Opinion: How to learn English on your own

Marc Belley, linguist, has created a website where he gives his tips for learning English independently. He explains here his vision of the thing.

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Marc Belley, linguist, has created a website where he gives his tips for learning English independently. He explains to us in this text his vision of the thing.

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By Marc Belley, linguist graduated from the University of Montreal. He speaks a total of four languages and strives to speak them like a native speaker. He is also the founder of LearnLanguagesOnYourOwn, where he teaches his own method of learning languages and has a page showing how to learn English on your own.


As you no doubt already know, English is a language of major importance, not only for Quebeckers, but also for the majority of the Francophonie, and even the whole world. It allows openness to the world and unprecedented access to information.

For this reason, it seems relevant to me to show those of you who want to master this language how you can do it without anyone's help and from your home.

The method I will teach you even has the added bonus of developing friendships that can last a lifetime. Follow the five steps in this article to the letter and you will ensure your success in learning English on your own.

Without further ado, let's take the first step.

Step 1: Motivate yourself

The first step is to to motivate oneself to learn English. Over the years, I have watched many people start learning a second language. Many of them gave up along the way. What did they have in common? They had an obvious lack of motivation.

Indeed, they learned a language either for the pleasure, or because perhaps it would be useful to them one day. In other words, their motivation to learn this second language was not fueled by practical reasons.

So, so that it doesn't cause your downfall, make sure you have one or even more practical reasons for learning English. These reasons will have the functionality of pushing you and keeping your main objective in sight. Considering the importance of English in the business and work world, it shouldn't be such a difficult thing to do.

Step 2: Choose the right variety of English

Eh yes. That's not a question a lot of people ask themselves when learning a language, but in my opinion, it doesn't make it any less important.

When I learn a language, I learn a particular variety. Often dealing with Americans, I have learned and speak a variety of American English.

Each variety has its own vocabulary, set of grammar rules, and pronunciation. It may then be more economical to learn than just one.

So here's my advice: instead of just learning “English”, ask yourself what's best for you. Maybe you want to learn Standard American English, New York English, Canadian English, or even British English?

Optionally, you can try to speak it without a French accent. There are many advantages to doing this. Among other things, you will be able to converse with people on a more familiar level.

Step 3: Find pen pals

In order to learn a language, it is better to practice it regularly. A good way to practice it is to converse with people. There are tons of websites where you can find people to talk to in English. Language exchange sites are excellent in this area; you will find people there who are looking for the same thing as you. Even better, I find, are dating sites (if you're the age of majority, of course). You will be able to exchange with English-speaking Canadians, Americans or even Britons if British English is what you want to learn.

Also, do not forget one thing: if you want to keep your correspondents (and not need to find others), a priori target a friendly relationship with them rather than considering these people as simple partners of 'exchange.

Step 4: Know the Difficulties of English

Be aware of the many linguistic characteristics of English and their learning should go better. Something is much easier to digest when you expect it than when it happens without your knowledge.

So, it can be beneficial to learn a little about English, if only to read Wikipedia article of the same title.

Step 5: Home immersion and self-taught learning

When you immerse yourself in English, you are driven to practice it constantly. And the more you practice, the more you improve. So here are some tips to get you immersed:

  • Listen to movies with subtitles and in the English language. The advantage of listening to a movie in English is that you will expose yourself to its pronunciation. Subtitles will help you understand what is being said.
  • Do you have electronic devices such as a cell phone, tablet, laptop or even a desktop computer? Well, if so, you could make them contribute to the immersion environment by putting English as the language of their operating system. Beware, however. Daily tasks that you perform with these devices may take more time since you may need to translate (using a translator) the English text that you do not understand.
  • Follow people on social media posting content in English.
  • Practice English with your correspondents for at least 30 minutes a day.

Now that you know how to practice English, it's time to learn it. This is a process that requires a lot of attention since you have to teach it yourself.

So here's what I encourage you to do, when you are exposed to the language:

  • Use Google Translate when there's something you don't understand.
  • Take a good look at the text (or oral) in English and see where the elements of the sentence are placed and how they are formed. This includes the order of words such as adjectives, pronouns, verbs and, if applicable, their particle.
  • Then, form your own grammar rules based on the observations you just made.

Thus, you will build a set of rules which, gradually, will allow you to formulate your own ideas in English and to understand it without a translator.

In short, the method I have explained in this article gives you guidelines to follow, but it is far from complete. If you want more details, visit the page How to Learn English Alone - The Complete Method as well as the rest of my website.

Good luck!

Marc Belley


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