This is a question that students (and others trying to learn English) always ask me. If I had a nickel for every time someone asked this question……I’d probably only have a few dollars by now…..but that still means that I’ve answered this question many times. Here’s the reply I’ve crafted over time:
Learning English is about the same as learning any other skill–it takes time and practice (unless you’re a linguistic genius, in which case you wouldn’t ask this question). The more you practice, the better you get. If you don’t use your English skills for a while, they’ll start to atrophy. The truth–that most teachers don’t tell their students because it’s bad for business–is that there’s no magic method for learning. The greatest factor in student progress is their own hard work. No matter what method is used for learning, students who study hard, study often, and practice frequently, learn a lot. Doing something interesting or useful will encourage more study and practice.
With that said, it is important to practice both old and new skills. Musicians who practice the same songs over and over, despite frequent practicing and effort, will always only be able to play the same songs. In the same way, students who have the same casual conversations over and over will always only be able to discuss the same topics and answer the same questions.
Let’s consider studying overseas. Most students who study overseas seem to gain much more skill in a shorter period of time than those who don’t. This is because being in a foreign, English speaking country forces English learners to constantly practice and learn new skills; no one understands their native language, they have no choice but to use English. What about those who can’t study overseas? What, in the foreign country, is external motivation can come from within. Mustering that kind of personal drive is difficult, but probably not impossible.
Do I often give this long an answer for such a simple question? No, and that’s not what’s important here. The best method for learning English is one in which the student can apply their mind, heart, and life (give the maximum possible effort) to learning English.