English is the most studied language in the world. At present, the competitive advantage and the expansion capacity offered by language proficiency is key to improving the opportunities of each individual.

The number of people who are currently learning English is very hard to estimate, either through a course or any other existing method. If you are one of those people, there are certain recommendations that can make your process much more comfortable and effective. Take into consideration the following:

Accept mistakes:

One of the first barriers to break while learning English is feeling embarrassment. It is usually frequent among those who are starting or have little time learning. They keep a constant fear of doing it wrong. They feel that studying something in class means being able to perform perfectly in real life and don’t feel confident to do so. Therefore, they are afraid of speaking so as not to make mistakes. But the reality is that a class does not make you an expert on a subject. You need to make thousands of mistakes before you learn to speak English. Mistakes are part of learning. Each error brings you closer to the mastery of the language. How can a teacher, or a classmate, know that you make a certain mistake if you they never hear it from you?

So make mistakes part of your learning process. Talk a lot and do not be afraid of making a mistake because you are going to make them. When you make a mistake and someone corrects you, do not answer “sorry”, as an excuse for your mistake, say “thank you”, as gratitude for having corrected you.

More conversation and less grammar:

It is likely that you do not have 100% control of this element since it depends on the methodology applied by the teacher or the school under which you are learning. However, students demanding that their course is adapted to their wishes is not uncommon, expressed in requests such as “I want to be taught grammar” or “I want to talk more”. If so, make sure it is the second. Grammar is a deceptive element of learning English. Because of the way we are used to learning, we have general idea that we must master grammar in order to master a language. However, I invite you to consider how much of the grammar of your own language do you master despite the fact that, without a doubt, you speak it correctly.

On the other hand, grammar helps you understand the fundamental differences between your native language and English. Therefore, its learning is necessary. However, it is a mistake to focus mainly on it. Very often we convert our study process into a series of written exercises with a lot of grammatical content where the teacher explains a lot and the student speaks little.

But consider what will happen the moment an English speaker addresses you with a question in English such as: “Excuse me, could you tell me if there is an ATM near by?” It will not help to answer: “The present progressive is formed with a form of the verb be and the main verb with the ending ing “. To answer, you must, of course, “speak English” for which you must have “spoken English” when you were in your class. In this case a correct answer could be: “Yes, there is one two blocks ahead”, but it will only be familiar and natural if you have said it in your own words in front of your teacher many times.

Therefore, focus on “talking” in your class. If you spend more time writing, or speaking less than your teacher, you are not practicing enough. Concentrate on finding what the words and phrases in English that you need to communicate are and repeat them as much as you can.

Balance fluency and accuracy:

An experienced teacher will know that there is a delicate balance between correcting much or little. Perhaps you hold the position that a student should be corrected for all his mistakes so that he can speak perfectly. Although, this would help you to develop a more precise dialogue, your fluency level would be affected, since it becomes mechanical to stop to think each word in search of the perfect formation. The same thing happens, on the contrary: allowing running sentences without correction would guarantee fluency and very little accuracy. That is why the teacher should correct mistakes, but not all and not always. If so, do not worry, it’s the best way to do it.

Avoid translating:

There is still some debate regarding the use of English as the only language in the class or whether the eventual use of native language should be allowed for clarifications or translations. However, the most favored position that has yielded the best results is the first. By submitting your brain to having to make an effort to understand or express ideas, the meanings manage to insert themselves into it in a much more powerful way than when it is translated. Hence the famous phrase “think in English”. But this phrase tends to generate frustration among those who feel that they cannot “think in English” and can only “think in Spanish” and then “translate”.

The answer to this setback is found in the repetition. At first, thinking in Spanish and translating is normal. There is no reason to be sorry for it. Think of it this way: On the first day of school, you will present yourself in front of your teacher saying “Good morning!” To which the teacher will respond “Good morning!” From then on, the following days, your brain should think “good morning” in your own language and translate to English but by repeating this every day a time will come when you will want to greet and your brain will make you say “Good morning!” directly, avoiding translation, since you accept the greeting in English as the correct way to say hello in the morning.

Accept translation as an initial part of your learning, but eventually immerse yourself in an environment where Spanish is not a resource so you will have to make a communicational effort and translating will not be an option. You will be literally thinking in English.

Do not select a random course:

With the high demand for English courses, language schools have spread abruptly. When selecting a school, its main focus should be academic quality. Inquire about the school’s trajectory, its results and above all learn about its methodology. Choosing based solely on the price or your location in the city can be expensive on many levels. Getting started in an English course can be a very high investment so consider greatly the results you will get from it.

And as a final recommendation when selecting a course, take into account the following: Nobody can learn English in 4 months or 2, much less in a week or 72 hours. No respectable English course would make such a claim. Each language is a huge amount of information that needs to be processed and progressively accepted by your brain. That is why the most advisable thing is to accept that, if you are starting from scratch, it will take you about a year to communicate in English and maybe two or more to master the language, depending also on how much time of your day you dedicate to it.

Learning English is an experience that with the right approach will be pleasant and entertaining; likewise, its results will undoubtedly be satisfactory.

Pablo Garcés