Does someone have the magic formula to learn English?

Have you ever searched the net by typing “learn english“? It’s amazing but not surprising to see so many results and blog posts on this subject. Everyone pretends to have the key to help non-natives speak and learn English: ’20 ways to learn English fast’, ‘Learn English, fast, fun and free’, or the most hilarious, ‘Speak English fluently in ten days’.

The Internet gives English learners tons of resources to learn English—and it’s true, most of them are free. Moreover, some of them also guarantee that learners will speak English like an American or like a Brit, which I find completely ridiculous.

As a non-native English speaker, I care a lot about the topic. To be able to speak and communicate in the language has become such a big deal internationally.

Recently, at Diskuto French and Spanish corner I talked with a recent francophone newcomer, a Pvtiste from Paris. A Pvtiste is someone in possession of a ‘PVT’—working holiday visa in English. The Working Holiday Visa is a temporary work permit to travel and work in Canada up to two years.

After staying 1 month in Toronto, he is wondering if he should stay longer. He doesn’t have enough basic English to work in customer service. Most of the Pvtistes, including me, come with a head full of dreams but we are caught up to by the reality! Not everything works out as we have planned it.

Struggling with the language, not be able to answer or even to understand what people say, that is the reality experienced by newcomers and pvtistes. Daily life becomes an obstacle course: find a place to live, find a job, browse the web in English, talk with native speakers etc.

What do I struggle with in English?

My reaction when I can no longer remember an English idiom or phrasal verb that I've just learnt

My reaction when I can no longer remember an English idiom or phrasal verb that I’ve just learnt.

English is tricky. The grammar and verb conjugations are not as complex as in French but the variety of words in English compared to French can be overwhelming. For me, the most difficult thing is to try to absorb tons and tons of phrasal verbs, read ton of articles and books to improve my writing—which probably will take at least a year if I keep writing and posting blog posts.

Writing in another language is a challenge but also the best way to keep improving your writing skills.
I’m also planning soon to translate my old blog posts into Spanish and to write the new ones in two languages in order to practice intensely my written Spanish.

If I could give a piece of advice to anyone who is learning English: Don’t be naïve! Mastering a language takes time and energy. By making mistakes you will learn better and you will eventually become a happier learner.

What about you? If you are a non-native English speaker, how did you deal with misunderstanding and difficulties? Is talking English enough? How do you practise your English? Who do you talk with?


Khady arrived to Toronto from Paris. She lived in several countries such as China, Mexico, Senegal and Spain. Because of her many travels, she speaks fluently four languages: French, Spanish, Wolof and English. She is brushing up her Mandarin in Toronto. When she’s not learning different languages, she likes to cook and play the acoustic guitar.

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