Learning English as a second language can be difficult. But once you get the hang of it, it will be worth it.

If you speak English fluently, travelling will be more fun. You don’t have to wait for the latest best-selling book or Hollywood movie to be translated in your native language, and much more.

So how can you learn English effectively?  Here are 7 practical tips.

Two laughing women in conversation

Surround yourself with English-speaking friends to improve your speaking skills

1. Study phrases not words

When you study English, or any language for that matter, you shouldn’t learn individual words because memorising them makes no sense without context. Instead, you should study whole phrases. Memorising the meaning of words is much easier if you know what they mean and how they are used in a sentence.

cards with loose words on a wooden surface, including "green", "instrument", "silhouette" and more.

Words don’t make sense if you don’t learn them as part of proper sentences

1. Study phrases, not words

When you study English,  don’t learn individual words.  Memorising them makes no sense without context. Instead, study whole phrases.

Memorising the meaning of words is much easier if you know what they mean and how they are used in a sentence.

This is not just my opinion, though. The scientific term is ‘collocation‘ and many scientists agree that context helps to memorise words more quickly.


2. Learn by listening

Don’t rely just on reading textbooks to learn the English language. Textbooks are great for teaching you about grammar and vocabulary, but they can’t teach you how to have a conversation.

If you want to learn how to speak English, learn by listening and not by reading alone. There are different listening strategies you can use to understand what is being said.

When you listen more, you will pick up useful vocabulary (words and phrases) and grammar without even realising it! 


3. Get a placement test

Before you start learning English, it is important that you find out what your level of English is right now. By knowing your starting point, you can make a better learning plan.

For e.g. A comprehensive English program if your level is around Intermediate level or lower and a customised learning plan for Upper-Intermediate level and above. At our language school, we ask every student to take a placement test before joining one of our English courses.

Our placement test is free and open to everyone, whether or not you plan to take one of our courses. You can take a test here.

4. Prioritise quality over quantity

When it comes to learning any language, it’s all about quality over quantity. Instead of learning dozens of new words in a short time, you should focus on learning one word and repeating it dozens of time. This prevents you from suffering from information overload. In addition, this strategy allows you to place the meaning of words and phrases deeper into your brain. As a result, you won’t forget them easily.

man looking at circular diagram. Text next to the diagram: "Repetition is key to mastery"

4. Prioritise quality over quantity

Instead of trying to learn many new words in a short time,  learn one word and repeat it many times.

This way, you won’t suffer from information overload. This strategy also helps you to place the meaning of words and phrases deeper into your brain, so you won’t forget them easily.

5. Learn grammar with “point of view” stories

Do you fear learning grammar? Grammar is there to help you say and write correctly, but it can get complicated. Maybe you don’t even know the grammar of your mother tongue and still say things correctly.

You can build the same kind of intuition in English by listening to short stories told in various tenses. This will help you improve your English grammar automatically and more naturally. For example, if a story starts with “I don’t like banana but I want to eat one”, the other story should be “I didn’t like bananas but I wanted to eat one”.

6. Listen and answer, don’t listen and repeat

If you want to improve your English, don’t use the strategy used by many English textbooks, which is to “repeat after the speaker”.

Instead of mindlessly repeating words or phrases, answer questions asked. For example, if you’re listening to a podcast or video, pause it every 20 to 30 seconds and create a brief summary of what has been said. 

Why does this work well? Because it makes you engage more actively with the language. Your brains need to work harder to formulate an answer. And doing so, they get more exercise.


7. Don’t fuss over the small details

Yes, getting your pronunciation right is important. And so is improving your grammar, and learning new words and phrases.  Don’t pause learning and become disappointed because you think you couldn’t pronounce words well. You will soon master it through repetition as you continue with the learning. Learn one new word a day and you learn 365 new words in a year.

Find a way to keep improving a little day by day, whether it is through reading books, doing exercises with an english learning app or signing up for an online English class. Happy learning!


At English Express and other Crystal Learning language schools, we see language, first of all, as a tool.

Every small improvement makes a difference immediately. You may never be perfect, and that’s ok. Even native speakers make mistakes. But as you become more confident in your ability to communicate in English, you’ll see the benefits.

We strongly believe that confidence is built through doing. That’s why our teachers will always encourage you to take the next step. Speak out, and try to speak out faster.

Practice and application are more important. To improve your conversational skills in English, you need to “do more” and “understand less”. That’s why we focus on practical topics that you can apply at the office the next day.

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