For many students learning a language is not the most appealing of subjects. Boring grammar structures, repeated vocabulary lists or the fear of speaking are common concerns. The only way to get through a class is if it’s totally absorbing. As humans we are interested in stories and compelling material. Below are some guidelines to follow that can be helpful in your path to fluency.

Disclaimer; the below recommendations are meant as a general guide only. As individuals we learn differently as one approach might work well for some people and not for others. It is up to you to find which is the most effective learning structure for your personal needs.


  • Master the oxford 5000 list of the most frequently used words and verbs. 
  • Try to keep your language studies continuous to avoid long breaks or gaps of weeks or months. Even a 30 minute daily session before bed is very beneficial.
  • Reading is the magical gem so read English material everyday. It recycles vocabulary and exposes you to grammar. Newspapers, magazines, kindle and online articles. 
  • Listen to free resources especially multimedia on the internet. TV shows like “friends”, movies, podcasts, radio. Listen to that which interests you. Harry Potter, National Geographic, life documentaries etc.
  • Beginner students can start by constructing small sentences of five or six words. “Where is the bus station?” “I want to meet your family.” “How old is your brother?”   “Did you like the music festival?”
  • Write articles about topics you are interested in and have them reviewed by your tutor. Start small with 200 words and increase to 600 words. Use idioms, phrasal verbs, adjectives and adverbs. 
  • Create a weekly and monthly study plan and ruthlessly stick to it. Current students can ask for our free PDF which explains what you need to know at each level and how to structure your goals.
  • Mastering pronunciation can be helped by learning the 44 phoneme sounds.
  • Speak every day in English. Find an exchange language buddy. Usually free.

Find the strong reasons you need to learn English and write them down on paper. This motivation will keep you focused throughout the journey. Without this, most people will fail.  It’s a journey of time, perseverance, patience, sacrifice and commitment. Remember there is no short cut or “three months to fluency”. Take small steps each day and enjoy the journey. Never give up. Develop the right mindset. Relax, chill out and enjoy the studies. English is a necessity not an option. Here’s some situations;

  • English is the predominant language on the internet, the worlds largest resource.
  • It’s vital in today’s society for work, communication and travel.
  • A desire to work and live in an English speaking country.
  • A student that needs fluent English to get into a foreign University.
  • A mature student or pensioner that has retired in an English speaking country.
  • An employee that has been sent by their company to evening classes for business English.
  • A language lover.
  • A student that needs the language to work in their home country but in areas such as
    tourism, hotels or catering.
  • Someone experiencing a mixed relationship either in partnership or marriage.

Increased age is not a barrier to language acquisition. You can learn at any time in your life. There are however advantages and disadvantages for different age groups in how we absorb and retain information.

Most students will enroll in a language school or online classes and follow a traditional approach to study. Many feel comfortable with a set curriculum rather than attempt self study. But did you know most of your ability to learn a language to fluency will be because of external sources acquired from outside the classroom. Large group classes are not so good. Just look at all the people who studied a language at school and can’t communicate. Even with the best teachers, classes progress at the slowest student’s ability and therefore, everyone is trapped at that level. If you choose a group class then six people should be the maximum and three a better option. Online tutoring is becoming more effective especially as technology advances. Individual tutoring is the best effective approach, but it can be more expensive.

Some natural approach methods do not utilize speaking straight away. At Nautilus English however we do. Start conversing by forming simple short sentences. Engage and participate in conversation.  Speaking and communicating with others will be the highest priority to success. You will be much more committed and motivated because you are face to face, either by an online tutor or in every day situations. Find a language buddy online if you are not living in the country of your chosen language. You need to practice daily. Don’t worry how it sounds at first just talk. Everyone has to go through this beginning stage so just enjoy it. Use this together with your online classes and enrolled computer learning courses.

A major part of your studies (especially at the beginner stage) is listening. This will prepare you for conversation and the all-important vocabulary and sentence building. Listen to podcasts during down time. Whenever you are travelling on a train or bus, at night in bed, doing house chores. Podcasts and audio recordings are great.

Grammar is important but new studies show that we previously spent too much time on grammar classes and not enough on speaking, listening and reading. We constantly combine the grammar structure in our classes. Intense reading recycles grammar.

You need to learn word phrases and not focus on individual words. How many words do i need to acquire?   There are about 173,000 current words in the oxford dictionary. Good conversation we need around 2000 to 3000 words. Now the bigger gap, understanding a movie or reading a novel with 98% understanding is 8000 to 9000 words. That’s a big jump ! Educated natives know 20,000 to 40,000 + word lemmas. When we say words we are talking about (family words) or the dictionary root word or “lemmas”. It is possible to get to 3000 words your first year but remember the end goal is 9000 words. That’s three years or more!

Long Lists: Acquiring a large amount of vocabulary is of top priority and you need to make solid progress that can be measured as this keeps you moving. Memorizing long lists don’t work very well except for reference. If you have to study lists then do it with an audio and relax. Don’t force yourself to remember each word rather, allow the audio to play while looking at the written printout and just listen. Cognates: Study the words in English with Latin roots that are similar but with small differences. These are cognates and exist between many languages. Learn hundreds of words easily such as University / Universidad. Lexical Phrases: Build small sentences. Practice vocabulary using 3 to 6 word phrases or lexical phrases. Small word sentences are better than trying to learn individual vocabulary. Carry a pocket dictionary. This can be an application translator on your phone, a physical book or a small electronic device. Record unknown words and refer to them later that day. It makes a big difference.  Keep practicing in your mind “visualization techniques”. Imagine a scenario and build the words to accompany it. Say it aloud in a quiet place. There are people that know thousands of words but are still not conversational because they lack sentence construction and word associations. Deliberate learning techniques such as vocabulary flash / flip cards can be used.(bilingual word cards). Put stickers all over your house with translations. Research the work of linguist Paul Nation and watch some videos online. We will send you some links.

Participate in the conversation and enjoy communicating with others. You will be much more committed and motivated because you are face to face instead of playing with a computer program. Find a language partner / buddy online if you do not live in an English speaking country. You need to practice daily. For those students interested in developing an accent, the only way is to spend lots of time with native speakers and fine tune aspects of speech such as intonation, syllables and stress. Download a phonetic chart app on your smart phone or go to our free resources page. Listen careful to the pronunciation of native speakers. Practice and repeat. We can advise those of you interested on how to improve your accent.

Read magazines of subjects that fascinate you. Topics like travel, hobbies, cooking, politics, environment, architecture, art, dance, fashion or cars etc. Also pickup newspapers, read texts or articles that are of special interest. Remember that when approaching reading it has to be slightly above your current level or you will not be progressing. Unfortunately many graded reading material books available for language students are particularly stiff and boring in structure. They also stop at around a 3000 word vocabulary and we need to get to 9000 word vocabulary to be fluent. There are now methods to fill this space. Students that read 100-150 pages a week are much more advanced than students that don’t. Record the words you do not understand for later revision.  You can try novels and fiction books or real life material that is of interest to the individual or group such as starting a business or learning a craft. Harry Potter is a popular language learning book. Research the work of linguist Beniko Mason EdD.

Write things down you don’t understand and make notes in a physical notebook. Refer to them regularly, you will remember better. Compose sentences and change the meaning and structure each time. Write articles each week and have them reviewed by your tutor. Start small with 200 words and then build up to 600 words and more. We can send you a PDF on how to get started writing your first article.

Comedy and role play are very effective, so be creative in your learning experience. Any emotion related to words or sentences creates a better chance for long term memory and recall.  Record English songs or listen to music, bands. Write out the words, learn their meaning and pronounce them correctly.

Cut out pictures from magazines and make collages with the words attached. Any form of visual that be identified with a word or noun can be used. Put stickers throughout your home and daily environment with translations. Have regular analyzing classes with your tutor of paintings, photography or images. This is extremely effective in remembering new vocabulary.

T.V series are excellent for learning especially soap operas or sit coms like “friends” that continue week after week. Following a compelling story line is highly effective such as with any of the online streaming services. Programs like car shows (top gear), property shows, nature and wildlife programs or cooking shows. Podcasts and radio are good for picking up pronunciation and listening to accents and subjects on a variety of world subjects. Listen to podcasts during downtime. When you travel, at night in bed, doing household chores. Other resources are movies, documentaries or educational programs. If you like music then record songs or listen to music and bands in English. Write the words, learn their meaning and pronounce them correctly.

One hour a day is the minimum requirement, taken in one or two sessions. Learning a language is an ongoing, continuous process. If you take English classes for only 4/5 hours a week, you must have a daily self-study program to complete the missing days, even if it is an hour before bedtime. Studying with long gaps does not work. Build a weekly study schedule and stick to it. Study every day and don’t stop! Listen to podcasts during downtime or when you travel on a bus, at night in bed or doing household chores. Greatly reduce the time you spend on social media networks and convert that extra time to study methods that work. Get up an hour early to practice. Create a weekly and monthly study plan and stick to it relentlessly. We can send to current students a free PDF on how to structure and plan your current level.

There is a direct connection with your state of health and the ability to learn. If you have a health concern try and address it. Stress and illness is a memory blocker so delay your studies if necessary. You should at least feel relaxed and fairly positive, not tired, depressed or anxious. There will be days when you feel low and uninspired. It is a normal part of the process, don’t worry. Remember the goal. 

Making mistakes is everything in the learning process and you are going to say many silly things, just accept it as part of the path and laugh it off. Some cultures have a harder time with this than others. The fear of making mistakes and the illusion of embarrassment is an important issue that we discuss with new students.

The goal is repetition and, most importantly, to understand the meaning and pronunciation. One approach is to repeat the new word within 12 hours, the next day, the next week, in two weeks, in one month, in three months, in six months. The more times it is repeated, the more possibilities it has to be memorized. Change the structure of the sentence each time. Research continues into how many repetitions are needed for long term memory but it’s not so simple an answer as we remember by various methods including association, visualization and sensory (smells, visuals etc) for example. You could attempt to remember a word 30 times and still forget it as there is no association. Again creating small word phrases helps a lot.

Finally, study the polyglots. They claim not to be smarter than anyone else, just using different methods. One trait they all share is commitment and patience over a long time. They don’t give up and have efficient daily routines. Everyone learns differently so find out what works for you and fulfil it. Finally there is no magic button!  You must expose yourself to the native English language outside the classroom to reach fluency. “Teachers open the doors but you must enter by yourself”.

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