How to Learn English as an ESL Learner?

7 April 2021

As an ESL learner, you might’ve stumbled upon hundreds of ads and guides saying that one can become fluent in English in just a month or two. ‘The experts’ often boast of their secret hacks and tricks that work like a charm.

Sadly, those promises are nothing but marketing gimmicks! Otherwise, you wouldn’t have to slog through articles after articles trying to learn English.

The harsh truth is learning English is a daunting challenge and it would probably take years to ‘somewhat’ master it. To give you a hint, let’s talk about the approximate number of total words in the English language.

Shakespeare, the famous writer had an impeccable vocabulary and his books had over 30,000 unique words in them. However, even native speakers don’t use that many words in in a typical day.

It’s true that knowledgeable native speakers have an average vocabulary of 30,000 words. But the most common 10,000 words represent almost 95% of day-to-day English words.

So, considering all of the facts, the 15,000 words in the SpellQuiz database is adequate enough for the ESL learners to be fluent.

Hundreds and thousands of people are learning and even mastering English as a second language. If they can do it, so can you! All you need is a sound plan towards your goal of learning English and be dedicated to it.

What Does It Mean to Learn English?

Before you start following a language learning scheme, you should first set your goals and expectations.

In simpler terms, ask yourself, “Do I want to understand and speak English while traveling abroad or do I want to become a fluent user of the language?”

This is the MOST IMPORTANT decision that you need to make.


Because you can only learn a couple of hundred to about a thousand words high-frequency English words or sight words and somewhat communicate in English.

You can communicate in English with a small vocabulary consisting of some common verbs and nouns. Try to master the 315 Dolch sight words first and then gradually master the 1,000 Fry sight words. These sight words cover about 90% of the day-to-day English words.

You might ask, “Why is this article only talking about words? I want to learn the language? Shouldn’t I focus more on grammar?”

Yes, you’re right! But only to some extent.

Words are the basic elements of any language and the primary tools for communication. The grammar will only help you structure and euphonize your thoughts.

Why Traditional Language Classes and Learning Methods Aren’t Effective?

Most ESL learners seek help from English language classes. It’s an intuitive move — if I want to learn something, I join classes for it!

While the traditional language classes and learning methods do help, they’re not as effective as you think.

Surely, you’re getting a bit confused now!

Let’s take a look at a practical example again.

A traditional class for ESL newcomers focuses heavily on teaching situational conversations. It mostly covers topics like — self-introduction, situational survival vocabulary, and often covering scenarios that you might ever face!

Teaching these topics are important but the flaw remains in the method of teaching. In most cases, the teacher shows images and then defines the term with a word.

The issue is that only ‘memorizing’ words doesn’t help you master it. You might remember that word for maybe a month or two but you’ll eventually forget about it.

You MUST use the new words in a sentence in a conversation. In that way, your brain associates external factors, like specific situations or conversation to that particular word. It helps you master that word, not just memorize it.

The same can be said about flashcards. It allows you to memorize the word but doesn’t help you anyway with implementation efforts.     

Also, traditional classes have cookie-cutter curriculums that might or might not work with your capabilities. As a result, classes eventually classes — boring and uninspiring.  

Surely, you need structures and guidelines but they have to be personalized — tailored towards your needs.

The Language Learning Strategy That Actually Work

Do you remember how you learnt your first language — the mother tongue?

Probably not!

You were hearing new words every day, then, your brain correlated the words to actions and different objects. After that, you started using the words vocally. At first, you couldn’t form sentences — there were only simple words.

Then, you started forming short sentences and gradually started mastering longer sentences. After having somewhat command over the hearing and speaking capabilities, you moved on to the reading and writing skills.


You’re not the only one — we all have learnt our first language in the same way.

Let’s call it the natural process.

We need to implement this exact strategy in our English learning strategy. However, there is an issue. Our brains are more rigid towards newer information and knowledge.

So, the best thing that we can do is mimic the same stimulation and train our brains to follow that similar path once again!

How to Learn English Effortlessly?

Now, let’s talk about the elephant in room.

How can you use the natural language learning strategy to learn English?

That brings us to the most important segment of this article — dissecting the natural language process and a step-by-step guide to ‘master’ English.

Step-0: Identifying Your Current Level of English Proficiency

This initial step stands true for all ESL activities or development efforts. Before you start working on your English learning venture, you need to define your current level of English proficiency.

You can do this by asking yourself some simple questions, like a checklist —

  • How many English words Do I know?
  • Can I participate in a simple conversation in English (doesn’t matter if you’re only using a few words to express your thoughts)?
  • Do I recognize the English letters and alphabet?
  • Can I read English texts?
  • Do I have the understanding of tense and sentence structures?

As you can see, the difficulty of the tasks in the checklist increases gradually. The findings from this questionnaire help you identify your current level of proficiency. After the identification, you should set up some clear expectations from your English learning efforts.

For example, if you can express your thoughts using only verbs and nouns but can’t form complete sentences, you should aim at mastering that.

vocabulary assessment

Similarly, if you can form simple sentences complying with the subject-verb agreement, you should learn and implement advanced words to euphonize the sentences.

It’s all about continuous improvement.

However, there is an issue with this strategy!

You can’t quantify or measure your proficiency level. Think about it — if you could get a numeric reference to quantify your vocabulary level, wouldn’t that be great? Only after having an idea about your vocabulary size, you can participate in vocabulary building activities. 


To bolster your learning efforts, you should use English language learning websites and apps. Here's a complete list of the best language learning apps. 

How SpellQuiz Helps with Vocabulary Assessment?

SpellQuiz proposes a practical solution with a smart vocabulary assessment test online.

The free online tool asks you to do one simple thing — listen to a sentence and type in the sentence in the textbox on the screen. After repeating the same process a few times, the smart tool tells you your approximate vocabulary size and an estimation of equivalent English level from Grade 1 to 12 to adult.

spellquiz features

The sentences are curated by a team of linguistics experts from the United States of America, Canada, Australia and UK. Also, it uses actual sentences spoken by human voice artists rather than opting for computer-generated sounds. It’ll help you with the correct pronunciation too.

Step-1: Start Gathering (Listening) English Words

Do you remember the first phase of the natural language learning process? All you did was listen to others speaking a language to express their feelings.

You need to do that same thing again.

So, start watching English movies and TV shows. And, don’t forget to turn on the subtitles. At first, you’d feel completely overwhelmed with the ‘new’ kind of sound and should I even mention the sudden exposure to the number of foreign words?

Slowly but surely, you’ll be able to identify specific words and be able to guess the meaning too.

A plethora of anime lovers learn Japanese using this strategy. They don’t even try to learn the language, yet it happens effortlessly.

Step-2: Get Accustomed to the Sight Words

Now that you’re already learning English words casually with movies and TV shows, it’s time to hit the books.

This part is a bit tricky as you’d need the knowledge of letters and word formation now. Simply speaking, you need to have a basic reading skill here.

Otherwise, you can use Google translator or any other translator application to help your out here.

The idea is to get accustomed to and hopefully master the Sight Words in this step. Why is this step so important?

Sight words are the most commonly used English words. There are two popular lists — Dolch words and Fry words. Dolch sight words the simpler and only has 315 words. Fry words list, on the other hand, has a total of 1,000 words.

You should note that the Fry words list also has all of the Dolch words in it. These words are so common that they count for about 90% of the day-to-day English texts.

After mastering this step, you’d be able to have small conversations with an English speaker.

An ESL student should also be aware of the common spelling rules for adults in this phase of learning.  

How SpellQuiz Helps with Sight Words?

SpellQuiz understands the value and importance of sight words very well. That’s why it has a complete collection of sight words in the Words section on the website.

spelling training

From this section, you can see all of the sight words in one place. Also, these word lists are downloadable, meaning you can download and print them for offline practices.

But only knowing and memorizing words will not do you any good. You’ll eventually forget them.

spelling training

To solve this issue, SpellQuiz special spelling tests for sight words. Here, you can take part in the exercise and implement the sight words.

Still, you should use these words in real-life situations. And that brings us to the next step.

Step-3: It’s Time for Conversations!

The best way to learn a language is by having conversations in that language. This stands true for English language learning too.

Sadly, you’d a partner for it. You can partner up with another ESL learner as it would help both of you at the same time.

Conversations act as intense and short language learning sessions if used with a dictionary and corrections. You’ll feel more motivated to speak and have conversations with an actual person than a guided audio tutorial or bots.

Here’s an additional tip for you, if you learn a new word, try to use that word a few times in the conversations. That word will retain in your brain permanently.

Surely, you’ll make A TON OF mistakes, but guess what, mistakes are your best friend now! Only after making silly mistakes and having numbers of awkward conversations, you can hope to learn English one day.

Embrace the mistakes — just let the other person know that you don’t speak English and don’t intend on being offensive accidentally.

Step-4: Practice, Practice and Practice

No matter what you do, you can’t learn English in a whizz! It takes time and you should give it ample time.

Learn new words, use them in conversations, learn the spelling, practice the spelling, write something fiction or non-fiction — keep yourself busy with different practice efforts.

You’ll get there!

How SpellQuiz Helps with Practices?

SpellQuiz offers all kinds of vocabulary and spelling tests and practices. If you’re a beginner, you can start with grade 1 practice sessions.

The difficulty increases gradually all the way up to grade 12. It even has a separate section for the adults.

Spelling Test Dashboard SpellQuiz

All of these exercises and practice sessions are based on listening dictations and writing them down. So, it develops your listening and writing skills all at the same time. And, there is no doubt that writing dictation exercises is a great way of practicing English for ESL learners. 

Does competition boost your motivation?


Then, you can participate in the Spelling Bee Online competition. Here, students from all over the world participate in a virtual spelling bee competition in real-time and the global leaderboard keeps track of all the best competitors.

spelling training

spellquiz features

Now, that’s motivation!

On the contrary, you might be a bit shy and don’t want to embarrass yourself with your mediocre English proficiency. In that case, the adaptive learning feature will allow you to learn at your own pace.  

spellquiz features

The later addition of SpellQuiz is the Idioms section where students can learn about quirky phrases that will help them euphonize sentences. As idioms don’t refer to the literal meaning of the words, SpellQuiz uses images, different meanings, and examples in a sentence for better implementation.

spellquiz features

Step-5: Evaluate Your Progress

As you work hard learning English every day, you check your progress every now and then. It will help reevaluate your initial learning goals and efforts and set you on the right track.

What parameters matter while progress tracking?

You need to know how many hours you have put in your learning efforts so far. How many new words you have mastered or failed to master? What is correcting and failing ratio?

All of these parameters matter.

There are a number of online applications that can help you with the tools for tracking.

How SpellQuiz Helps with Progress Tracking?

SpellQuiz has a robust tracking feature. If you browse through the reports section, you can check out the tracking parameters.

SpellQuiz helps you with the following information —

  • Activity duration
  • Total number of correct words
  • Total number of incorrect words
  • Type of activity participation and the total number of activity participation
  • SmartScore
  • Number of attempts
  • Global ranks
  • Word statistics

spellquiz features

Final Words

Learning English is a tedious challenge that demands time and patience. If you follow the right strategy and learning approach, the knowledge will remain in your memory for a long, long time.

And, at the end of the day, it matters the most.

So, say no to the shortcuts, hacks, quick tips and all of those gimmicky strategies. Embrace the long and hard path and you can become a better English language user eventually.  

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