English is the most commonly studied second language in the world. There have never been more study materials at your fingertips, articles promising secret hacks, or online communities to support you. But if you need to learn English quickly, which is the easiest path to results?
In this guide, we have pulled together a step-by-step rundown of the techniques that have proven to deliver progress fast,why they work and some resources that can help you follow them.
12 effective tips to learn English fast and easy
1. Start speaking as soon as possible
If you are serious about learning to speak English quickly, the evidence is clear: having regular conversations with a fluent speaker is pretty much the only way.
The faster you can break the mental barrier of testing out your language skills out loud, the faster you will be able to speak confidently.
A 2016 study published by the University of Michigan demonstrated that students learning a language by having conversations over webcam tend to see much faster results than those using traditional methods. Scientists followed two groups of students as they began learning a new language:
- Group A was studying using grammar and vocabulary exercises
- Group B was learning by speaking, using video technology
After twelve weeks, it was found that Group A had made no significant improvement, but Group B had developed their language skills significantly. They had gained more varied vocabularies, performed better in listening comprehension tests, were better able to use grammar, and were able to speak more confidently.
Put simply, even if you study vocabulary exercises, grammar lessons and theory regularly for weeks, unless you learn English by speaking, you risk not learning how to draw these skills together. This is an easy mistake to make. How often have you heard someone say, “I can understand most of what I hear in English, but I am not very good at speaking it”?
Luckily, it has never been easier to find someone to practice speaking with, even if you’re learning English from home! Preply has thousands of expert tutors ready to chat over webcam, and you can adjust our filters to only show those who charge what you can afford to pay.
Having a native speaker’s undivided attention for regular one hour sessions can feel intense, but that’s because it is highly effective. You will see real progress fast. We are so confident that all lessons come with a 100% satisfaction guarantee.
2. Start reading
It has never been easier to find reading materials in English, or quicker to look things up on Google Translate if you get frustrated. If you aren’t quite ready to tackle the complete works of Shakespeare, try:
- Browsing celebrity gossip on easy-reading websites like Buzzfeed, Mashable or Upworthy
- Reading a book you love in your native language in the English translation
- Switching your search browser to show English language results by default
- Following more American/British/Australian public figures on Twitter and Facebook
If you find yourself stopping and starting a lot, try studying this list of “Fry words”. They are thought to be the first 1000 words necessary for reading in English, and make up around 50% of all written text.
3. Make yourself accountable
If you want to learn English fast, regular practice has to become a habit. But it’s no good just promising you’ll spend extra time working on your language skills. You have to find some way of guaranteeing you’ll practice even when life gets in the way.
If you have great willpower, making yourself accountable could be as simple as setting an alarm on your phone to remind you to do some learning at a certain time every day, such as when you come home from work. But for most of us, staying motivated to do anything new is far easier when someone else is depending on us.
In one study, The American Society of Training and Development (ASTD) found that you have a 65% chance of completing a goal if you commit to someone. Even more encouragingly: if you have a specific appointment with this person to discuss your progress, the chance of completing your goal rises to 95%.
You could search for a partner who is also learning English to regularly compare progress with, or simply find a tutor who you like and respect.
If you decide to try one of Preply’s tutors, watch videos from a few different people before taking a lesson. Search for someone you think you might connect with, perhaps a person with similar interests or life experiences to you. It is easy to stick to your language learning goals when one of our awesome tutors is rooting for you!
Alternatively, try finding a study buddy. Check out our rundown of the 10 best language exchange apps of 2022 for more on this.
4. Set more useful targets than “I will become fluent”
In the language learning community, there is so much emphasis on “becoming fluent,” but when you are taking the first steps on your journey to learning English, is this a helpful goal? Probably not.
Fixating on fluency suggests that there is an endpoint to learning English, a point that is always out of reach. The truth is that everyone who speaks any language at all is still learning. Research has shown that most people continue to learn an extra word in their native language every day until middle age.
You will learn faster if you set targets relevant to your individual context. Better targets are ones that allow you to track your progress in relation to your own life. They are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound, or “SMART.” These are some great examples:
- Within six months, I want to be able to speak with my business partners and email them in English quickly without using a dictionary.
- Within three months, I want to be able to make small talk on common topics (weather, tourism, sports, etc.) with native English speakers.
- After nine months of learning English online, I want to score 100 points in the TOEFL exam, so I can apply and get accepted to Columbia University.
5. Keep your personal goal in mind
There is no easy way around it: learning English fast will take serious energy. In order to stick with it, you have to have a motivation that sets your heart on fire.
When you have identified your goal, you can make sure that all of your efforts take you another step towards it. For instance, someone learning English to take a degree at an English language university might focus on specialist words and phrases relevant to their course. If you’re learning English for work, you might like to focus on words and phrases relevant to the office. Many people also choose to learn for a partner, or someone they love, and spend the most time on informal language.
This step will save you from a common frustration: following a textbook that encourages you to learn content which you will not need to use anytime soon. Don’t spend hours memorizing words for all the animals in the zoo, if it won’t be helpful for presenting at that board meeting!
This is another benefit of working with one of Preply’s tutors. You can discuss your personal reasons for learning English and work with them to create a scheme of learning tailored to you. That way, you can learn the vocabulary you need a lot faster.
Learning English for work? Why not look for a tutor who specializes in Business English.
6. Try flashcards to boost your vocabulary
A word of warning: flashcards can be a false friend when learning English, causing you to spend too much time learning words without their context.
When combined with plenty of speaking practice, however, they are an easy way to absorb a lot of new vocabulary relatively quickly, and from home. Luckily, there are plenty of great, free apps out there so you can start memorizing words wherever you go! Some of our favorites include:
- Word Power Lite
The good news? A professor at the University of Western Ontario has found that you only need about 800 of the most-frequently-used words to understand 75% of the language as it is spoken in normal life. That’s definitely an achievable number of flashcards! For more on this, check out our article on How to memorize English vocabulary.
7. Learn whole sentences
Flashcards are useful, but studies show that learning whole sentences might be even more useful. Language nerds call this technique ‘sentence mining’. Do a quick internet search for ‘sentence mining’, and you will find an enthusiastic online community who swear that this is the quickest route to learning English at home.
Certainly, learning whole sentences off by heart can help you to learn words in context, and teach you how their meaning takes on subtle changes in different contexts. Check out this video for a fuller explanation.
Not sure about which sentences to start with? Try this free list complete with audio recordings.
This technique works particularly well if you are learning with one of Preply’s lovely tutors. Ask your tutor to help you come up with sentences relevant to your personal learning goals.
8. Sing along
Music is the great universal language! It can also be a powerful tool for making a second language feel more natural.
Listening to music with English lyrics can help you gain a better understanding of pronunciation, vocabulary and sentence structure, without feeling like study at all. An interesting study even showed that listening to music in a new language can help you pick up grammatical rules more easily, in a similar way that you do when first learning to speak as a child.
There is no shortage of great, free English-language music on the web. YouTube has an almost unlimited supply of music with lyric videos so you can read along without missing a word. Aside from that:
- Lyrics Training app allows you to practice your listening skills by creating “fill in the gaps” exercises from your favorite song lyrics.
- Radio Garden is a great, free tool to listen to radio stations around the world.
- If you don’t mind feeling a little silly, the British Council has a free collection of English songs made for children.
9. Watch TV
Watching TV series is one of the best ways to learn English, but which are the best shows? According to a 2012 study by Kaplan, the top 5 most popular shows that their students chose to help them learn English were:
- Friends (the top most-watched show, with a huge 26% of all their students tuning in!)
- How I Met Your Mother
- The Big Bang Theory
Of course, you will get more out of your learning if you are more engaged than by passively watching. Try the Language Learning with Netflix extension for Chrome, which allows you to watch Netflix with subtitles in English and your native language at the same time. This great free tool even allows you to save new words that you come across.
Watching TV and movies can also help you discover new accents, and try to understand them. Try the accent challenge on Preply’s YouTube show to test your knowledge of English accents:
10. Listen to native English speakers (try to!) speak your language
Whether your mother tongue is Czech, Spanish or Turkish, the chances are, you have spoken to a native English speaker who has learned to speak it and you’ve thought “hmm… that doesn’t sound quite right”.
One easy tip is to pay attention to the common mistakes English native speakers make in your home language, especially in sentence structure and grammar. These are probably clues as to how English grammar is different from that of the language you know best.
11. Change your phone and social media settings to English
So, maybe you can understand the basics of English. Want to progress to the next step? Now it’s time to get as much exposure to the language as possible.
Most of us spend hours everyday staring at our phones, scrolling aimlessly. Changing the settings on your phone to English is a very easy way to immerse yourself in the language.
Changing your phone settings will teach you some words which are very relevant to modern life that you won’t necessarily see on vocabulary learning websites, such as “newsfeed” and “sponsored content.”
12. Find a community of language learners
When you start digging into more advanced aspects of learning English, it can be very motivating to share your insights, breakthroughs and frustrations with other people. Here are some great ways to connect with fellow learners if you are studying from home.
- Try Reddit’s English language forum
- Get answers to difficult questions in
- Search for public Facebook groups for ESL learners
For more ideas on finding study buddies, check out our rundown of 7 Language communities to improve your language skills.
5 Indispensable resources to speed up your English learning
The enormous quantity of ESL (English as a second language) resources on the internet is a wonderful thing, but it can be hard to know which ones are worth your time.
If we had to choose five resources you shouldn’t study English without, these are the five we’d go for.
1. 1-on-1 tutoring
The only “hack” that really works for learning a language is plenty of speaking practice. Speaking English is the hardest skill to develop on your own. It’s also the most nerve-wracking at first, so many students leave it until last. This is a huge mistake! If you want to speak English with confidence, speaking practice must be your top priority.
1-on-1 tutoring is the most efficient way to get quality speaking practice. Work with a personal tutor and you get a safe space to practice speaking English. You are free to make mistakes and ask questions, and there’s no barrier of embarrassment to overcome. Without other classmates to worry about, the lesson is entirely focused on the skills most important for you. You’ll be amazed at how much difference just one or two hours per week makes!
Luckily, 1-on-1 tutoring has never been more affordable or easier to access. Preply has thousands of qualified English tutors, searchable by price, rating, availability and specialty. Browse the tutor list to find the perfect tutor for your needs.
2. A dedicated notebook
The internet has revolutionized language education. There’s a lot of value in interactive apps and online exercises, but don’t forget about the basic learning methods that we’ve relied upon for hundreds of years.
Numerous experiments have shown that writing out new information by hand is an extremely powerful tool for transferring it to your longer-term memory. A 2014 study conducted at Princeton University found that students who take notes with paper and pen remember much more than students who type. The group that wrote by hand remembered big concepts especially well.
Take a tip from the science of memory, and write out at least some of your notes the old-fashioned way. You might find it helpful to keep a small notepad in your pocket, for quickly writing down new words that you learn on-the-go, whether from everyday English conversations, or from seeing them on a language learning app. Some learners prefer to have one large notebook with all of their new language skills in it, from hand-written conjugation tables to example sentences and lesson notes. Either way, it’s worth experimenting with notebooks in your English learning. Don’t underestimate the powerful “muscle-to-mind” effect of writing out new information by hand!
Now that most of the cat videos have moved over to TikTok, it’s becoming more and more obvious: YouTube is a brilliant platform for education. In many ways, it feels like the website was made for language learners! You can watch videos at half speed or with subtitles. These options are great for those who struggle with the pace of native speakers’ language. Best of all, there’s an enormous amount of content created especially for ESL learners.
Some channels, like JenniferESL, offer a whole course of video lessons on YouTube. Others, like Bob the Canadian, talk users through ordinary English language situations that are just unusual enough to leave out of textbooks, such as “going to the hardware store.” In short, there’s a lot of extremely user-friendly and professional content available for free, and you’d be mad to miss out. Many of the most popular English language YouTubers even run regular interactive lessons via livestream. Here’s a recent lesson on vocabulary-building given by an expert Preply tutor, Mike P. The gap between the best YouTube ESL channels and online English classes is getting smaller all the time!
Check out our guide to 10 of the best YouTube channels for learning English for some ideas for where to start.
4. Language exchange websites
If you want to speak English as fast as possible, speaking practice should be your priority from the start. If you don’t live near any English speakers, and can’t afford as much 1-on-1 tutoring as you would like, there are still ways to get those precious hours of conversation!
Try an online language exchange. Buddy up with a native English speaker who wants to learn your native language, and swap language skills. Spend some time chatting in English (so you can practice!) and some time chatting in your native language (so they can practice). It can take a little while to find a balance between acting as the student and acting as the teacher, but it’s worth learning the discipline. A good language exchange can be a highly effective and fun way to learn.
Language exchanges are another aspect of English learning that has become a lot easier since the rise of the internet! Here’s our guide to the top 10 websites and apps to find the best partner for you.
There’s a podcast for nearly every interest, subject and hobby these days. Much like on YouTube, there is a rich selection of free podcasts for learning English. Many of the best offer full transcripts, so you can read along to what you hear and develop your ear for English pronunciation.
The main advantage of learning with podcasts is that they fit into parts of your day that you can’t otherwise use for studying. Your boss probably won’t let you study English at work…but maybe she would let you plug into a podcast?! You can’t really study your flashcards while you’re driving…but you can put a podcast on with no problem at all!
Here’s our pick of 12 of the best podcasts for learning English this year, with some tips on how to get the most out of your study time.
Our 5 favorite apps for learning English fast
It seems like there’s a new app out for learning English almost every day, each one promising some new, life-changing method to speed up your learning! There’s no need to drain your phone battery by downloading all of them. Here are six that we think are worth your time.
Private English classes are highly effective, but that doesn’t mean booking them should be a big deal! With the Preply app, you have access to expert tutoring on your phone. This makes organizing 1-on-1 English classes, and getting high-quality speaking practice, extremely easy. As long as you book just four hours in advance, you can practice speaking English with an expert anywhere you go. After all, the secret to developing great learning habits is to make the logistics as convenient as possible for yourself.
There are lots of very exciting parts of learning English, but at some point, you are probably going to have to just memorize a bunch of words. Flashcards are a quick and dirty way to absorb new words! Why dirty? Well, learning new vocabulary with flashcards takes words away from their original contexts, so you might lose some of their more subtle shades of meaning. However, if you want to grow your vocabulary as fast as possible, a flashcard app like Quizlet is a great shortcut.
With Quizlet, you can create a set of flashcards with new English words you are trying to learn, and practice typing them out until you know them by heart. It’s a simple concept, but it’s highly effective. Some people really get hooked on flashcard apps and find they fall into a “virtuous circle” of learning. Apps are highly effective, which makes them highly addictive; they’re also highly addictive, which makes them highly effective. You might even find that learning on Quizlet replaces your habit of scrolling Twitter, Instagram or TikTok!
Of course, Spotify is not a language learning app. But chances are that you already use it or a similar app for listening to music and podcasts, and one of the secrets to gaining an effective study regime is integrating something you already use into your existing habits. If Spotify is already on your phone, look for ways you can use it to learn English.
Subscribe to some podcasts for English learners and you’ll get a notification every time a new episode is out. Even if you don’t listen to them right away, the notifications will help remind you of your learning goals. You can also download playlists of songs for learning English, or make your own. Need some inspiration? Check out our article on English for those who love to sing.
Most learners find that their English reading skills develop a lot faster than their listening, speaking or writing. Use this to your advantage! Reading can significantly improve your command of grammar and give you the vocabulary you need to develop fluency.
Beelinguapp makes reading in English as convenient as possible. It shows you a text in your own language with the English translation side-by-side. Texts are short enough that you can really dig into every word. They cover topics from fairytales, to science, to current news articles. There’s even a “karaoke” feature where you can read along to audio, which help you match up unusual English pronunciation with unusual English spellings.
The basic version of Beelinguapp is free, so you don’t have to worry about wasting your money on an app you might not get around to using. We think it’s a great addition to your learning toolkit.
If you want to learn to speak English fast, you’ll need plenty of speaking practice. The most efficient way to get it is with 1-on-1 tutoring, but many students do not have the time (or budget) for more than two or three Preply classes per week.
For free speaking practice, Tandem is a great solution! It’s a language exchange app which connects learners from all over the world. It can help you find a native English speaker who is trying to learn your native language, so you can “buddy up” and swap language skills. In traditional language exchanges, you choose one partner and devote some time to speaking your target language (English) and some time to speaking their target language (your native language).
Languages exchange apps like Tandem have opened up a lot more options. If you only have five minutes to spare, you can simply exchange messages with a native English speaker. If you have more time, you can have a longer, digital “language exchange” by sharing voice notes, or using video chat. It’s a great way to test your English skills out with real people.
A brief afterword: how to learn English fast and easy
As you may have guessed, the only “hack” that actually works for learning English fast is a lot of practice. Remember: everyone who is an expert at something spent a lot of time being terrible at it first! We are big fans of learning to love your mistakes and embracing them as part of the learning process.
How do you make it feel easy? Integrate the English language into your daily life, and find ways to enjoy the process. Changing your phone settings to English, subscribing to a great ESL YouTuber and singing along to the Beatles won’t feel as “hard” as working through a language textbook, but they’re all valid ways to pick up everyday English skills.