How to Learn English as a Second Language

So you need to learn English quickly, or get better at it than you already are. We’re betting this is because you have a career or educational opportunity that you just can’t pass up — but it requires more English fluency than you have right now.

It’s only natural if you’re freaking out a little. The amount you need to learn might feel overwhelming. But the English proficiency you need is within your reach. As language trainers who have helped hundreds of professionals learn English or improve their existing English skills, we want to help you get fluent faster. This article will help you make a plan to do just that.

What Does it Mean to be Fluent in English?

Well, it depends on whose standards you’re using. At Fluency Corp, we use the CEFR levels put in place by the Council of Europe in the 1980s and 1990s to describe the various levels of speaking a foreign language. As you explore your options for English language training, you might also hear people refer to the ACTFL proficiency guidelines.

CEFR describes the highest level of language fluency as “being able to understand practically everything heard or read.” If you achieve the top fluency level according to ACTFL, it means you can “use language skillfully, with accuracy, efficiency and effectiveness.”

Sounds good, right? The next thing you might be wondering is …

How Long Does it Take to Become Fluent in English?

Unfortunately, there’s not a one single answer to this question, either. How rapidly you master English depends on a lot of things. For example, what is your native language, and how similar is it to English? And how much English language training have you already had?

But, in general, to get from one language level to the next, it typically takes 250 hours or more. We get it. That’s a lot of hours — especially if you need to move up more than one level. And we know you need to strengthen your English fluency now. So what’s the solution?

How to Choose an English Language Tutor

First, we want you to shift your mindset when it comes to successfully learning English. Yes, your goal might be the highest level of English fluency. And, yes, that goal takes a long time to reach. But you can start making meaningful progress a whole lot sooner than that.

To make that progress, you have to make some very specific choices about how you approach your English language training.

First, if it’s important that you improve your English fluency quickly, it’s essential to invest in working with a language teacher instead of relying on language-learning apps. Now, don’t get us wrong. Apps can make a difference in helping you learn English faster. We’ll talk more about that a little later. But they’re simply not as effective as working with a language teacher.

The language tutor you choose to work with can also affect how quickly you learn English. You want to choose an instructor who will customize your English lessons according to your needs. At each lesson, you should learn something that you can immediately apply. When your classes are highly relevant, your growing English skills will make a real difference in your life long before you achieve total fluency.

Here’s one more thing to find out from any English language teacher you are considering: How much of the class time will you spend speaking English? The more time you spend talking in class, the faster you will learn English.

How to Improve Your English Skills Faster

Working with the right tutor is the #1 thing you can do to speed your path to English fluency. But there’s also a lot you can do outside of your classes to gain English proficiency even faster.

  • Now use those apps. Like we said earlier, language apps alone aren’t enough for learning English quickly. But they are a valuable supplement to English language classes. We recommend Pimsleur.
  • Watch English-language shows. Want to know a way that watching TV can actually be productive? Pick shows that help build your English skills. Choose a sitcom, reality show or another program with lots of dialogue in everyday, conversational English. Notice how the cast members sound when they speak, and be sure to note any phrases or sentences you don’t understand.
  • Listen to English-language podcasts. At Fluency Corp, we encourage our students who are studying English at CEFR Level B2 (upper intermediate) or higher to improve their skills by listening to English-language podcasts that tell compelling stories. You don’t constantly have to think about improving your English as you listen. Just enjoy the stories you’re hearing, and language learning will happen on its own. Some of our favorite podcasts for learning English are “Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me,” “Planet Money,” “Hidden Brain,” “Invisibilia,” “Code Switch” and “How I Built This with Guy Raz.
  • Read a fiction bestseller in English. Look for a novel that you’ll have fun reading and that contains lots of dialogue. Dialogue will help you improve your skills with everyday English conversation. You also want to read books with current English words, phrasal verbs, idioms and slang.
  • Have more conversations with native English speakers. This should get a lot easier as the world starts to open back up after Covid! If you’re back in the office, try engaging your English-speaking colleagues in conversation more often. Making small talk about your families, hobbies, etc., might seem like just chitchat. But the more of these conversations you have, the faster you will feel at ease speaking English.

You might have noticed a common theme in all of these strategies. First, the more time you spend actively engaging with English, the faster you are going to gain fluency — whether that means speaking English in class or watching English-language TV shows. Second, it will be easier to get up to speed with English if you focus on the vocabulary you need in your daily life. That’s why we encourage so many activities that have you reading, speaking and listening to English as it’s actually used by native speakers. That’s a lot more useful than drilling on random phrases in a textbook!

Learn English with Fluency Corp

At Fluency Corp, we’ve helped professionals in all fields improve their English skills so that they can accomplish the goals that are important to them. Most of our clients get results that others can notice after just 10 hours of instruction. Our highly tailored classes, taught by native English speakers, include lots of practical, conversational experience to help you learn English faster and apply what you’ve learned right away. Interested in hearing more about English language training with Fluency Corp? Contact us at [email protected] or (800) 401-3159.

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