No English course is perfect, but without a course you’ll never become fluent in English within a reasonable amount of time.
There’s a wide variety of good and affordable English courses that you can buy or subscribe to. They teach you in different ways, emphasising different aspects of the language, and with a choice of formats and platforms.
The best way to choose the right course for you is to first ask yourself these six questions:
- Do you want to learn British English or American English?
- What’s your total budget?
- Which level are you starting from?
- What are your main objectives: speaking, understanding, reading, and/or writing?
- Which format or formats do you prefer: book, audiobook, online course, video, app?
- Are you planning to learn on your own or will you have a teacher?
How to choose the best course for you
All good English courses have these features:
Feature #1: recordings by native English speakers. Without recordings, you won’t be able to develop your listening skills. You also won’t be able to practise speaking, and you’ll develop a poor accent.
Feature #2: the English transcript of all the course recordings.
Feature #3: vocabulary flashcards, preferably audio flashcards. Vocabulary audio flashcards are the fastest, easiest and most fun way to learn words.
Feature #4: grammar lessons that blend in with the rest of the material. Bad English courses bring up grammar topics randomly, leaving you lost and frustrated. Good courses introduce you to the main topics gradually and in order.
Feature #5: speaking drills where you can practise putting words together in English, step by step.
Feature #6: listening drills, so you can quickly understand English without trouble.
Feature #7: pronunciation lessons and drills to develop a great accent.
Before buying them, all good English courses give you a detailed description of their features, and offer you free samples. They also come with a full money-back guarantee. Courses without free samples and a full money-back guarantee are a risky choice.
The biggest advantage of getting a good English course is that it allows you to focus on learning the language, rather than having to create your own course as you go along.The biggest advantage of getting a good English course is that it allows you to focus on learning the language, rather than having to create your own course as you go along.Click To Tweet
Having to create your own English course is a sure path to failure, because it’s too difficult and time-consuming. Let a good course guide you all the way, and you’ll learn English fast.
When choosing an English course, if you’re unsure about any of the basics, get a course for beginners. You should definitely do that if you‘ve studied English in the past, but haven’t used it recently. In general, always get a course that’s slightly below your current level. Far from being a waste of time, studying at a lower level helps you build a solid base with no gaps. That, in turn, will allow you to learn English a lot faster.
Important note: once you’ve chosen an English course, stick to it, and go through it from beginning to end. Don’t be tempted to follow more than one course at a time. Instead, trust your course, and you’re guaranteed to become fluent fast.
Why choosing a free English course is a bad idea
Over the years, I’ve reviewed dozens of free English courses. Sadly, I’ve never come across one I could happily recommend to my students. Free courses cost you a lot of time and unnecessary pain. The five reasons for this are:
- Free courses are often created by amateurs with little knowledge of how to teach English.
- Free courses are plagued with errors, often basic and serious errors such as: irregular verbs, usage of everyday words, pronunciation rules, spelling, wrong drill solutions, etc.
- The recordings in free courses, when they have them, are usually made by non-native speakers. That’ll give you bad pronunciation habits, which you’ll find difficult to get rid of.
- Free courses are incomplete. They cover little vocabulary, and have frustrating gaps.
- Free courses throw the material at you randomly, so you have to figure out for yourself what to study next. That’s not an easy task when you’re learning a language.
Studying with an English teacher
Nothing will help you learn faster than an experienced English teacher that encourages you to speak. It’s a more expensive option than learning on your own, but the boost to your motivation will be huge.
If you want to learn English with me, I offer some very affordable lessons. You can join my live online classes, and practise speaking and listening.
My thoughts on total immersion
Landing in a foreign country with little or no knowledge of the language, and with the intention of learning it “the way children do”, is likely to be a disastrous waste of your time and money.
The main reason for it is that what you get from total immersion mostly depends on how much you know when you embark on it. Basically, when you immerse yourself in a foreign language, the higher your level is when you start the more you’ll learn. If you’re a beginner, the experience will be frustrating. You’ll soon find yourself avoiding people who cannot communicate with you in your native language.
Also, learning English grammar just from talking to native speakers will take you years. With a good course you can master the grammar in only a few months.
To make the most of total immersion, learn as much English as you can before travelling abroad.
Language is the dress of thought.