Yes, you can teach yourself English!

Do you doubt that you can teach yourself English? Do you think you can’t learn English without a teacher, homework, and exams? Trust me, you don’t have to go to a class or take lessons to learn English. You can teach yourself English, by yourself, at home and make great progress. The hardest thing about learning English at home is that you are responsible for organizing and planning your learning. So you need either good discipline, or high motivation to be able to stick to a regular learning schedule.

You might be thinking that you don’t know enough English to be able to teach yourself. But if you are able to read this article and understand most of it, you know enough English to be able to teach yourself effectively and make great progress.

There are many ways to teach yourself English, and there is no magic bullet or single best way to do it. But here are some things that will make learning on you own easier and more effective.

Make the most of online English learning resources
Learning English online is easy now because there is so much free material available. There is far more English learning material online than you could possibly use in one lifetime. So don’t waste time looking for the “perfect” resource. Pick something that looks good and stick with for a while. Most learners give up too soon, or just read or listen to something one time and think they have learned it. But that isn’t the case: they forget most of what they think they have learned.

Create a review schedule – and stick to it!
Reviewing is the key to effective learning. If you don’t review what you have learned, you forget almost all of it within a couple of days. But if you do a short review, you refresh your memory and the information will “stick” longer. Every time you review, the memory gets a bit stronger. In an English class, the teacher will plan reviews for you. But when you learn on your own you have to make your own review schedule.

There are many suggestions for the perfect review schedule, all of them a little bit different. Here is the one I personally use for vocabulary. I have it automatically programmed into the Anki app, where I collect all of the things I want to learn and remember.

  • 1st review – 1 hour after learning
  • 2nd review – 9 hours after previous review
  • 3rd review – 24 hours after previous
  • 4th review – 48 hours after previous
  • 5th review – 4 days after previous review
  • 6th review – 6 days after previous review

It is very important to review at least one time within a day of learning something new. After one day you will only remember about 33%. After that first review, you can review less frequently. For more information, go to Wikipedia and read about the spacing effect and spaced repetition and the forgetting curve.

Check your progress – Test yourself
The key to staying motivated with your English learning is to feel that you are making progress. That is another way that reviewing and repeating material can help you. If something that was hard for you in the beginning gets easier, then you know that you have improved. For example, let’s take listening to a podcast episode, maybe this one about motivation. The first time you listen, you might understand only about 40 percent. But if you listen to it every day for a week, I’ll bet that at the end of the week you will understand much more. And if you keep practicing your listening regularly, you will see that you understand much more of new material the first time you listen to it. Again, repetition is your friend here: it not only helps you learn and remember things, but it shows you that you are improving. For listening practice, you can start with the free English learning podcasts here on my site…they all come with transcripts and vocabulary notes.

Use material you enjoy
It’s much easier to learn English if you are listening, reading, and talking about subjects and topics that you like, or that are interesting to you. Boring material is bad enough if you have to use it in a class. There is no reason to torture yourself with boring material when you are teaching yourself English. So look for English language podcasts, youtube videos, Facebook groups, and online forums related to your interests. It will make it so much more fun to learn, and you will also meet people who share your common interests. That way if you want to meet up online to practice your English, you will have things in common to talk about.