How To Learn To Speak English Fast
''The English language is a work in progress. Have fun with it,'' once said a famous author.
And that's what you should do. There are many reasons why you should learn the language of Harry Potter, William Shakespeare and - almost - Jamie Carragher. For example, you can make your own contribution to it without much effort. Just come up with a word, such as 'emoji' or 'selfie', and if you are lucky enough Oxford Dictionary may declare it the word of the year.
Well, there are other reasons too. Mastering English can be your ticket to an international career. There is competition though. Apart from the 350 millions of native speakers there are many people who use English as a second language - around 65% of job seekers worldwide who are younger than 45 can use English professionally.
Do you wish to join them, quickly and effectively? Here's our valuable advice for you.
Brit or American?
The first thing you need to do is decide which version of the language you prefer to learn, the two main options being US (American) and UK (British) English. Yes, we know that Brits and Americans are supposed to speak the same language, but as George Bernard Shaw famously said, these are two nations separated by the same language. Differences in grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation and spelling are significant (for more info look here), so you need to peak which side of the pond (i.e. the Atlantic Ocean) you are standing on.
One factor to consider is your destination, if you already have one in mind. If you are planning to spend some time in Britain or one of its former colonies, such as India, it's better to learn British English. Brits can be picky about their language, although not as much as the French, and they have a good reason for that: they spoke it first, with a little help from their German cousins.
Unfortunately for Anglophiles, American English has been winning this world war of words, particularly in Europe and Asia. International Business English is essentially American English, so if you are looking for a job in the Middle East, continental Europe or East Asia you should go for Superman's rather than Sherlock Holmes' English. As for Canada and Australia, they are somewhere in between and have their own differences too. Complicated, hah?
Start with the basics
You probably have a basic understanding of English from school - you wouldn't be able to read this article otherwise! But you still feel you don't know much. You don't feel confident you can use it in real situations.
Relax. Learning English is like riding a bicycle for the first time. You may land on your ass a few times, but once you master the language you never lose it.
Start with the simple stuff, which is all that matters anyway. One of the main rules of accelerated learning is that in most languages, including English, not more than a few hundred words are used for everyday communication.
How do you learn these precious words? One option is buying a coursebook for beginners. They tend to give emphasis on grammar and syntax rules, which can be complicated, but they will also help you understand the basics. There are thousands of them around, but Interchange is a classic for American English. The same goes for pretty much all Cambridge University Press or British Council coursebooks for British English.
Do you prefer something more lively? There are various online language learning platforms that can help you improve your English. Perhaps the most famous one is Duolingo, a great option if you want to combine learning with gaming. Offering points to reward you for your learning progress, Duolingo makes English fun and therefore easier to learn. Apart from offering all kinds of listening, speaking and reading material, you can practise your speaking skills with a little help from advanced learners
Lingua.ly has a similar approach, helping you learn new words through audiovisual material customised to your interests. For something more business oriented try Babbel, which provides great Business English lessons on themes such as marketing, HR and PR, as well as a speech recognition app to help you work on your accent.
For something quicker but more basic, go for Anki , an app helping you learn the most widely used English words and phrases. Last but not least, Bliu Bliu offers a challenge-focused approach, inviting you to learn English within just a month and even compete with other learners. To do this you are supported by a 'host', a native speaker who helps you along the way and makes sure you don't lose your motivation. And all that requires just 10 minutes a day according to Bliu Bliu's website.
Find an English language buddy
Nothing will help more than a friend who is a native speaker if you want to learn the language as fast as possible. And if you think about it, it's a win-win situation, as you are probably teaching each other a foreign language.
In most big cities there are frequent language-related meet-ups where learners can meet like-minded people and practise their English skills. Perhaps the most famous platform for this type of learning opportunities is The Polyglot Club, but you can also try Meetup or the meet-up section on InterNations.
If you prefer a tech solution you can use one of the platforms connecting you with native English tutors who offer online classes - the best ones are Italki, Colingo and Verbling. For something cheaper and less formal, My Language Exchange and Interpals are the go-to platforms.
But our favourite one is by far Speaking Exchange by CNA English School, connecting young English learners in Brazil and other countries with old native speakers from the US.
A language buddy will help you practise your English language skills in real-life situations that you may have to deal with while working abroad. So try to find someone who has the same professional background or interests with you.
If you want to find a job abroad, you need to be able to use, or at least understand, 'slang': words commonly used in everyday life that academic textbooks don't ever mention. Like these ones for example:
Only a language buddy can teach you that 'sick' may actually mean 'extremely good' in London....
Get your accent right
Pronouncing words correctly is perhaps the most difficult part of learning English. Put the blame on the human body, which makes it difficult for us to produce some sounds after a certain age.
Take for example the words 'bitch' and 'beach'. They may sound the same to you, but they are pronounced differently.
Your language buddy can definitely help with this if she is a native speaker, but you need to work on it too.
The first step is listening. Find YouTube channels whose presenters have a clear diction and try to imitate the way they pronounce words. But bear in mind that accents can hugely vary, even within the same country. This for example, the so-called 'received pronunciation', is the version of British English you are probably familiar with, and it is very different from this (Liverpool accent, widely known as 'Scouse'), although they both have their charm.
One of the best ways to get used to the sound of English is listening to podcasts. Just twenty minutes a day will help you learn fast how to pronounce English words correctly. British Council podcasts are ideal for beginners, but for something more interesting you can go for podcasts from media outlets such as The Economist or CNN.
True, some words are more difficult to pronounce than others. If you are having trouble you can check online platforms such as Forvo to hear native speakers pronounce them. A great one is Rhinospike, where you can request to hear any word or phrase you like pronounced by a native speaker.
TV shows are ideal to teach yourself how to understand accents and speak clearly. For British English, try to the quiz show Would I Lie To You with comedians from practically all parts of Britain. American English is easier to learn via talk shows such as the The Tonight Show or Jimmy Kimmel Live. Twenty minutes a day and within a few months you will be talking like a proper Brit or American!
Get a job abroad
That's it. If you followed our advice, you should already have a good grasp of English. But can you use it in practice? Well, you will only find out if you live and work abroad.
You don't have to leave your home country forever though. Just take a 6-month internship overseas. When you will be back, you will have in your luggage uber-advanced English language skills that employers at home highly value. Plus, some great friends from all over the world.
If you are in the hospitality or food sector, you don't even have to wave goodbye to your current employer. Many hotel and restaurant chains, such as Intercontinental, offer to their employees the option to work in another branch overseas for a few months or years. Don't hesitate to take a lower position than your current one if it's in an English-speaking country. Three months there will be the equivalent of three years of intensive English language lessons.
Above all, don't be afraid to experiment, explore and exercise. Your native language is your very last comfort zone. Once you leave it behind, nothing will be able to stop you. English is after all a global language that everyone understands nowadays. You can master it easily too with a little effort. As the English say, ''the secret to getting ahead is getting started''.