We’ve talked many times on this blog about how challenging it can be to learn English. There are a lot of words to memorize, rules to master, and sounds that can be tough to make. This makes learning English, as well as any other language, a long journey with a lot of ups and downs. Having so much to juggle can make the process of learning English seem hectic which can make you disorganized and, ultimately, demotivated.
A lot of my students find themselves lost when it comes to their English studies because they don’t know what they should study. They haven’t put any thought into what they will prioritize amongst all the things that we’ve done in class. What both them and all English language students should do is make a study plan for themselves. In this post, we will look at why it’s important to make a plan for our English learning, how we can put one together, and how we can make sure we follow it.
Why you need an English learning study plan
An English learning study plan is one of the most important steps to take when first embarking on your language learning journey. As mentioned in the introduction of this post, learning English is challenging and takes a lot of time to get good at using the language. This is because of the large number of aspects of the English language and the inherent differences between it and your own native language.
Having a lot of elements to juggle in anything can be a disorienting experience. Learning English requires you to master grammar rules, vocabulary for a variety of situations, getting used to sounds you’ve never made before, and understanding the general logic and culture behind the English language. When you start studying without a plan, you’ll generally learn new things but once you encounter something new during your practice, you’ll quickly find yourself lost.
This is because of decision paralysis, which is a real psychological barrier that all people encounter in almost every moment in our lives. When we’re faced with a decision that has a lot of options to choose from, we end up feeling overwhelmed and either end up making the wrong choice, which we regret later, or we don’t decide at all. If you think about all the aspects of the English language that you need to study, you can plainly see how your English learning can be affected by decision paralysis.
What’s more, because there are so many things you need to learn to get good at using the English language, you can easily feel that your progress is too slow. Having no way to track your progress is a surefire way to get disheartened which in turn will make you give up and stop studying. Progress tracking is vital which was the main reason we began grading students in the early days of formal education.
Having a study plan is the best way to ensure that none of these things impede your English learning by keeping you organized and providing you with a sense of progress.
How to prioritize what you study
A good plan always begins with a goal; an endpoint towards which you will work. Think about it. When you plan to travel to a foreign country, the first thing you decide is WHERE you’ll travel to. How will you book tickets and hotel rooms without a destination? It’s exactly the same for learning English. You need to set specific long-term and short-term goals that will serve as your destination. Then you can work on what you will study and when. We’ve learned how to make SMART goals in order to make our English learning more focused. First, you must decide on your long-term goal, which is your ultimate destination. After that, you have to think about your short-term goals which will need to be put into a logical order that leads up to your long-term goal.
Think of your goals as part of a set of stairs. The top of the stairs is where you want to go, which is your long-term goal. Each individual step is its own little short-term goal. By taking each step you bring yourself closer to the top of your English learning staircase. Let’s look at an example.
By next year, I want to be able to speak and understand English in everyday situations so that I can live in the UK. I will accomplish this by studying and practicing for two hours every day.
This is a reasonable long-term goal that is achievable within the one-year deadline this student has set for themselves. What they need to do now is break it down into smaller short-term goals. It’s important to start by examining what they can and can’t do with their English at the moment. Let’s say this particular student is at the elementary level, A1. They can probably use simple greetings, requests, and other simple English functions. What they will need to do is learn grammar and vocabulary that will help them accomplish their long-term goals. Here are some examples:
By the end of this week, I will have learned how to express past tenses to talk about things I’ve done, such as my weekend activities and work tasks. I will achieve this by studying past tenses and practicing them with my language partner.
By the end of this week, I will have learned vocabulary that I can use when I’m shopping for things. I will achieve this by memorizing verbs, nouns, and adjectives that will be useful in most typical shops I will be visiting while I’m living in the UK.
As you can see, the short-term goals are all relevant to our long-term goal. The first one will be useful to use with friends and colleagues this student will meet when they’re living in the UK. The second goal will allow them to shop more effectively which is an important thing to do when trying to survive in a foreign country.
You’ll also notice that each goal contains deadlines and study duration for every day. This is another important component in learning English. But how much time should you spend per day and how often should you study?
How much time you should spend on studying English
Study time and duration are an important part of your English learning study plan. You’ll find a lot of course books that have titles that promise you can learn English with just 15 minutes a day or just a few hours a week. Is it possible to learn a language by studying for such a short amount of time? Yes, but your progress will be slow. Furthermore, the number of things you learn will be limited. How much time you spend studying English will depend on your long-term goals. If you want to become fluent within one or two years, 15 minutes per day of studying will probably not be enough.
It’s important to be realistic about the time you need to achieve your English learning goals. A few minutes of day will only allow you to learn a few words or maybe a single grammar point. You still need to spend some time practicing what you learned or else it just becomes something you know rather than something you can do. One or two hours of study per day, on the other hand, will give you enough time to learn new English language elements, practice them extensively, and give you enough time to explore how and when you can use your new knowledge. A longer study time also gives you enough time to fully explore what you’re learning in a single sitting instead of breaking your study material into smaller sessions. It’s also important to have frequent English study sessions.
You keep seeing PER DAY in this article and there’s a good reason for that. It’s not only how much time you spend on each session but also have often you sit down to study that determines how fast you learn and improve. For the most optimal results, having one study session every day dedicated to learning English is something you should aim for. If you’re too busy, it’s okay to have a few study sessions per week but your progress will not be as fast as studying every day. The point is that ultimately, how much time you spend and how frequently you study impacts the speed at which your English improves. These are all things you must consider when making an English learning study plan.
What time you should study English
What’s also important is to think about when is the best time for you to study English. This again will depend on yourself and when you feel it is the most optimal time for you to learn. Some people prefer to study in the mornings while others prefer afternoons or evenings. Then there are some who prefer to burn the midnight oil and study late at night. Let’s no forget that your English study time will also depend on your other priorities, like your work, studies, and your family.
If you have a job or go to school/university but prefer to study in the morning, you might want to consider waking up earlier than usual. Likewise, if you’re an evening kind of person, reducing your Netflix or hanging out time might be something you should consider. What is vital to understand is that if you’re a morning person, you shouldn’t be studying in the evening and vice versa. You could do so if you really can’t sacrifice your free time or the time you wake up, but that will mean you won’t be studying English at your most optimal time. This, in turn, will affect your progress and slow things down considerably.
How to stay on top of your English study plan
So, you’ve managed to set your goals, set the time and duration of your study sessions, and have made a plan of progress for yourself. How do you make sure you follow your study plan? If you’re a disciplined kind of person who can stick to their plans, then I believe you don’t need much help in this area. On the other hand, if you’re easily distracted or discouraged then I have bad news for you: there’s no way to 100% guarantee you won’t be distracted without developing some discipline. If you set yourself up for building up your discipline, however, you can greatly increase the chances that you will stick to your English learning study plan.
First things first, set up alarms on your phone and calendar. We have notifications for everything on our phones these days so we’re used to following up when our smartphone is dinging for our attention. You can have the same effect by setting up reminders for when it’s time for you to study English. Another recommendation is to have some hold you accountable. You can ask a friend or family member to help keep you on track by texting you about your studies. You could even ask your English speaking boyfriend or girlfriend if you have one! But what about distractions?
This is the tricky part. The smartphone notifications I mentioned earlier can also work against you if you’re not careful. Snapchat, Whatsapp, and Instagram notifications will have you constantly looking at your phone which will ultimately ruin your English study sessions. The best thing to do here is to either put your phone on silent for a while or just set up your notifications so that the less important things don’t distract you. Getting discipline is already hard when you’re not already disciplined. The task becomes much harder when the distraction has an actual sound that tempts you,
At the end of the day, your discipline will depend on your own motivations and how seriously you take your studies.
With all of these ideas, you’re ready to put an English learning study plan together for yourself. One thing I feel bears repeating is that your plan will greatly depend on how well you follow it and what you do to keep yourself focused. Be honest with yourself and your behavior patterns. Are you actually going to study as much as you say? If not, plan and set up your sessions so that you encourage more studying. At the end of the day, there is no shame in choosing to get a private tutor or an online teacher and, of course, you always have the option of going to a language school.
There you have it! I hope this has been useful. If so, share this article with someone who wants to learn English, follow us on Instagram and try making some examples in the comments below!
See you in the next lesson!