How to Learn English — 6 Steps to Build a Successful English Study Plan

To enjoy learning a language, you need motivation, and also an individual study plan that you will stick to, says Ina Martsinkevich, an English trainer at EPAM. She explains how to create a plan for yourself below.

Ina Martsinkevich

— A good working knowledge of English can radically change your life, and I recommend a simple six-step approach that will help you create an individual learning plan and achieve success.

Step 1: Determine your current language level

— The first step is to identify where you are with your knowledge of English, and what needs to be improved. I recommend taking the test offered by Anywhere Club, and analyzing its results. Think about what was easy for you and what was difficult. Both the results and your analysis will be useful in the next steps.

You can also ask colleagues with a higher level of English to identify 1-2 areas that, in their opinion, you need to improve. Perhaps, for example, you need to make your English communication less straightforward.

Step 2: Set a specific learning goal with a realistic deadline

— Your goals will vary depending on your ambitions and desires. Improving your level of English will require more effort than, for example, mastering the techniques of writing effective letters. It is important to be realistic about how long it can take to get from point A to point B. According to Cambridge English, it takes about 200 hours of teacher-led learning to get from one level of the Common European Framework of Reference to another. The pace of progress also depends on how much time you are willing to devote to learning on a regular basis.

Step 3: Check out available English learning resources and try new methods

— If you feel that you are not yet ready to create an effective self-study plan, you can always enroll in an English course.

If you are determined to move on with your own program, however, I suggest that you familiarize yourself with the resources and strategies available to help with your study. For convenience, they are grouped by specific skills:

  • Speaking
  • Listening
  • Pronunciation
  • Vocabulary
  • Grammar
  • Writing

For better speaking:

  • Find a study buddy. Choose someone who is learning the same language as you, and has similar levels, goals, and interests. Together, you will support each other and practice speaking.
  • Listen to podcasts and “talk to” a podcast host. Find an English podcast about anything that is interesting to you and do the following:
  • Start listening to the podcast you’ve chosen, pause the audio after you’ve heard some interesting idea mentioned by the host.
  • React to the idea by commenting on whether you agree or disagree with the speaker. For example, you could say “I agree with the idea of… because…” or “I have mixed feelings about that point because…”
  • This way, you are involved in an imaginary conversation with the host. You can try these podcasts:

  • AllEarsEnglish - an American English podcast (B1+ and above)
  • BBC 6 Minute English (A2-B1)
    • Read and share. Read a short article in English on any topic that interests you and practice summarizing it to yourself. When an opportunity presents itself, you can share information from the articles you read with friends and colleagues. To begin, check out these business magazines and news platform:

  • Harvard Business Review (B1+ and above)
  • BBC Worklife (B1+ and above)
  • Voice of America News (A2-B1)
  • For better listening:

    • Dictations. Find a video on a topic that interests you with subtitles. Watch it without subtitles. Choose a short extract from video (1 minute). Listen to it several times and write a dictation. Compare your text with the transcript and analyze the result.
    • TubeQuizard. Choose a listening quiz on TubeQuizard and practice your listening skills by filling in the missing words and then checking with the answer key.
    • Lyrics Training. Go to lyricstraining.com or download the app. Choose a song, a level, a recording mode for entering missing words, or a choice of answer options, and fill in the gaps as you listen.

    For better pronunciation:

    • Shadowing. Select any audio/video character whose pronunciation you want to copy. Video subtitles are very helpful. Listen to each sentence at least three times, then repeat, imitating the pronunciation and intonation of the speaker.
    • Take a Self-Paced Pronunciation Course:

  • British English pronunciation
  • American English pronunciation
  • For better vocabulary:

    • Learn collocations. Learn chunks and collocations rather than single words. Ozdic is a great online collocations dictionary.
    • Hunting. When you are in a meeting, or watching interviews, TV shows, or movies, pay attention to interesting phrases and expressions so that you can apply them later.
    • Be a teacher. Learned a cool phrase? Tell a friend about it.
    • Have a review plan. Design flashcards with the new words (see an example here). Revise the cards right after you’ve written them. Revise for three more days.
    • Set a target. Establish a mandatory achievable mission for yourself – maybe something like: use at least one new phrase every day.

    For better grammar:

    • Optimize your English practice. If you give an incorrect answer for grammar tasks, determine what your mistake is each time.
    • Learn the theory. If you make some of your ‘favorite’ mistakes because you don’t know the rules, learn them.

  • Cambridge Dictionary Grammar (rules)
  • British Council Grammar (rules)
  • engVid (video lessons)
  • English with Jennifer (video lessons)
  • For better writing:

    • Write and improve. Try a tool developed by the University of Cambridge - Write & Improve designed to help every learner to improve their English writing.

      Step 4: Relax, don’t stress

      — Learning a foreign language is a big task, but it doesn't have to be a stressful one. You can start with 10 minutes of practice every day. A large goal becomes more achievable when broken down into smaller pieces.

      Step 5: Fit English into your daily life

      If you study English only once a month, or even once a week, it will take you a long time to improve your skills. You need to learn how to integrate English practice into your everyday life and schedule.

      Choose the same study time every day for 30 days and, by the end of the month, it will become a habit. Once you have the discipline to practice for at least 10 minutes every day, try increasing your study time to 30 minutes and then to 1 hour.

      Step 6: Take the time to review and adjust your study plan

      — Your plan may not work out as expected. Perhaps you chose a time period for studying when something constantly interferes. Or you used a method that did not bring the expected result. Or maybe your efforts to learn just seem boring to you. Take the time to reflect on your progress as you go, and make adjustments to your program as needed.

      Learning a foreign language can take a long time. If you feel that progress is slowing down, remember the wise words of Confucius: “It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.”

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