Learn the ESL Basics

To learn and master a language is never easy, especially if it is not your first language. That said, you can still achieve your goal in learning and mastering English, if you have the desire and the intent to do so.

First and foremost, you must learn the basics, which involve LISTENING, SPEAKING, READING, and WRITING. How do I go about that? Well, there is a simple rule to follow: learn to listen by listening, learn to speak by speaking, learn to read by reading, and learn to write by writing. This is a simple rule to follow, and there is no short cut.


Expose yourself to spoken English as often as possible, such as watching TV, going to a movie, talking to people who speak English. What if I don't understand much of the spoken English? Well, you can still make some sense of what is going on without completely understanding every spoken word. The purpose is to get yourself accustomed to the sounds of the English words. Remember, the sounds of Eng
lish may be very different from the sounds of your native language. That is how you learn listening by listening.

In listening, distinguish similar sounds:

d and t   (door and tore)
and(bet and pet)
ch and sh  (which and wish)
and(lot and rot)
s and th  (sin and thin)
and(vet and wet)

Also, distinguish these English vowel sounds:

and e (pat and pet)
a and(bat and but)
e and ay  (debt and date)
and ee  (ship and sheep)
o and aw (boat and bought)


Overcome the fear of embarrassment when you use the wrong words or say the incorrect sounds. Learn to use gestures or just about anything to put your message across to the person you are speaking to, if you don't have the vocabulary. Feel comfortable speaking to anyone at anytime, without being self-conscious of whatever you are saying in English. That is how you learn speaking by speaking.


Reading is perhaps the most important aspect of learning English. You learn new words and phrases; you learn how people write, such as their approach, their choice of words, and their style of writing. You are learning not just the good, but also the bad, including errors and mistakes of others. Form the habit of reading everyday.

If you are a sight reader (i.e. relying on images of what you see), you read faster than an auditory reader (i.e. depending on hearing the sounds of words). That means an efficient reader does not have to read word by word, or even understanding every word that he or she reads. Reading has much to do with assumptions and predictions.


Writing is as important as reading in that it puts into practice what you have learned. It enables you to think, to recall what you have learned, and to put it into application. The most effective way is to write a journal everyday; that is, just writing something about anything:  e.g. your feelings or views on what is happening to you or around you. Writing something empowers your mind to use words in sentences and paragraphs to express your thoughts. The best part of it is that no one, except yourself, is going to read it, and that gives you the freedom to express yourself without consciousness of making errors.

The bottom line: there is so much to learn and master English. This site provides you with  the information and materials to help you succeed. All it demands from you is your time and your effort.

Stephen Lau
Copyrightę by Stephen Lau
Build Vocabulary
Click here to get your FREE Handbook for ESL Learners.