Different ways of learning English.

We thought that the natural progression for the following blog post should be that we talk about the different ways that you can learn English seeing that we’ve covered the importance of learning a second language and how long it takes to learn a second language.

First things first, divine inspiration doesn’t work!! Speaking in tongues is not English 😉 Now that we’ve got that out of the way we can look at a few of the different ways of learning English.

The first ones we will look at are classroom-based lessons. Now a lot of different categories fall under this one. Two of the most common are the direct or sometimes called natural method of language learning or the grammar-translation method of learning a language. Both of these have their merits and seeing as each person is different one method or the other will fit them best. Phew!! Wouldn’t the world be a boring place if we were all the same! Imagine everyone looked like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie 😉  With the classroom-based lessons you have a set timetable where you turn up and hopefully learn. The good thing with this is that it provides you with a structure, you know exactly when you have to go for your lessons. The bad thing is that it doesn´t provide you with much flexibility, and if you are run off your feet with work it can be hard to find the time to fit in your lessons into this rigid schedule. Both of these methods, the direct method and the grammar translation method are great and no one should ever tell you this one is better than the other, as what works for somebody else may not work for you! But what they both have in common is that you are normally in a class with other people.  A teacher is present to clear up any doubts, motivate you as you move along and you also get to make new friends with your fellow classmates or maybe a nemesis, a bit of classroom rivalry can spice things up. 😉

Of these classroom-based lessons we can look at the two different types we mentioned before in a little bit more detail. First of all there is the direct method, this method lets you learn a language through doing everything in the target language that you are learning and you are taught grammar inductively. Primarily you do a lot of speaking and listening. It’s pretty much how kids go about learning a language. It tries to teach you useful everyday expressions that you will build up and add to as you go along.

Next up is the translation-grammar based method. Here you are taught grammatical rules which you then apply to the language you are learning and translate it. Have any of you studied Latin? Well just like that, remember the old rosa, rosa, rosam, rosae, rosae rosa?? Oh the memories!!! Some people find this method perfect for them as it is very structured. The method lets you know where you stand once you know the rules, and more importantly the exceptions!! Not many in English!! 😉

The next way of learning English would be through self-study with books and DVDS and in the past CDS and cassettes. This method can have great results if you follow the course book and instructions correctly. Most are interactive and keep you fairly engaged and above all provides you with flexibility if you have a busy schedule. However, you don’t get any feedback as to the mistakes you might be making and above all learning English in any situation requires a lot of self-motivation and when it’s self-study even more! So tempting to put your feet up once you get home and say, “I’ll study tomorrow”.

The last category that we will talk about is online learning. The great thing here is that just like self-study, learning online provides you with flexibility, most places have some form of Internet connection available so you can more or less study anytime, anywhere you want. If you are learning online via Skype then the fact is that most of the time it’s just you and the teacher. This means that you can make the most out of the lesson and hopefully improve a lot faster as you can focus directly on your mistakes and problems. The cons are that you don’t have any colleagues with whom to talk things over with and the lessons are a little bit more expensive, but as we said before it’s just you and the teacher so you have their undivided attention.

At the end of the day deciding which method is best for you is a question of trial and error and seeing what really works for you. If you want and feel that learning online is the way to go because of the flexibility and the fact that the lessons are one on one then get in touch with us at www.enunciateonline.com for your English lessons via Skype and we will be more than glad to give you a hand in learning to communicate in English.

How long does it take to learn a second language?

This is the million-dollar question! How long does it take to learn a second language and above all English?  I’m sure every one would love for me to give a set time frame, study for 1000 hours and you’ll be fluent, but that’s not possible. Some can spend a lifetime and never really learn their own mother tongue (Just look at some of the mistakes some celebs make when speaking their own language, a future blog post beckons! yet alone another language. However, there are some things that can help you to learn a lot quicker and there are some numbers for the length of time that some individuals have given, we can look at those too, but ultimately second language acquisition is hard, complex and only for masochists (only kidding!!).

So what can you do to learn a second language as quickly as possible? Well the first thing is to sign up to somewhere where you can be taught that language with great teachers. (Such as at www.enunciateonline.com where else? ;-). Now with that out of the way we can begin to look at some of the variables that make it extremely complicated to give an exact figure.

Firstly, your age plays a crucial factor, and the younger you start the better, it’s what is known as the “critical period hypothesis” meaning that you learn the language in a different way and ultimately reach a higher level.[1] For those that haven’t started at a young age don’t despair, it’s still attainable; it’s just going to take a bit more sweat to get there (remember the masochist remark???).

The second variable is“ How quickly will I learn if I live in the country of my chosen language (majority language)? Or “How quickly will I learn if I learn the language in my home country (minority language)?[2]  It goes without saying that if you are in a majority language situation you should learn a lot quicker than in a minority language situation as you come in contact with the given language during a great deal of time, unless you’re locked up at home, as you are immersed in the language. However, if you can’t manage or permit yourself to move to the U.K to learn the language you can still do lots of things to help you move along at a good pace. For example: watch things in original version as much as you can, and as soon as possible wean yourself off subtitles, it will be hard at first, but after a while you’ll realise that each time you understand more and more! Read the news every day online in English, a great source of vocab and current affairs, and of course, have lots of English lessons.

How many hours I hear you ask? Well…. this all depends on what method you are being sold. Some will tell you for our course you need X amount of hours and others will tell you that you need Y amount of hours.  However, the only concrete thing that can be said is that practice makes perfect, and that means a lot of hours. An article in the Harvard Business review concluded that to reach expertise in something, and not just language training you need to practise for 10,000 hours!!![3] That works out at roughly 416 days without sleep! So when you’re worried that it’s taking you longer than expected to reach your desired goal, don’t worry, 10,000 hours are a lot of hours and at www.enunciateonline.com we will be more than happy to help you whittle down the hours and get you communicating effectively in English.




Whittle down: Phrasal verb: To reduce the number of people or things, or the size of something.

[1] Second Language Acquisition and the Critical Period Hypothesis. Birdsong, David (Ed.) (1999) Mahaw, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates

[2] Archibald, J., Roy, S., Harmel, S., Jesney, K., Dewey, E., Moisik, S., et al. (2006). A review of the literature on second language learning.

[3] Ericsson, K. A., Prietula, M. J., & Cokely, E. T. (2007). The Making of an Expert. Harvard Business Review (July-August ).

Why should i learn a second language?

This indeed is a good question, so why? There are numerous reasons as to why you should learn a second language. We will first start with the most important one and I’ll apologise beforehand if I sound materialistic, but the first answer should be money. It makes the world go round, so they say, and if you speak a second language then you will earn more of it. Firstly, most jobs require that you have a good level of English just to get into the selection phase and secondly there are studies from the U.S. that show that those who speak a second language earn 2% more than those who don’t[1]. You’ve probably just said to yourself, wait, In the U.S. people are learning other languages, not English. That’s true, but what we can extrapolate from this is that whatever country you are in, speaking another language will undeniably help you. Of course, being a market of supply and demand, the smaller the number of local people that speak your chosen second language the more of a commodity you become and this ultimately means that you earn even more1.  Although English is not going to put you in that “exclusive group” as it’s so widely spoken nowadays, it will still provide you with an extra 2% (minimum), which is better than nothing! So what will an extra 2% of your salary buy you?

So what’s next? After money we have…. Health. Well, I could have put this one first on my list. I know, I know! One’s health should be more important than the money you earn, but as a quote I read from the Dalai Lama responding to a question where he was asked what surprised him most about humanity, he said “ Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money, then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health…”. The quote continues but I’ll leave it there as I’m just sticking to man’s priorities, first money and then health! So, back to health…Recent research[2] has shown that being bilingual helps you to counter the onset of Alzheimer disease. Ok, I understand that most won’t become bilingual when learning a second language, but what the study points out is that speaking a second language helps you to contribute to your cognitive reserve, which acts to compensate for the effects of Accumulated neuropathology[3]. What this means in layman’s terms is that your brain becomes stronger and isn´t as badly affected by the disease, so, no need to do a crossword or a Sudoku to build up your cognitive reserve, learn English!!  Not a bad reason I think. There are countless studies being carried out into this area and they seem really interesting, nice food for thought.

And finally, learn a second language and hopefully English so you can travel around the world and be able to communicate with people. Learning a new language such as English, which has become a lingua franca, permits you to communicate with people from all over the world.  How do you expect to be able to communicate with a Russian, a Belgian and a Dane at the same time? Either with a lot of sign language and some alcohol or speaking English of course! Once you can speak English use it to be able to have a drink around the world (it’s great to be able to order your favourite tipple abroad), study in a different country, make new friends, or simply because you’d like to hear an actor’s original voice. Trust me, they don’t all sound really butch and manly. If you can speak English nowadays you’ll be able to cross the globe and watch the films on the plane whilst you’re at it in original version, so don’t hesitate and start today at www.enunciateonline.com, we will be more than happy to get you communicating effectively in English.


Food for thought: Idiom: Anything that provides mental stimulus for thinking.

Tipple: (n) Informal: An alcoholic drink

[1] Saiz, A. Zoido, E. (2002) Working paper Nº. 02-16 The Returns to Speaking a Second Language. Federal Reserve Bank Of Philadelphia

[2] Craik, F.I.M; Bialystok, E; Freedman, M. Delaying the onset of Alzheimer disease. Bilingualism as a form of cognitive reserve. Neurology November 9, 2010 vol. 75 no. 19 1726-1729

[3] Bialystok, E; Craik, F.I.M; Luk, G. Bilingualism: consequences for mind and brain. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Volume 16, Issue 4, 240-250, 30 March 2012.