If you want to learn English from scratch, this post is for you. Well, if you are able to read this, perhaps you don’t start from scratch. 🤔
However, I’m trying to use as simple an English as possible, to enable anyone to go through the post and seize every bit of useful information.
Maybe you already have strong reasons to learn English. 🇬🇧 Because you must, perhaps? Either way, have a look at these compelling reasons.
There are possibly more incentives than you thought, to learn English from scratch: let’s have a look at some of the most common. 🤓
By the way: if you are an Italian or Spanish native speaker, you may want to have a look at the Italian and Spanish version of this website. ↗️
Learn English From Scratch: 10 obvious reasons
#1 If you belong to the school-age population, you don’t have really a choice.
#2 If you work, chances are you have no choice either.
Taking into consideration the broad western world, English is required in more than 70% of the vacancies: if we narrow down to those involving a certain degree of education, more than 85% of vacancies require fluency in English. 😨
And if you live in the UK, Ireland or any English-speaking country, well…
#3 You can’t go around saying “I don’t speak English very well but I have a good comprehension”. It just sounds like: “I don’t speak it”. Apologize for being blunt.
#4 Because wherever you live, sooner or later you’ll go abroad, and it will be very beneficial for you if you learn English from scratch today. 💪 Or maybe, the foreign masses will come to your place: tourism is an ever booming market that never ceases to grow. Be prepared.
#5 Whatever hobby you may enjoy, you’re going to have much more fun practicing it in English than in your native tongue: sport, bricolage, reading, drones, cars, travels, music, fashion, history, medicine, games, art, online trading, movies, boats, real estate… just to mention a few.
#6 Because you are tired to tell your friends how amazingly your cousin or your sister-in-law speak English (compared to you). 😖
#7 You’ll need an instruction manual in English some times, because wherever you live, the version in your own language will seem to have been translated by a broken software.
#8 Because there are fields in which the de-facto official language is English and little to nothing is translated to other languages.
Digital marketing, sciences, business, medicine, you name it. 📝 It does not make much sense to get educated in such fields in languages other than English.
#9 To be an active and involved citizen, you need to be informed. And to be updated of what’s going on around you, you must read news. If you want to get a fresh perspective on a topic, nothing like reading some foreign press talking about it. 📰
#10 Because Human Resources laugh hard every time they read “English: intermediate” in a CV.
Learn English From Scratch: 10 less obvious reasons
#1 Is your native language the most previous, easy, pleasant, complex, expressive of all? How can you tell, if it’s the only one you know well?
You should learn another, at the very least. That’s where English comes in:
- simple compared to other world’s most widespread languages,
- there’s plenty of materials to learn English from scratch,
- huge number of speakers to practice it anywhere.
Bill Bryson wrote in his Mother Tongue: The Story Of The English Language:
(…) one of the beauties of the English language is that with even the most tenuous grasp you can speak volumes if you show enough enthusiasm.
#2 To flirt.
#3 To help your kids with their English homework. Or siblings, neighbours…
#4 The English-speaking side of the world is, surprise surprise, the one that sets the world’s agenda. Especially the US, right now: that’s a good reason to learn English from scratch as of today, don’t you concur?
#5 Watch your favourite series in their original version. Priceless. Do not hide behind the “oh but in my country dubbers are the best”: your country may have the best curling players, but that’s not a reason to get involved in curling.
#7 Are you looking for friends? Learning English can widen your social circle. Hmm, you strike friendship with the languages you currently master? Well, to get more friends on board is never a bad thing.
#8 Dating. 🤭 Which is both a good outcome of learning English from scratch, and an excellent way to improve your linguistic skills.
#9 To know thyself better. A language isn’t only a mean of communication: it’s also a one-way ticket to your inner depths: by speaking another language, you acquire a supernatural power, you make yours an alternative personality. It sounds crazy, but it happens.
You take over a different kind of humour, a different way of discussing and of solving issues. You can’t believe it, until it happens to you.
#10 If you value expressing yourself in a proper way in your mother tongue, you must learn another language at the very least: it gives you a perspective.
Learn English From Scratch: 3 keys to start now
#1 Write down your whys
Take all the reasons listed above here that make sense to you, add your own and write them down on a piece of paper: it can be your personal journal, your blog, your Facebook profile.
By writing them down, you trigger a process of transformation: now, you have made a serious commitment to yourself.
When the eagerness to study will falter because you’re weak, you’re sick and tired of your job, harassed by your family and exhausted by the traffic 🚗🚗, chances are you won’t like to get your daily dose of English, but you’ll study anyway.
You’ll grab your piece of paper and you’ll instantly remember why you decided to learn English from scratch in the first place. Does it seem to you a little stupid trick? Well, it is. But it is also:
- fast to execute,
- darn effective!
So, why not?
#2 Get an Assimil course
Assimil language courses are freaking marvellous: with a course from the With Ease series, you’ll have profitable work for some months. 👍
It’s the best use you can give to your time and money: with Assimil, you’ll realize that learning English from scratch not only is doable but it’s even pleasant! Courses are crafted so well, that I manage to learn new concepts even in situations in which my head cannot handle the slightest effort:
- early morning,
- evening after a normal crazy day,
- in the train station surrounded by 200 kids in school trip.
You can either go British or American, with Assimil. The courses aimed to teach you British English from scratch are available in a wide array of base languages. Here below the one in French, for example:
You have it also in Arabic, Turkish, German, Italian, Spanish, Russian, etc. There’s also the American English With Ease: it is offered in less base languages, but it’s just as good.
British or American English? Which one to go, is a matter of preference. I myself have learnt British English first, then expanded to the American.
The English With Ease theoretically allows you to get to a B2, though there’s much more work to do before to actually get to that level: more textbooks, more books, more listening, more speaking, more writing, more English 360 degrees.
Anyhow, once done, you can go ahead with this other course from Assimil, also outstanding:
The series Using English, here above in its French version Perfectionnement Anglais, serves you to go from a B2 to a C1: it’s so well done, so it’d be a pity to miss it.
But that’s for the future: now, you’re learning English from scratch, so let’s get back to this phase of your learning endeavour. As you’ll see in the cover, English With Ease is adequate for beginners and false beginners.
Who’s a false beginner? 🤨
Someone who learnt, at some point in his life, something but then it just faded away. So, he doesn’t entirely learn English from scratch; and once completed with the English With Ease, please go ahead this way.
#3 Resorting to graded readers
There are people who would love to learn languages, but they dislike reading. Are you one of those?
Not good. 🤨 It will take you more time and you’ll eventually have just a partial knowledge of the English language. Moreover, if anytime in your future you’d fancy an official certificate, you’d better start learning now, quality- and quantity-wise.
Don’t exaggerate either, at this point: leave Hamlet and Lord of The Rings for a latter stage. You’re just starting now learning English from scratch. You’re not majoring in Interpretation and Translation (yet).
Now, let me introduce you to MacMillan Readers: publishing house centred on graded readers for students of English. What are graded readers? 🧐
They are simplified texts of any genre, conceived for learners. They may be written anew or they may also be adaptations of famous, more complex books: they normally go from A1 (Beginner) to B2 (Upper Intermediate). I suggest you some titles here below to get started:
Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë: it’s an A1, that is, right when you learn English from scratch.
If you had the time, it’d be great to insert reading graded readers in your daily linguistic diet at the end of Assimil’s passive wave, so to say, after the first fifty lessons.
These below are also easy-going, but the learning curve begins to rise:
The Phantom Of The Opera, by Gaston Leroux: an A2, well done too. It’s not everything pre-digested as in an A1 any more.
The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain: same.
The effort starts bearing fruit, so:
White Fang, by Jack London: welcome to B1. 🎆 Here you’ll perhaps find structures, idioms and words unread in Assimil. Keep up.
Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley: same.
Things are getting solid now: Owl Hall, by Robert Campbell: here, we’re close to a B2 already. That’s roughly the purpose of Assimil’s English With Ease, to bring you at an A2.
You are able to communicate quite well your thoughts, at this level. The learning curve is steep nonetheless. These listed are amusing graded readers anyway, allowing you to learn and to have fun while doing it.
Gandhi, by Rachel Bladon: same. Moreover:
Concise Oxford English Dictionary: awesome value for money. Up until a B2, I wouldn’t rely on another dictionary. It’s shamelessly cheap for what it offers.
Is this all?
Nope. That’s merely the beginning. It’s all just if you don’t have more time or goodwill; if you’re not thinking about putting some extra money; if you have no interest in going beyond a basic level.
If you want to continue learning, there are HUNDREDS of doable things. Let me walk you through a hand-picked selection.
Learn English From Scratch: 7 more ways
#4 Getting private tuitions
Can you rely on a professional tutor, once or twice a week, face to face? If you can, great; otherwise, there is nowhere else to go to but to the Internet.
I myself provide such service. I’ve been tutoring students from all over the world online for years: have a look at my language tutoring page and let me know if I can be of help.
Ah, another thing: a good way to practice would be to find a Language Exchange Partner: half hour in English, half in your mother tongue. Listening to, talking and correcting each other.
However, finding a good language exchange partner is darn hard.
It’s hard to find someone truly interested in practising a language. If you find him, chances are you’re not getting really corrected as you should. A lot of blokes just feel like killing time with a beer and someone else, nothing more than that. 😒
Then, the elephant in the room: too many people use language exchange websites as a substitute for Tinder. 😒
Some tell you they have an intermediate-high level but then they hardly know how to introduce themselves. Some thinks it’s a language course for free. 😒
Eventually, some are truly motivated and you have a lot in common with them, but they’re hardly language specialists and that can become an issue.
If you get a, say, New Zealanders which turns your Received Pronunciation down and correct you for things that are absolutely common in England, you’re not doing any favour to yourself.
If you learn English from scratch and you find a guy like this, although driven by good intentions, you’re only damaging yourself.
It’s good to take a language exchange into consideration when you have some core knowledges of English. As of a B1, for example, when they can’t linguistically hurt you any more.
#5 Reading news in English
An article a day is enough.
You read it, you look up words you didn’t know, you take note of the whole sentence (a word is purposeless without its context), you try to put the word to use within the following 24 hours.
You may have your preferences in terms of article: if possible, try to cover all the news spectrum: politics, society, art, events, sport, economics, world’s affair, gossip too.
A good news source, with well-written articles and a style purposely suitable for students of English as a foreign language, is Euronews.
It’s a news channel of great quality, available in a wide selection of languages, English amidst them: if you learn English from scratch, you must bookmark its website.
#6 Listening to podcasts and radio in English
Podcasts are on the rise, but radio isn’t disappearing: you may want to start from easy podcasts for beginners.
Then, Adept English is an excellent tool: with two new podcasts per week, each of them lasting between 10 and 15 minutes, this podcast has to be part of your English diet.
Topics range between online dating to environmental protection, with special attention on idioms, terminology, tips & tricks to overcome difficulties.
It is thought for an audience who is at a beginner – intermediate level in British English. 🇬🇧 I simply love it.
It’s hard not to love Voice Of America – Learning English too: it’s a radio channel that produces 30 minute-long podcasts, extremely rich in content. Topics are taken from the current issues of the time, be the burning of the Amazon forest or the war in Syria or the Olympics.
It’s also done for listeners who are students of English at between a beginner and an intermediate level: just as in Adept English, here speakers talk intentionally slow too. 🐌 But unlike the English podcast, here the linguistic variety is American English. 🇺🇸
If you would like to do a bit of a more thorough work on your listening, you can enjoy BBC Learning English. Back in England, so British English. Take for example the 6 Minutes English‘s series: you have a podcast which is, surprise surprise, about six minutes long, about all sorts of topics.
BBC enables you to download MP3 and transcript of the podcast. Plus, you have exercises to enhance your listening comprehension.
I’d be happy to start from here, before to go to real radio for native speakers: but if you’d do it anyway, then check the excellent BBC Sounds: an endless source of radio channels and programs in British English.
To have the entire British ether at your disposal, check Tune In, the biggest repository of radio channels around.
#7 Singing in English
Music is gold for the language learner. Pick up your favourite genre: pop, rock, soul, country.
Take the lyrics, read them while you listen to the songs, then keep enjoying the music anywhere with your headphones on. 🎧 I have learnt the present perfect continuous thanks to this song:
#8 Leveraging your passions
This is the single most important factor of the equation.
There’s people learning Italian because they are terribly fond of opera. I know girls who have learned Brazilian Portuguese prompted by a passion for capoeira. Boys who have learnt Sanskrit to their burning desire to get to know Asian philosophy better.
If you love something, language turns into a tool to improve your knowledge of it, not an end in itself: it will enable you to stop viewing English as a school subject, and you’ll begin seeing it as a part of you.
And when you have integrated the language into your life, BOOM! Congrats 🎆🎆 you have won the most crucial battle.
#9 Switch to English all what is switchable
Mobile phone, computer, tablet, satnav, TV. Oven, fridge, entryphone, washing machine, kitchen robot, smartwatch. Eve-ry-thing.
The news, the series you’ve been watching in your mother tongue up to know, those novels by Zadie Smith that you adore. Write down your shopping list in English. Read recipes, even those from your own country, in English!
Whenever travelling, do it as if you were an Englishman on holidays. Pick up the English leaflets, use English guidebooks, sign up for tours given in English, read the English labels at museums.
Now, you’re a deadly English-speaking machine. 🤖
Then, make a list of everything you do during an average day in Spanish and find a way for each item to be in English: chances are, the vast majority of the activities can be performed in English.
#10 Take the English for a walk
The ultimate goal is to turn English into a part of you, not to leave it to the lifelong learning section until you’re 98 years old. 👴
There will always be new words, new verbs, new expressions to know, especially when you’re not yet at a C1, and you still have a long way ahead.
But at a B1, it’s time to live English far from your studio: hang out with English speakers, start watching movies in original version, travel to Ireland or Canada.
Try connecting with likely-minded people, with folks enjoying your same passions, but with English as mother tongue! 🤝 Mark my words: English is not a subject you are bound to painfully study in order to pass an exam. It’s something to add to your life, to add meaning and fulfilment to it!
Learn English From Scratch: 7 mistakes to avoid
#1 Mobile Apps!
They are toys to play with, not to learn languages. Apologize for being straightforward. If someone tells you I have learnt English from scratch with [insert App name], rest assured his concept of “learning” means three greetings and four colours.
#2 Seeking the perfect language school forever
Private language schools aren’t always the best places where to learn a language. Actually, they rarely are.
Generally speaking, they are rather entities treating you as their personal ATM machine. 🏧 Be careful, or rather hire a private teacher. If you can’t, stick to what I’ve been telling you in this post. You can learn an amazing deal of English on your own.
#3 Postponing everything to the day you’ll be able to move to London or Chicago for three years
Forget about it. Nowadays, with all the technology at our disposal and a hint of organization, it’s London and Chicago coming to your doorstep.
That doesn’t mean it’s not a rewarding experience, to live in an English-speaking place. 🏡 It certainly is. Just avoid using as an excuse a future that it’s far, far away and perhaps will never come.
Don’t even think that by merely living in UK or USA you’ll magically learn English from scratch. How? By osmosis? 🤔
Survival is actually very easy in any country: you can spend twenty years somewhere and yet learning zero, if you don’t make a conscious effort.
#4 Thinking that without native teachers or language exchange partners, practising is pointless
You do not know how to teach a language by exclusively having that language as mother tongue. Still, there is plenty of people thinking something like:
Well, I speak the language, so I must be qualified.
No, you’re not! Try to teach your mother tongue to a foreigner that do not even have an A1 and tell me how it goes.
Why then society believe it’s important to rely on native speakers? The accent? Sure. But English is as rich as to have a million accents, not just one. 👅
If you study British English, chances are your materials will deal with the Received Pronunciation (RP): to make a long story short, the sort of “posh” accent from the south of England.
But even in England, there are dozens of accents and many teachers do not utter words the RP way. And that’s fine, just as is fine if you speak with an accent defined from your mother tongue.
Striving to get as close as possible to the Received Pronunciation is a terrific thing: nevertheless, as long as it does not hinder comprehension, you’re doing fine.
So then, what’s the advantage of native teachers? Culture?
Perhaps yes. Someone who was born and raised in UK, Ireland, South Africa 🇿🇦 can give you a first-hand perspective on what it means to be a Briton, an Irish, a South African. But the perspective of someone who moved there, learnt the language, made his way and became teacher, is just as interesting.
So, summarising, citizenship is secondary: focus on finding good teachers and good language exchange partners, regardless of where they come from.
#5 Don’t go too far with your plans
Ambition is a great thing, but if it’s out of control, you’ll sweel the ranks of abandoningdom. You’ll give up, you’ll end up telling yourself stuff like:
- I like it but I have no time,
- I’d love to learn but I fear I have no talent for languages.
Prevent any ambition outbreak, even more when you’re learning English from scratch, not improving the solid C1 you already own.
#6 Comparing yourself with others
It’s good to have a benchmark, but it cannot be the dude studying English since childhood or the Sheldon Cooper with a IQ of 190.
Not a good thing if you are learning English from scratch now, don’t you think? 🤔 Your yesterday’s self is your best benchmark: if today you are more than you were one day ago, you’re doing fine.
#7 Be erratic in your studies
It’s better to learn English on a bumpy ride than not learning it. Clear.
Now, it’s way better to learn English on a steady path. Do I sound patronising? Well, perhaps I do.
The point is that discipline is an investment yielding a lot, in language learning too: a bit of work everyday, for a long long time, pays amazingly. Try to stick to this principle.
#8 Feeling ashamed
As a child, you surely said a giant heap of amorphous words and sentences for a long time, before to be able to communicate properly.
Quite surely too, you didn’t give feel ashamed at all about it. Am I wrong? Then, what could possibly happen if you start talking and writing and you make mistakes?
Nothing, nothing at all! If you get an idiot laughing at you for a typo or a mispronounced work, keep in mind the world is filled with idiots.
You’re making an effort to go beyond your comfort zone, and I as many others praise you and support you. 👏👏👏
Learn English From Scratch: Conclusions
I hope this post have been of use to you. I have tried to resume here my best strategies and suggestions to learn English from scratch, without poking around in the dark.
But in case you already know English to some extent, have you ever thought about obtaining an official certificate?
Well well, have a look at these posts ⤵
If you reached this point:
- Congratulations: you don’t belong to the low-attention-span Internet generation. 👏
- You realized you have plenty of tools and ways to learn English from scratch, even with little time and money.
- You understood that speaking English represents a massive improvement of your professional and personal life.
🙏 Please share with those who want or need to learn English from scratch 🇬🇧
I’ll publish soon more posts about learning English, sooooo stay tuned my friend 😉
See ya soon!
Your personal Anglicist,