Initially, as an ESL student, I had enrolled for classroom tutorials and bought myself a lot of English learning textbooks. I had believed that these would be enough to learn the language and master written, spoken, reading and listening skills. However, I realized that it wasn’t that simple. Out of all fields of learning, language learning is probably the most multi-faceted and there is no one way that can provide complete guidance. A lot of different processes and tools should be involved so that the student can easily, effectively and frequently communicate using the particular language. When I resorted to using other means to polish my skills, my proficiency in English grew. Here is a list of how I learnt and how I did not learn English.

How I Did Not Learn English

1.  Using textbooks: Anyone can have access to English textbooks, dictionaries, translation guides and other such material. However, most of them provide inadequate pronunciation, spelling and speaking guidance. They are also often not fun enough and might not pique the interest of the students.

2.  Classroom tutorials: Classroom instructions alone are often not enough for learning English. For example, listening to tedious, difficult-sounding grammar rules inevitably make learning incomprehensible. Often, ESL teachers themselves are not up-to-the mark as far as pronunciation is concerned. The students are learners and might not have good grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation skills, and interacting with them does not always help. Classroom tutorials do little to help you learn English naturally and spontaneously.

3.  Memorizing:  This is the most futile attempt you can make while trying to learn ESL English. No language lends itself well to memorizing. You have to interact using the language effectively. While doing so, you cannot afford to go back to memorized rules and think to yourself, “Well, what tense should I use here?”, for example, before talking. Neither can you memorize the hundreds of new words you learn. Even if you do manage to do so, there is no way you can remember their correct usages.

4.  Watching videos without subtitles: This is a massive error which is easy to make while learning ESL English. Spoken words are fleeting and short-lived. But with subtitles, words are offered in a written format and are more likely to occupy the student. Videos where instructors talk, but which have no subtitles can often overwhelm you, and slow down your learning.

How I Did Learn English

1. Using English Learning Apps: With the advent of new technology, there is no reason why you should not make the best use of them in every field of life, including ESL English learning. There are quite a few efficient English learning apps out in the Android and iOS stores which can give the much needed impetus to your learning. They provide huge vocabulary databases, audio visual aids, dictionaries, subtitled videos, quizzes, exercises, pronunciation and spelling guides and a lot of other tools to add to your classroom learning. English learning apps also teach you how to use phrases used commonly by native speakers.

2. Watch Subtitled Videos: Subtitles not only solve the issue of understanding foreign accents, they also spell out words so that you can build up your vocabulary! Movie clips and music videos with subtitles explain contemporary English, idioms, cultural colloquialism, metaphors and idioms. They also elucidate unclear references to world incidents and pop culture.

3. Interact with Native Speakers: Interacting with native English speakers is far more effective in polishing your spoken and listening skills as compared to interacting with fellow ESL students. It helps you listen to and comprehend, as well as express, in English as it is spontaneously and naturally spoken.

4. Tune in to News Channels: Try listening to English language news channels when you are at home. These channels, such as CNN or BBC, us excellent English and watching them will improve your mastery of the language, especially of its grammar and pronunciation.

ESL students are often misled by convention, and choose to go for the traditional ways of learning. These ways are often ineffective or inadequate, and need to at least be backed up by additional methods. Students must make the best use of available technology and newer, groundbreaking ways to learn English. They should avoid making the same mistakes that have made inept conversationalists of many an ESL student.