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How I learned English with free apps

My name is Emilia, I'm an editor In this article I want to talk about personal experience in learning English without a significant investment. My level is Upper-Intermediate. I freely write, understand others, speak and read. The latter is more complicated than the rest, but it is a matter of time and practice.


I will not discover amazing knowledge that will help you speak English in a week. It does not happen. I managed to reach a tolerable level after several years of daily labor. An important remark: there are many ways to effectively study languages, I do not pretend to be true or scientific, just sharing my experience.

Tips will suit those who, like me, work a full day and cannot devote seven to eight hours every day. I also had a limitation - the lack of a budget for schools like EF. Therefore, I was looking for my own ways to learn a language.

Base time

I was given the following: an ordinary village school without an English bias. It was possible to choose a class with in-depth study of English, to later become a translator, but I did not like this idea, and I left to study mathematics.

English began with the fifth grade - the teachers took turns, almost all were weak and not sufficiently demanding. In high school, they gave us to the teacher, to whom I am grateful so far: she did not seek to make friends with us, was very demanding and "put" us strong grammar. She made us learn "Eugene Onegin" in English. Ten years have passed since then, but I still remember this work in another language.

Then it became clear - I need a teacher who will give a lot, demand even more and constantly keep me tightly tight.

At university, English lasted only two years. Apparently, the authors of the program judged that the language is nonsense, but some theology (I am a financier) will be the way. We were lucky with the teacher.

Stalina Mikhailovna continued what she started at school - she reached for the grammar, helped form the vocabulary for business English, made us learn a lot of idioms, work on the accent. I asked the house so much that sometimes it took several hours to complete the tasks. But each couple was a pleasure - I felt that our group was led by an experienced teacher who knows what she is doing. Leaving her was sad.

Seven years of an educational English program helped me to develop a minimum vocabulary, learn grammar and learn to understand the language by listening.

What I have not learned is to speak the language, to use it in those situations when it is needed: when traveling, in business negotiations, in everyday life. I had to work on this myself. This path took me another four years.

The first experience of communication in English

Then an event occurred, thanks to which I now have English and love for other languages ​​and cultures. I started working in the student organization AIESEC. She does international exchange programs and youth conferences. This means that in my hometown there were always foreigners with whom you can practice the language.

I decided to teach it in such a way and asked the manager for the opportunity to become a “buddy”. This is a person who is assigned to each foreign intern to help him navigate the city: from going to the supermarket to helping to conduct lessons in school.

I was "given" the Brazilian Carol. Our first conversation was terribly awkward: I was shaking with fear and speaking a mixture of English and sign language. The entire base has seemed to evaporate. It was scary to open my mouth and explain something. I also learned that there are many situations for which life did not prepare me: for example, how to explain in English, what kind of woman is on the bus who needs to give money for the fare.

Two weeks later, I began to understand what he was saying to me, and two months later, to speak. For the first time in my life, I spoke another language, feeling calm. I made a lot of mistakes, asked me to correct. She wrote unknown words and whole sentences in a notebook, which she always carried with herself. On the way home (two hours one way) I reread what was written, I repeated to myself.

I really wanted to talk, understand another person. He talked about foreign films, about interesting books, unpublished in Russian, and I began to guess how much content passes by me.

That same Brazilian Carol. After a couple of months of working together, we became friends, and English entered my life even more firmly.

Then a few simple rules helped me.

  • Do not scold yourself for mistakes. I would rather say something with an error, than I will be silent in the hope of passing for a clever one.
  • The language barrier must be overcome. This is commonplace. But if you, like me, are scared, know that it will pass in a couple of weeks. It is worth suffering some time. Now I learn Turkish and calmly express myself as the current level allows. It turned out that when learning any new language, it is not necessary to overcome the barrier again, it has already been passed once.
  • Repetition is the mother of learning. If it were not for my notebook and the daily two hours of repetitions, then it would be slower. The next day I tried to use the words learned the day before. It helped to fix them in memory, to enter into a permanent dictionary.
  • Speak in any convenient situation. I tried not to think about the discomfort of the interlocutor, who suffers from my poor English. Because there was no other way to learn to speak. Now I am engaged in dancing - in our group there are guys who do not go to salsa parties, because they first want to grow to the “level”. I honestly do not understand how you can grow to something without practice, so from the first lesson, despite the fear and awkwardness, I go to parties.

English as part of life

Then I started working in an international team - we had a Brazilian who did not know Russian. This meant that all working and non-working correspondence in general chat rooms was in English, team meetings were also informal communication in another language.

This stage helped me expand my vocabulary. I no longer had to first translate into English, and then speak, I pronounced the phrases right away, I thought in that language.

If you have an obligatory task to learn a language, then you should think up an environment in which you will do it. The options are to find foreign friends, ask your company to transfer you to a foreign representative office or to move independently to another country.

Purpose when learning a language

I know many acquaintance stories that have been learning the language for several years now. By “teach,” I mean passing programs, tutoring, and so on. However, they still do not communicate, do not read, and do not look at anything.

I guess this is due to the lack of strong motivation to know English. If I had a task in the style of “I want to learn English,” I’m sure that I would still hide behind tutors and courses. I had a simple short-term task - I want to understand what my interlocutor is telling me, and to be able to answer clearly and on business.

Gradually, the task became more complicated - I needed to learn how to conduct business correspondence, conduct negotiations with high-ranking officials, read books, watch “complex” films.

Each time the task of learning a language evolved. But it was always simple, understandable, and "mine." For example, I did not learn the language from the principle “everyone speaks, and I, the most stupid”.

Therefore, you should first set yourself a clear goal to learn the language and think of what will be the result for you.

How it works. For example, I want to learn how to watch movies in the original and understand what their favorite performers sing about. The result - I do not need subtitles and vocabulary. Such iterations can be gradually advanced.

If you have a task to just take your free time and you work once a week with a tutor and you don’t do anything else to study, then you shouldn’t expect much from yourself - for example, you will begin to speak the language in three months. Let it be just a pleasant hobby that will not put pressure on you.

The important point is that the goal should please and inspire. Now I am reading the book by Kato Lomba, How I Learn Languages. She helped me understand the error when choosing books in English. I need to choose something fascinating from which I can not tear myself away, which will help to wade through unfamiliar words and meanings. And do not re-read the hundredth circle, yawning, "Little Prince".

Next in line is Nicholas Spark - I love his “Diaries of Memory”, it's time to read English. He writes simply, I understand the logic of building his sentences. This is not professional literature, there is no super-efficiency in it, just pleasant reading in your free time.

At first, I printed the lyrics of my favorite songs, the meaning of which I hadn’t understood all my life, and I wondered what they were really talking about. I learned new words and wrote them down in that very notebook. That was how my way to the university looked five times a week for two years. Coming home, I included these songs and sang along. This allowed us to consolidate what was learned and it was just a joy.

I am completely undisciplined when it comes to learning a language. I cannot sit down at classes because “I must”, breaking myself through my knee. It is important for me to love the process, anticipate the result, enjoy classes in the group. Then I can seat myself at the table.

It was easy for me to walk constantly with my notebook, because it was fun. It was easy for me to sit at the table during university English classes because we had a strict teacher who demanded a lot, loved the language and involved us in the learning process.

Фото: Depositphotos

Therefore, do not worry if you consider yourself a disciplined person. I assume that this is not the case, but in the absence of an inspiring goal — why should you learn this language.

After the first meaningful conversation with a foreigner, I suddenly realized that I calmly speak the language. It gave me so much joy and energy that I thought up the following task for myself. All this was like an exciting game.

How to embed language in everyday life

The next step I installed English as the main language on the phone, laptop and social networks. I had to learn a few new words.

Then an event happened, thanks to which English entered my life even more firmly. Two years ago, my boss and I decided to spend the January holidays with benefits and went to “pull up” the language for intensive courses from the Freedom of Speech school — nine hours a day during the week.

For a week I left Intermediate to the next level. But the main thing was different - I began to watch movies and TV shows in English with subtitles in different languages.

Since then, all that I look - in English. The first six months were difficult, and then I got used to it. I reviewed “Friends” in English and saw how many jokes were translated differently due to language features. Now it is strange for me to watch an English-language film in Russian, because the actors' lips move out of tune. At first I looked at Silicon Valley in English, and then I tried to look at one series in Russian. I had enough for ten minutes - the humor is transmitted strangely, a lot is lost.

When I watch TV shows, I will definitely “whisper” new words to myself and repeat the accent. Gradually, I switched to American bloggers - now in my YouTube subscriptions there is only one Russian-speaking blogger, the rest I calmly watch in English.

For a year now I have been living in another country, where I constantly speak English. I have acquaintances with whom I meet almost every day - it helps to keep my level in tone, to replenish vocabulary. Also for work I need to constantly read professional articles in English.

I maximally surrounded myself with English, built it into my routine.

Language Learning Tips

I summarize my experience.

  • Start with grammar. It is important to understand the principles of the construction of sentences, to learn how to connect words correctly. At this stage you can go to the courses.
  • Put yourself in a situation where no talking will fail. You can stay while traveling not at the hotel, but through Airbnb or even in a hostel. You can always communicate with the owner of the apartment in English, and in hostels, as a rule, travelers who know the language stay. And in general, travel more. Preferably without guides and tours.
  • Watch movies and TV shows with different accents. I reviewed a lot: with British, New Zealand, Australian, American and other accents. It is useful to expand the range of the sound of the language. At the same time choose to view what you will understand. If you are going to watch the first series in life in English, then you hardly need to start with Homeland. Most likely, Friends will “better” go. Otherwise, there is a risk of being disappointed - still nothing is clear, and quickly switch to Russian.
  • Try to speak publicly in English. Trains concentration and helps to overcome the language barrier. This also includes business negotiations. I will never forget how red my face was after the first negotiations in English in my life. We met with the expat director of Lamoda. He was silent for the whole meeting, that he knew Russian, and my boss and I squeezed out all we knew. After this incident, I stopped worrying and spent the next negotiations calmly.
  • Add micro English to your daily routine. Let a bunch of "learn English - sit at textbooks" is destroyed. This could be a YouTube blog on a topic that interests you, books, lyrics of your favorite songs, TV shows, language switching in the smartphone settings. Think about how to painlessly embed language in your routine.
  • Show business letters or presentations to native speakers if you are not sure about their quality. It will help to avoid awkward situations.
  • If you go to group classes, choose a group according to your level. It was difficult for me in “Freedom of Speech” - it seemed that the group was terribly slow, I wanted to move quickly to the next level of assignments. The lack of dynamics is annoying.
  • Find those with whom you will talk. A language without practice is a dead language. You can always find a group of expatriates in your city and offer someone who has just moved around to sort out the city.
  • Learning a language reminds me of caring for a garden. Every day I carefully and lovingly water my “plants” - knowledge. I add new words, get used to new accents, work on my accent, teach a new language.

Now I understand that starting to learn something new, you need to be patient with yourself. Do not expect that everything will turn out right away, do not give up at the first failures, but encourage yourself to try to take up the tongue. In the end - this is not my native language, and it is generally a big deal that I try to improve it. Therefore, treat yourself with understanding and patience. If you invest in something for a long time and diligently, eventually it will work out.

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