Getting My English to the Next Level

I’m a self-learned English speaker from Poland. I’ve managed to learn this language through watching a lot of tv series/movies/shows and reading a lot. I’ve been doing that for years now and I can hardly call that learning - I’ve been just entertaining myself or seeking knowledge and learning’s been just a byproduct.
But today I was thinking about my English and I came up with a conclusion that I haven’t made any significant progress in many months or even years. I think like I’m familiar with x words/phrases and I don’t widen my vocabulary. The same goes for the words/phrases I use in both writing and speaking.

Nowadays my ‘studying’ is basically just the contact with the language on a daily basis because I think there hasn’t been a day in years when I didn’t have any contact with that language. I watch movies/tv series/ shows in English with or without English subtitles, depending on my mood. I read books every evening and they all are in English. I write daily (both in my private journal and on my website) in English. The only thing I lack when it comes to practicing the language is speaking.

I think I’ve reached the stage where I don’t make any progress and to get my English to the next level, I should do something more. I think speaking could potentially be one thing I should work on. But perhaps there’s something else I should be doing?

I’ve never used LingQ to improve my English or perhaps a few times. But maybe that could also be the solution - import some articles and just stuff I read on a regular basis and work on that content using LingQ. As I go through my days there are always some words I don’t know but since that’s like 1-5% of the content, I don’t really pay any special attention to that, as long as I understand the meaning of the whole material or sentence.

Any advice?


Your command of English appears to be very good. As a native speaker I’ve acquired a fairly large vocabulary in the same way you have – contact with the language. If you want to expand your vocabulary more, perhaps some advice recently given elsewhere here for Russian might apply – reading some (more) of the great classics of English literature?

In high school we all sit through English classes even though we all speak English already. Of course, those classes are not for learning the language, but for learning how to use it properly. One of the classic reference works used is “Elements of Style” by Strunk & White. It is fairly small, and its explanations are clear with lots of examples (if I recall correctly). I wonder whether someone at your level might benefit from some of the lessons in that book.?

By the way, Strunk & White have made an appearance in xkcd: xkcd: Strunk and White


Find some Shakespeare, trust me, there will be some new vocab in there haha. Most native speakers don’t even understand it lol.

Sounds like speaking practice is required, as you said, you read books in English every night, so I’m not sure how much more lingqing will add at this stage. Find language partners on Skype and try to speak everyday. Or perhaps you could join an English bookclub to attend in person? That way you get exposed to more unknown words through native literature and you get speaking and listening practice too.

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You are at the stage where you can just focus on enjoying the language and let the progress take care of itself, in my view. If you use LingQ save not only words you don’t know but also words and phrases you would like to use. This will help you notice them and therefore include them in your active vocabulary.

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Thank you, I will look into this.

Yeah, speaking practice is something I must add to the mix. Watching stuff, reading, and writing won’t suffice.

That’s actually a pretty interesting concept. I definitely stumble upon some great words/phrases I just love but then I forget about them and never really use them myself. Thanks!

Your English is excellent. Especially for being self taught. I have a question for you, have you ever wanted to try formal lessons or classes, or do you still enjoy being self-taught?

I’m having this dilemma right now, whether being motivated to learn is enough, or if I really want to make the most of my time, I should enroll in lessons in an immersive environment.

I’m in a similar situation like you. I can start to read articles comfortably (about a 1/3 or more words are unknown and unguessable even in context) but my reading skills far surpass my speaking skills, due to lack of practice.

In regards to taking your English to the next level, try reading scholarly journals. They’re not fun like books, but I’m finishing up my degree in Chemistry, and we have to read a lot of journals for research purposes.

Hello, and thank you!
I think I might not have made myself clear - I’d attended school English classes like everyone in Poland but if I’d wanted to rely on that, I would have been on a level which most of my friends are right now - which is terrible. Most of us had between 12 to 15 years of classes, usually like 90-135 minutes a week but I think we all know how much that education is worth. People who have relied on school English education usually are unable to conduct even a simple conversation and when they do they make like 30 grammar and pronunciation errors in each sentence huh. It was just painful listening to them during classes, even after 10+ years of education where anyone should be able to apply some basics and, at least, not make mistakes using Present Simple…

If I hadn’t been doing things on my own, just for pleasure or education purposes, I wouldn’t have been able to ‘master’ English in a way I think I’ve mastered so far.

As for formal lessons or classes, I have never attended any ‘private’, that is beside my school, classes. I’ve thought a couple of times about enrolling for some private courses but they were either quite expensive or that would be like 30 people sitting in a classroom so I expected that would be just like during my English classes at school.
The immersion idea sounds good but for me to feel truly immersed I’d need to be constantly engaged in a conversation and that, I think, would be the case only if a group of people attending a class at the same time would be fairly small.
I remember I used to play Battlefield 4 with a group of British people and we would communicate using TeamSpeak. If I played 3 hours with them, I had to be immersed for 3 hours because we were constantly using English. And even If I wasn’t engaged in a particular conversation, I was still present and heard them talking. Plus, we had to communicate to win the game! That was the best immersion I have ever experienced and both my speaking and my self-confidence improved greatly.

I like the idea of reading scholarly journals. I graduated from my University like a week ago and I’m now officially an engineer in Robotics but I’m thinking about continuing my education for 3 semesters more to deepen my knowledge. Adding some scholarly journals would greatly implement my education. Plus, I’d get exposed to some technical English which remains quite unknown to me.
Thank you for this idea, it made me realize I should really dedicate some time to acquire some technical English!


That was a very interesting read Greg I must say! I’m kind of surprised that a non-native speaker who has acquired such a high level of acquisition in English wants to take it even further! That’s dedication! At the young age you’re at (early 20s likewise myself at 21), if I was you I’d focus on learning another language and like Steve said just enjoy English for what it is as you can do already. But this is a matter for yourself to decide.

Most importantly, you have done what a huge amount of people in western society have not done and that is learn another language. You’ve already proved to yourself that you are capable of doing so, so why not do the same again? From reading your last couple of posts it’s already clear that you still have interests in learning another language so why stop? I can sense deep down there is a fond love of Italian inside you haha but for me French takes it to another level :wink: .

Follow the same process that you have done before. You can even use your prior experiences to draw on, to ensure that you stay on the path to reach fluency in your 3rd language. Every day that goes by (without putting in the time) is a day further away from the end goal and those days add up!

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Thanks a lot!
I’d started working on Italian some time ago but then I switched to Spanish and that’s the language I’m currently working on. But I still have a place in my heart for Italian for sure haha. Ideally, I’d like to speak both Spanish and Italian. I was even thinking about French a couple of days ago but that would be just an overkill right now. I think I’ll stick to Spanish for now but I’m afraid I’ll forget everything I’ve learned in Italian, that’s crazy.
Some time ago, someone advised me to go in a system where I study Spanish for, let’s say, 3 months, and then I study Italian for the same period of time. Then rinse and repeat. I think that could be the way to go for me.

Good luck with French! Adieu!

Well we need to know what level you are at. What situations do you have trouble understanding? What Areas do you want more vocabulary? Do you want to have a better understanding of slang and casual talk or do you want to have a more poetic, literary command? Do you want to have more philosophical, deep conversations, or perhaps in depth political discussion? Really pay attention to what you want to improve in.

If you really understand much of that. I think you simply need to spend more time practicing english with people so it becomes more natural and intuitive. Remember never be afraid to mistakes! If you can understand most movies and tv shows with no problem you already understand lots of the language.

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