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Three biggest challenges facing an English learner

by Tomasz P. Szynalski

1. Developing a passion for learning English

All English learners would like to speak English well. They are excited at the idea of being able to communicate in English fluently. However, they usually don’t care about the learning process itself. For most learners, learning English is a duty — something that they have to, but don’t want to do. They don’t see pleasure in learning English.

In short, most learners would like to speak English well but don’t like to be learning English. This is the first and biggest problem facing an English learner, because a person who doesn’t like to learn English will not learn it well. If you don’t love English, English won’t love you back!

If you want to become a successful learner, you need to like the learning process itself. You need to treat time spent on English as time for pleasure and relaxation. For example, you need to enjoy:

  • reading English sentences and thinking about their structure
  • learning new words from a dictionary
  • writing a correct English sentence by consulting dictionaries, grammar guides, and the Web
  • practicing the pronunciation of English sounds and words

Ideally, learning English should be your hobby. You should think of yourself as an English Learner — a person who has chosen learning English as one of their favorite activities.

2. Making the first change to one’s life

The decision to learn English requires changes in your life. For example, deciding that one will read a book in English for 30 minutes every day and keeping to that decision. It’s very difficult to make a small, but permanent change to your life, especially if learning English doesn’t seem “fun”. However, learners should remember that studying English for 15 minutes every day gives you much better results than studying for a whole day once a month.

3. Making further changes to one’s life

While the first change is the most difficult, each subsequent one is hard, too. A lot of learners take the first step (e.g. they start reading a book in English every day) and stop there. They do not engage in other English-building activities.

A good learner will have a set of activities (reading, watching TV, practicing pronunciation, listening to recordings, etc.) and choose from that set according to his or her mood. One activity is not good enough, because (1) you get bored more quickly, and (2) it gives you a range of language skills that is typically too narrow. For example, reading in English can’t improve your pronunciation, although it can improve your grammar, vocabulary, reading comprehension, and writing skills.)