The best way to learn English for TOEFL students and others

Many think of learning English as a daunting task, but I like to think of it as a playful and pleasant challenge that carries learners into an exciting new paradigm, the metaphorical home of the linguistic superhero. First and foremost, learners tend to take the study of English too seriously, not that it is a topic to be regarded lightly; however, English is a barrel of laughs and a whole lot of fun if we all can laugh at our mistakes and rejoice in our own creations, much like Shakespeare did with his never-failing sense of humour. So that learners can cast off the doom and gloom that wreaks havoc around them, and so that they can feel free from fear, I would like to share useful tips that will take learners down the path of a superhero, like Odysseus, the star of epic Greek poetry. Thus, learners will not have to say “It’s Greek to me”, an English statement that means one does not understand.

Learning English is a mission and a vision, whether you be a teacher or a student because this language will enable you to reach outstanding, new heights while opening you up to a whole new literary, technological, culinary, and even scientific world. Your teachers are probably not teaching for the money as it is likely they appreciate the satisfaction that comes from empowering their students. For instance, English teaching enables researchers and surgeons to become successful in what they do. The teachers’ gifts return to them in unique ways other than monetary ways such as when they receive appreciation or they benefit from a new scientific discovery. For this reason and others, most teachers try to provide their students with techniques they can use in the future once their English courses for speakers of other languages have concluded.

With that in mind, let us explore the ways students can learn English on their own. Firstly, it is useful to have a private teacher who is ready to point out the areas which you should explore (your weaknesses, for example). A teacher who really cares will gently help you identify errors without making you feel bad. He or she should not be a teacher who reprimands the student, but rather, one who facilitates the student’s development, both intellectually and creatively. In other words, your teacher should liberate you from some errors while showing you a fantastic world of words in the literary context.

Native speakers of English have a best-kept secret, their love for literature of all genres from poetry to romance to science fiction and more. Their schools spend more time on the literary analysis of fictive literature than they do on the grammar itself. Therefore, this ongoing conversation that goes on in class regards the elements of English style, whether it be informal or formal style, conversational or written. Once a learner has learned a basic vocabulary of approximately 1500 words, he or she is ready to explore literature at a basic level until the student works up to a more advanced level.

Some politicians and educators declare that fiction is useless. Such a belief is narrow-minded because fiction not only expands vocabulary but it also enables English language learners to consider various viewpoints in a variety of settings whether they be in the fictive, old world of the past or in the future. Fiction enables learners to question the world around them while they develop notions that branch out into other domains like science and technology. Therefore, the first and foremost method for improving your knowledge of English is, without a doubt, though literary exploration.

In addition to learning English through fiction, students should regularly read non-fiction articles in the news and in academic journals. It is best to choose the length of the article based on one’s attention span so if you prefer a short article, you might opt for a 500-word article. As the student’s attention span increases, he or she can choose much longer and more detailed articles, even academic journals by researchers. The more subjects one reads, the more vocabulary specific to a variety of subjects she develops.

Learners today can benefit from “Ted Talks” which are easily found online. These 15 to 20-minute talks deal with a wide variety of academic topics, and they come with a transcript with notes that are easily downloaded. I recommend these lectures, given by both native and non-native speakers who are experts in their fields, to my students no matter what their proficiency levels might be. In the future, other similar sites with free lectures are likely to appear. Students might explore some of the free lessons offered online by various universities located in the United States, in England, and in other English-speaking countries.

Students would be negligent if they did not explore some movies that can be viewed in the English language. Amazon, Netflix, Tubi TV, You Tube, and similar sites offer films in various accents from various English-speaking countries. By seeing films and listening to them in their original language, students will improve their ability to comprehend the words coming from the mouths of others.

One should not forget that students need to develop their abilities to listen, to speak, to read, and to write. Speaking and writing are the productive skills while reading and listening are the comprehension skills. Some learners excel in the production of language while others excel in the comprehension of language. While students try to study on their own, they should do activities that deal with these four categories of language production and comprehension.

In order to develop their production skills, students are advised to write English-speaking pen pals and to go to events where they will meet other English speakers for conversation. It is also easy enough to converse with an English speaker through video chat online. There are people all over the world who are ready and willing to help students practice. In some cases, this assistance is free, but the professional teachers should charge a reasonable fee. Rather than to pay for expensive schools, it is sometimes wise to hire educated teachers (those with university credentials) who give private lessons. Alternatively, there are individuals with the TEFL and CELTA credentials who have learned how to teach English through a shorter period of studies; they are also effective instructors who are ready to teach both online and in face-to-face classes. No matter what choice one makes when choosing a school or a teacher, the individual learning style of the student must be taken into account. Therefore, it would be wise to ask your potential instructor what he or she knows about meeting the needs of learners.

Numerous books and online digital activities assist learners to better understand grammar. Some students prefer a book with the answers found at the end; whereas, others prefer the involvement of a live teacher who gives feedback when students do the grammar problems aloud. Grammar is still important, but students cannot and should not rely on grammar alone when English has so many idioms, phrasal verbs, and unique ways of personal expression.

Although teachers and schools are still important fonts of learning, students need to be proactive because students are ultimately responsible for their own learning. Teachers who act as facilitators (who facilitate learning by giving students tips about effective learning strategies) are important change agents who go above and beyond the call of duty for the sake of humanity and for better human relations. Learners must remember to seek out answers with an active mind that employs research.

Laura Gail Sweeney has been an English teacher for more than 23 years. She has taught English to people from Asia, Europe, the Middle East, South America, and North America. Dr Sweeney currently offers English teaching and life coaching via the Internet with the aim of assisting clients to become lifelong learners, peacemakers, and agents of change since she regards teaching, coaching, and creating to be her lifelong missions. For English coaching and mentoring, one is welcome to contact her at

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