The Ultimate Guide To Learning English And Improving Your Speaking Skills
How many people do you know that currently study English as a Second Language? Probably quite a few. Right?
But how many of those people actually speak English fluently, proficiently, and naturally? Probably not so many. Right?
Over the past 20 years here in Brazil, I’ve worked with hundreds of ESL students and met thousands more who are trying to learn English as Second Language.
And just like you’ve probably noticed, a lot of people study, but not so many can speak English at the level they desire.
Most English students I see are running around, looking for a revolutionary, new method or magical secret to suddenly start speaking English fluently.
They follow the latest trends and do what their friends are doing. The same friends who don’t speak English either. Or they buy whatever new course or book a marketing campaign draws their attention to (that may or may not work).
But what if you didn’t have to sign up for a new English course or buy a new ESL book make massive improvements in your English speaking?
What if you could take advantage of the material you already own and have at your disposal?
What if you could use free internet resources that exist and are readily available all around you?
And if you wanted to buy new material, you could, but this time actually put it to good use instead of letting it sit on your shelf collecting dust…
So, let’s talk about how you can learn English and improve your speaking skills, or in other words, talk about…
“Learning Hacks For The Serious ESL Student To Master Fluency in The English Language”
Because unlike the claims touted by slick marketing techniques and smooth-talking salespeople, the ugly truth is that there are no magical methods or revolutionary, new secrets to learn a new language.
Sure, there are a few hacks that language mavens use to learn second, third, or fourth languages and become polyglots.
And these are people you should be watching and following to learn a new language and improve your English skills.
Because honestly, let’s be real. You and I both know the truth.
Just doing what the mass majority of your friends do isn’t going to cut it for you. Most ESL students just follow the crowd.
Jumping from one school to another, hoping that somebody somewhere will wave a magic wand that makes you suddenly start speaking perfect English.
But the reality is that you don’t need a special skill or talent to learn a new language.
Because you already learned to speak your mother tongue fluently when you were just a child. And you didn’t know any language learning secrets or use a special method.
Because there are only…
3 things you truly need to learn a new language and improve your English speaking skills
The good news is that you already have everything you need to learn to speak English or any other language you want to. All it takes are 3 simple components.
1) Talent – which we just established you already have. If you speak your mother tongue, you have all the talent you need to learn a new language like English.
2) Study Time – you need a systematic way to learn new words and expressions to increase your vocabulary, master grammar structure your thoughts, and reduce your accent so that you can improve your pronunciation enough that others can understand you.
3) Contact with Real People to Practice – Yes, you have to practice what you are learning. Just studying isn’t enough. It’s like saying you read a book about karate and now consider yourself a fifth-degree black belt.
And to practice what you are learning in English, you need real people to practice your speaking with.
Contact with the language and consistent feedback from others so that you learn to communicate and express yourself clearly and effectively.
But having worked with thousands of English students over the past 20 years, I understand your need to make it easy to apply these principles.
So, let’s talk about the way real mavens learn to speak so many different languages, while most students struggle for years without ever feeling they are confident or fluent enough.
And just for the fun of it, we’ll pretend that we are revealing a revolutionary new secret here, and we’ll call it the…
Maven English Learning Formula
And we’ll base it off the Universal Laws of Success that I learned many years ago from a genius polyglot acquaintance of mine that looks something like this.
It’s easiest to show you as a mathematical formula and then break down each part to help explain what each section means. The ‘formula’ looks something like this…
10% + 90% = 100%
Which by simplifying the process, basically means that if you do 2 simple things, you’ll achieve whatever it is that you want. Like learning English or anything else you want in life.
Unless you give up of course (which is why most students don’t learn). But as long as you stay focused on your objective, you will reach your goal.
So, how do we translate this formula for English students?
10% = Your English Learning Planning Process
90% = Your Daily English Praxis
100% = Your English Speaking Fluency and Proficiency
Which we can then simplify into this little expression:
Planning + Praixs = Fluency
Obviously, like learning anything as complex as speaking a new language, it’s not that simple. But still, it helps you as a student break down the learning process into easy, manageable, bite-sized chunks that you can handle.
So, let’s start off talking about the first part of the English Learning Formula, which is…
How To Create A Powerful English Learning Plan
Learning to speak English fluently and proficiently the way most English students dream of is a huge goal that will take a long-term effort.
Which is completely achievable because thousands of others before you have successfully learned to speak a new language.
But the problem comes when advertisers and marketers promise that you can become fluent in as little as 8 weeks while studying as little as 15 minutes per day. (And yes, I’ve seen ads on Instagram making this very promise just this past week).
Some promise you fluency in 12 months. Others promise that they will have you speaking fluently in 200 hours.
And while most advertisers don’t actually define what they mean by fluency, it most assuredly isn’t what students have in mind when they imagine themselves speaking fluent English.
How Fast Can You Learn English?
Sure, a student can learn a lot in that time frame, but you definitely are not going to start from zero and reach native fluency at Level 5 or C1 by international standards.
So, then what happens is that students study their 8 weeks, 12 months, or 200 hours, but still can’t speak or express themselves correctly.
Which in the long run, only serves to frustrate students who think the problem lies with them.
The student begins to think that they are stupid and will never learn to speak English, when, in fact, it’s not your fault.
While studying 200 hours may be enough time to reach a new level of fluency like A2 (High Beginner) to B1 (Low Intermediate) for example, you still won’t be speaking at level C2 (advanced native abilities).
So, before you really dig in and create a realistic English learning plan, it’s essential to take the time to choose a method of measuring fluency and define how fluent you want to become.
What Is Your English Learning Goal?
There are various standards for defining what fluency means to you. This could be as simple as using your own simple scale where you label how good you want to be on a level of one to ten.
Or you can choose one of the various international standards that exist on the market. My personal preference is the CEFR (Common European Framework Reference).
But there are many other good ones out there that may be more readily accessible depending on where you live.
Just remember though, that once you choose one, it’s best to stick with that standard until you reach your goal. So, make sure that you’ll have plenty of opportunities to test yourself as frequently as needed.
Don’t worry, because I’ll talk more about this later in a longer more thorough post to explain this better.
For now though, it’s just important to understand that you need to define what fluency means to you so that you can measure and track your progress toward it. And most importantly know when you have reached it.
3 Important Steps To Create Your Perfect English Learning Plan
Once you’ve defined what fluency means to you, it’s time to figure out what you need to do to reach it and achieve your dream of finally learning to speak ‘fluent’ English.
Let’s break them down into 3 manageable, bite-sized chunks that will help you eat the elephant:
1) Take a level test to find out your current level of fluency
2) Establish your short, mid, and long-term English goals
3) Create a plan to reach those goals
See, what once seemed really complicated now starts to feel achievable. And if you do it correctly, it means that you should hit your goals. Right?
Well, theoretically, yes. But practically speaking, it’s much easier said than done. Because most English students give up on their goals long before achieving fluency.
What It Really Takes To Become a Fluent English Speaker And Why ESL Students Give Up
There a variety of factors for why that is which we’ll cover later. But just to simplify things here, it happens for the same reason that almost everybody wants to wake up tomorrow with a…
* A million dollars in their bank account
* Ten pounds lighter than they weight today
* And feeling like a world-class champion
Now, the truth is that anybody can do these things. Anybody can work hard to make and invest money to become a millionaire.
Anybody can eat less and exercise more to lose weight. They just have to diet and exercise. Maybe even to a gym.
Anybody can learn and practice a skill to become world-class. They just need a little training and coaching. And they have to practice.
Every. Single. Day.
Learning a new language takes dedication and discipline.
And just because you have a plan doesn’t mean you are going to achieve your goal. It’s easy to sit down and create a plan.
But it takes a lot more effort to sit down and execute that plan consistently day-in and day-out.
And let’s be honest, most of us lose focus pretty quickly on anything we set out to do, not just learning English.
So, that’s why we refer to the Planning process as the 10% portion of the English Learning Formula.
Because if you create a plan and don’t follow through on it, what good did it do? You have to execute the plan.
That’s where the 90% Principle of the English Learning Formula is going to take place if you want to reach real fluency in your English speaking skills.
You have to follow through on that plan and execute it every single day until you develop…
Postive Habits That Facilitate Your English Learning
Which means that you simply start doing the things that you plan to do every day. Even when you don’t feel like doing them.
* Instead of wasting time watching a movie, you actually study English
* Instead of sleeping in every morning, you get up to study English
* Instead of chilling when you get home, you buckle down and study English
Now that doesn’t mean that watching movies is bad unless it’s something that keeps you from reaching your goal.
Because even watching movies can be a good thing if you are watching them in English as a way to learn and improve your English skills. Which you can easily do if you apply the Integrated Learning System the way I show you below.
But the important thing is to stay focused on doing whatever it takes to reach your English learning goals.
These things that you do consistently every day are called a praxis. That’s just a fancy word that means that you do something on a frequent basis.
Don’t be like ESL students who join a new school at the beginning of each semester and then drop out 3 months later, or buy great books they never study, or sign up for online courses they never complete.
Which is where the real English mavens, the ESL students who never gave up and actually persisted till they reached their English speaking goals are different.
After having worked and spoken with hundreds and thousands of English mavens over the years, I’ve had the privilege to watch how they learn and observe what they do.
And it’s pretty simple actually. There are 5 simple things that they do on a regular basis as part of their praxis. They may not do them every single day because most do this unconsciously.
Just like tying your shoelaces or learning to drive a car. In the beginning, they seem complicated, but over time, they get easier. Eventually, you can do them without even thinking much about them.
So, what are these 5 simple things that you need to do every day if you want to follow in the footsteps of other English mavens to become an English maven yourself?
They are positive habits that will help you move closer to your English goals each day, and I like to call them…
Your Daily English Praxis
I know. I know. We’ve established that there are no secret formulas.
These are just silly names that I’ve given these tried and true principles to help you see how you can follow in the footsteps of other successful English students who have learned more than one language.
So, please humor me and bear with me because I do know that if you actually apply this simple system and follow these 5 steps, you too can become a fluent and proficient English speaker given enough focus and dedication.
Just like hundreds of my students have before you.
Now, that we’ve established that I’m not making these 5-steps up here because I’m actually just showing you what other successful English students have done to learn the language, let’s give this a really cool sounding name to make it sound revolutionary and cool.
The P.L.A.N.E. English Method
Yes! I know. It’s a pretty cheesy name. Right. And it’s even spelled wrong. But it is an easy way to remember each of the 5 steps of your Daily English Praxis. So, what does it stand for?
So, now that you know what each letter of the P.L.A.N.E Engish Praxis stands for let’s break them down and discuss each of these 5 points briefly.
Planning & Preparing To Achieve Your ESL Goals
Each day, do a quick review of your English learning goals and objectives. This is important to help you renew your focus and dedication, so you don’t give up.
Review what you studied previously using an S.R.S. or whatever other method you prefer. Then make a note of what you want to learn next and create a study plan.
I highly recommend that you use a Weekly English Agenda that I’ll tell you more about later that will help you stay focused and on track. Then gather any material that you need to study for that day or find it online.
This should all be relatively quick and straight forward, and shouldn’t take you more than 5 – 10 minutes. But it is essential to keep yourself motivated and engaged with your learning.
Learning English & Developing Your Skills
This is where you actually study new vocabulary and learn how to structure your sentences correctly so you can express yourself in English.
This is where you develop each of the primary and sub-skills necessary to become a fluent and proficient speaker.
And don’t worry, because I’m going to teach you a simple way to develop all 8 of these skills simultaneously using a powerful technique I like to call an Integrated Learning System.
And all you need are 2 simple tools you probably already have at your disposal.
But this step is your study time and where most of your actual English learning will take place.
Set aside as much time as you can during your day because the more time you invest each day in your learning means you will reach your English Learning Goals faster.
For example, if Joe can set aside 4 hours per day to study, and Mary only studies 15 minutes per day, who is going to learn faster?
Joe, of course.
Not because he is a smarter student than Mary, but only because he invests more time each day.
Joe might be able to take his English to the next level in 3 months while it will most likely take Mary an entire year to jump to the next level.
So, the more time you can study each day, the better for you. And it doesn’t all have to chunked into one period. You can break it up, so you study more frequently.
Study a little in the morning when you wake up. Then a little at lunchtime. And when you get home in the evening before bed. And practice between your breaks during the day as well.
The more you study, the better you learn. So, study as much as you can every day.
Activating Your Skills Through Practice
Now, this is where you take everything you’ve been learning in English and actually put it into practice by using it in different contexts or situations.
This is an important step that most English students fail to take into account because they study a lot, but never take the time to practice.
I’ve met people who studied English for years. They could read and write very well.
But when it came time to speak with someone, they couldn’t understand what they heard, nor did they know how to express themselves.
It’s like going to the gym and seeing a man with huge biceps, but skinny little legs because he didn’t take the time to develop all of the muscles in his body.
How can you practice what you are learning in English?
The first and most important way is by using all 8 parts of the Integrated Learning System.
Because even though you use the Integrated Learning System to learn in the previous step, a large part of that process also involves practicing all 8 major skills.
But besides using the Integrated Learning System, here are 3 more ways to practice what you are learning in English.
- Thinking In English – because it shows you where the gaps are in your learning and reveals what you don’t yet know
- Exercises & Drills – there are a series of essential exercises that you can use to practice important grammar structures or pronunciation drills to reduce your English accent
- Dialogue practice with people or online robots – once you feel confident enough with what you learned, it’s time to start using it in real situations
Practice with real people provides vital feedback to you as a student. It allows you to see where your English skills are still weak and what areas you need to improve.
Have you ever heard the expression in English that says ‘Use it or lose it’?
If you don’t practice your new skills and abilities, you won’t be able to use them in real, live situations when you need to speak.
Remember, practice makes perfect…and permanent.
It’s like learning to fight karate. You have to practice your punches and kicks, and blocks over and over again.
Everything you want to learn to do takes practice.
* Playing the guitar
* Riding a bicycle and
* Learning Engish
Just because you read a book or watch a video doesn’t mean you really know how to do those things. You actually have to practice doing them until you master those skills.
It’s the same thing with your English. You have to practice what you are learning every single day.
Developing Your Own Personal English Network
This is part of your English language practice from the previous step, but this takes it to the next level.
This is where you go beyond just practicing the things you are learning in your new language and focus on building new relationships with the people who can help you.
This is where you actively seek out and develop relationships with 5 different types of people who can help you speak and use the English you are learning each day.
1) English Students Who Speak Your Native Language
2) English Students From Other Countries
3) English Mavens Who Already Speak The Language Fluently
4) Teachers and Tutors Who Can Explain Things Others Can
5) Native Speakers To Test Your Skills
Now, you don’t want to spend too much time in this area because even though it is fun, it’s not where you are going to be actually learning or practicing your English.
But you do need the right amount of people in your network so that you have people to speak and practice English with every day, which is why it is vital to spend some time on this step.
* You don’t want too few people in your network because if you try talking to them every day, they could get tired of you and find it bothersome, but…
* But you don’t want so, many people in your network that you don’t have enough time to keep in touch with them and deepen your relationships with them.
So, I recommend you maintain about 12 people in your Personal English Network. That way you can talk to 3 or 4 every few days. That way, you have people to speak with every day without bothering anyone.
You will find those you enjoy chatting with and have a natural affinity for as time goes on. And you may develop some deep friendships that you communicate on a daily basis. But at the same time, you won’t be dependent on any single person.
Evaluating Your Progress & Developing Skills In The Language
It’s important to evaluate your skills and abilities frequently to review your goals, track your English learning progress, and analyze your development.
This is important because the #1 reason most English students give up is because they don’t feel they are progressing, which frustrates them to no end.
By using a few of the hacks I’m going to show you, you’ll be able to evaluate where you currently are at this moment, how far you’ve come since your last fluency test, and how much farther you need to go to reach your goal.
All you have to do is…
1) Evaluate your current level and developing skills – You can do this implicitly based on how you feel, keep track of how much time you have been studying, or by taking another level test.
2) Analyze your study methods – Pay attention to study methods or materials you have been using that aren’t helping you progress. Eliminate what isn’t helping grow and develop so you can replace them with other methods or materials that you sense are helping you progress
3) Organize your study materials for systematic review and consistent practice – Just because you learn something once, doesn’t mean you’ll remember it forever.
We often forget things that we’ve learned before. It’s essential to go back through previous lessons and material that you’ve studied.
So, make sure to file everything you study in folders or files for easy reference. And schedule a time to go back and review.
If you do this evaluation frequently, you’ll be able to adapt your study plan and weekly English agenda accordingly.
This will give you full control of your English learning progress, which means that you won’t be dependent on a teacher, an English course, or even a specific method to learn the language.
You can develop as fast or as slow as you choose to and learn English at your pace. If you get overwhelmed, you can slow it down, or if you have a deadline, you can pick up the pace to learn on your own terms.
In Conclusion Of The Ultimate Guide To Learning English And Improving Your Speaking Skills
So, in summary, there are two major parts to learning English successfully and becoming a fluent English speaker.
1) Create a solid English learning plan to reach your goals by knowing what your current English level is, having clear goals to reach, and a solid plan to make it happen
2) Apply yourself consistently to reaching them with your 5-step P.L.A.N.E. English Praxis so that you stay on track by readapting your plan, learning new things, activating your new skills through practice, developing a network of people you can speak with, and evaluate your progress, so you stay focused and don’t give up
If you can do those things and stay focused on your goal, you will reach them and achieve success in your English speaking goals. It might take longer than you think because life happens, but as long as you stay dedicated and discipline yourself to that end, you will continue moving toward towards fluency and success.
And if you need help, you can always count on me. Feel free to hit me up in the comments below or contact me by email. Or on any of my social media accounts where you hang out like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Youtube.
Next Level English Mentoring – If you want Dave to help you personally through this process of taking level tests, analyzing your goals and objectives, and creating a plan to reach your own fluency success like other English mavens before you, we have a few options to help you out
Learn English Short Stories – Read Dave Bailey’s short stories with audio that you can use with the Integrated Learning System to improve all 8 primary and sub-skills to become a better English speaker on Patreon or Kindle