What is the best way to learn English?

English Students often ask, "What is the best way to learn English?" This is an important question, but there is no single answer because "English" is not just one thing - it is a combination of different things.

In part, "English" consists of knowledge. For example, learning English requires knowing vocabulary words and grammar rules. Even more important, "English" also consists of a variety of different skills, such as the ability to speak in English or to understand a book written in English. So, there is no single best way to learn English. Instead, there are different ways to develop each of the English skills students need.

While there is no single best way to learn English, there are two basic rules that will help students decide what the best way is to develop each of the English language skills:

Rule #1: Skills are built through practice. Mastering a skill requires learning to do several different things smoothly and fluently, often within a limited time. For example, in order to read in English, you need to do several different things at once:
- recognize English vocabulary words
- understand English grammar
- use background knowledge; for example, things you know about Western culture
- understand and remember the ideas of the text.

Learning to read certainly requires knowledge of English grammar, vocabulary, and even knowledge of Western culture. But the skill of reading requires being able to put all of this together at the same time, and this can only be learned through practice.

Rule #2: You learn to do what you do. In other words, students who spend a lot of time reading newspaper articles will get better at reading newspaper articles. Students who practice speaking English will get better at speaking English. (And students who practice answering multiple choice questions on tests will get better at answering multiple choice test questions.) So the best way to develop a skill is to practice in a way that is as similar as possible to the skill you want to develop.

Word and phrase list:
a combination of things: a mix of things, many different things all together
(something) requires (something): (something) is necessary for (something). Ex: Learning a language requires a lot of study and practice.
to consist of: to be made up of. Ex: A computer consists of many different parts.
to master: to learn well. Ex: It takes a lot of work to master a foreign language.
fluently: quickly, without stopping frequently
multiple choice test questions: test questions where you choose from several possible answers, usually marked A, B, C, and D

By: Don Snow, Learning English: A Textbook for English Teachers

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