, including native English speakers! You can enjoy the same content as them and expose yourself to the language to the maximum, to learn English in France, without leaving and without a teacher.
Here are some ways to practice English at home :
Movies and series
American films and British comedies are arguably the best in the world! I advise you not to watch the films in Hindi version, but to expose yourself to the original language. There are several reasons for this: you will get used to the pronunciation and intonation of native speakers, you will start to imitate them (perhaps unconsciously), you will practice your listening comprehension , you will work on your vocabulary and, of course, you will enjoy the original version of the films!
You can watch sitcoms in English! It’s much funnier than in Hindi because most of the jokes are not translatable.
When you choose to learn English with series and films in their original version, it can be difficult to understand. Then you can watch them with subtitles . Little by little, you will get used to oral English and you won’t need it anymore!
How to improve your oral comprehension alone? Here are some techniques you can use:
It is possible to go very far in your learning by singing and having fun ! English-speaking countries produce very good quality music. Learn the lyrics to your favorite songs and sing them out loud . This will help you improve your pronunciation tremendously!
If you are interested in this method, you can read how to learn English in song and where to work on English in song !
English, like Hindi, is not a phonetic language . That is to say that one cannot always know how to pronounce a word just by seeing it. This is why it is essential to hear new words or new sentences to learn them, especially when you learn alone, cut off from the natives.
A good way to get used to English pronunciation is to take English dictation or listen to audio recordings from online dictionaries like WordReference , for example.
Movies without subtitles
Of course, watching films in their original version would be the best way to practice your oral comprehension, but… it’s difficult! Especially at the beginning, we hardly understand anything. This is why it is recommended to watch these films with English subtitles ! It will be difficult too, but I swear, you will get used to it very quickly! Be patient and persistent and you will succeed!
The lack of Bulgarian subtitles for my favorite movies and series is the reason why I got used to spoken English. It was painful then, but now I don’t regret it at all – a blessing in disguise !
Read and listen at the same time
Spoken language is quite different from written language, that’s for sure. But what if you understand the written language well but have problems understanding the spoken language? For example, you can listen to an English audiobook while reading it . By doing this, you will get used to the way native speakers speak faster by seeing the words you hear: little by little, you will no longer need the written support!
Reading and written comprehension
How to massively enrich your vocabulary and improve your spelling in English? By reading a lot .
This can be novels and poems, but also recipes, short stories, articles, even… internet memes !
Whether you learn English in France or abroad, it makes no difference – reading is reading!
Maybe you would like to read more in English but don’t know where to find content? Luckily, we’ve taken care of that for you! Find out where to find books in English !
Oral and written production
I know, I know, you are reading this article because you want to learn English on your own ! But, is it really possible? Ultimately, language exists to communicate with others. You have to use it to progress!
Some great ways to practice written English can be to keep a diary , where you write in English every day, or to find an English pen pal . If you already have a fairly good level of English and want to practice conversation, you can do it without even leaving your city! You can speak English in Paris or have conversations on Skype, for example!
Talk to yourself!
…or think in English.
It may seem a little weird at first, but it will help you in the long run! Even if you don’t learn anything new, you will get used to using English : expressing your thoughts and forming your sentences faster. Maybe you think you don’t speak English well enough to do it, but if you think about it most of our thoughts are very basic : “You have to buy bread. », « I did not call my parents today. », « I wonder what my friend is doing… », etc. You don’t need a C2 level to do these sentences! And you can do it alone, at home or on the road.
By doing this, you will notice which words you miss and you can look them up in the dictionary. This method is great because it highlights the gaps in your knowledge , and shows you what you really need to speak English!
It is difficult to acquire a good level of English without speaking with someone, but you can go a long way by using the 1st method of phonetic English in the world: Click & Speak™ .
This method will train you to find your words, to memorize all the essential vocabulary with the correct pronunciation, and to assimilate the grammar in an intuitive way, all warm at home!
If you are still lost and don’t know how to approach learning English, I advise you to read The Gift of Languages : this book will help you understand how to learn a language , find out what works to learn a language and how to apply it in your personal case!
Obviously, it is impossible to cover everything on the subject in a single article. So feel free to share your own stories, resources, techniques and tips for learning English at home with us! Start your comments with “ I learned English on my own in… ”