What Method Works Best to Learn the English Language?

When you set about to learn a new language there are two approaches:  learning from a professional native teacher and learning in a classroom through a text book.  There are distinct differences between these two teaching methods.  A native teacher is someone who grew up in the language and uses it every day in every situation.  A text book is often written by some foreign-born professor of the language and never has the nuances of the language that you will come across in actual use – nuances like tone, slang, usage, and dialect.  This is not to say that text book learning is any better or worse than native learning.  It is just to point out the basis of why the two types of learning are so different.

When you learn a new language from a text book, you get the technical aspects of the language but you do not get the subtleties of it.  The English language is the perfect example to use for a discussion of subtleties in language because it is the most complex language in the world.  In English, we use many words in a slang capacity that actually means something entirely different.  “Cool” for example – in our slang, cool means good or inspiring or neat or awesome but, actually, it means slightly cold.  “Sick” is a term used in slang to describe something that is amazing and awesome but, in actuality, sick is nothing to be excited about.  These sorts of subtleties can be very confusing to someone new to our language and, you will not learn these subtleties through a text book – only regular use with a native speaker can help you understand these differences in usage in the English language. It is possible to find native speakers willing to teach English lessons by Skype online, a quick Google search will reveal many of these schools.

Obviously there are other advantages of learning English with a native speaker. But it is not always necessary to learn with a native speaker. In some cases it could be an advantage to learn with a non-native teacher. For one thing they have had to learn the language themselves and so will have a clear idea of the journey needed to reach that goal. Also they might speak slower and for beginners offer an easier accent to understand.

On the other hand, we have other odd details in the English language that a text book is rather vital to understanding.  For example, “their”, “they’re”, and “there”; or “to”, “too”, and “two” – these are very common words in the English language and, even though they sound alike, their meanings and usage vary dramatically.  The best way to get a handle on these kinds of subtleties is to see them and read them and practice them through text book learning.  Our gender affiliation works much differently than it does in French, Italian or Spanish also and our verb tense varies greatly from other languages.  These things can definitely be taught well by a text book.

In summary, the biggest deciding factor for which method to learn with is really based on why you need to learn English.  If you need it for business and testing, it is probably most effective to learn it from a text book.  If, on the other hand, you need to learn English for conversational reasons, it is probably going to be more effective to learn from a native speaker.  Keep in mind that Skype English lessons are conducted by professional native teachers so, as they are professionals, they are trained to use text book methods as well and will be able to help you with particular elements of English training, such as passing exams like IELTS.