Learning English as a French guy


I have been really interested in the English language since I was 14 or 15 years old and I was reading technical documentation, mostly about web technologies and the MaNGOS project.

It became critical to be able to understand and to speak English during my Computer Science engineering studies, because it’s an important part of the job and also because it is required to get a minimal score to the TOEIC exam in order to have the Engineering degree.

Here is a list of things I’ve tried to do over the last 5 years to improve my English level:

  • TV shows. An amazing way to do something enjoyable while learning. You will get used to hear English and you will also discover new everyday words, words or expressions you cannot learn at school. Begin with subtitles in French, move to English subtitles and then remove subtitles! If you wanna track which series you are watching and when new episodes are available, use Betaseries. Try to watch at least 1 or 2 hours of series everyday, but stay focused while watching episodes 😉
  • Read in English about topics you care about. Like English Facebook pages, follow Twitter accounts, subscribe to RSS feeds about topics you care and you read daily about: your work, life tips, sports, music, whatever. Instead of reading it in your native language, the goal is to read it in English. Don’t just say “I am going to read 1 or 2 articles everyday in English” / “I am going to spend 45 minutes everyday to read articles English”. No, you should see English articles coming your way. In fact, you should read more articles in English than in your native language if you want to progress.
  • Be known as an English-speaking person. If you’ve got a Twitter account, tweet in English. If your Facebook friends are open-minded, post in English on Facebook also. Write your résumé in English on LinkedIn, have your personal website available in English. You need to write often in English, it should become a habit!
  • Use electronic devices in English. Switch your smartphone, laptop, tablet, watch, fridge, online services accounts, social media accounts, etc. in English. First of all you will discover new technical words and you will no longer suffer from poor translations in your native language!
  • Search on search engines in English. Trust me, you will find more content in English and this is another part of your training “I am going to write and to read everything in English”.
  • Travel or work in an English speaking country. This one is an obvious one, but this is is the ultimate thing you can do to improve your English: live in an English-speaking country for a few months. While living here, get out of your comfort zone and interact with people as much as you can. Embrace your differences and discover a new culture!
  • Train for the TOEIC exam. Okay, this test is definitely not perfect, but at least it says that you should be able to work in an English environment. The maximum score is 990, the closer to this, the better! A good score to this test immediately reflects on your résumé that you’ve a decent English level. If you look online, you will find training exercises. Get used to the format of the test so that you will not be surprised when you will pass it for real, under a lot of stress. Be warned: this is difficult to stay really focused during 1h30, with no pauses.