Today, a staggering one billion people in the world speak English or are in the process of learning it. Interestingly, many people erroneously attribute this to US political and economic hegemony. In reality, it is the British who are primarily responsible for the widespread use of English. At its peak in the 19th century, the British controlled land on every continent and brought English to virtually every corner of the globe.

Of course, the reasons to learn English are numerous. There are practical considerations— ease of communication with people all over the world, improved business and career opportunities, and better educational opportunities, just to name a few. But aside from this, learning English can be a lot of fun and it opens up doors to vast number of different cultures from the United States to Australia to Great Britain. Learning English provides you with access to the innumerable works of literature, film, and music produced in the English language.

But once you’ve decided that you want to learn English, how do you go about doing so? If you are wondering how you can master the English language, check out these ten great tips.

1.    Take a course. Studying on your own can only get you so far– if you are serious about learning English, it is definitely a wise idea to take an English course. There is probably an English language center somewhere in your local area and you can also always take classes at your local college or university. Online courses can also be an excellent option. If you are just getting started you might want to consider taking this elementary English course. Or, if you are a more advanced student and already have a basic knowledge check out this intermediate level English course.

2.    Learn English grammar. There is no getting around it—English grammar can be pretty complex, full of irregular verbs, bizarre spellings, and unusual conjugations.  Complicating matters, English isn’t entirely phonetic, so how a word looks is not necessarily how it sounds.

However, the bottom line is that learning grammar is an essential part of learning any language. In spite of the difficulty of the task, thoroughly understanding English grammar is essential to mastering English. Grammar mistakes undoubtedly weaken your verbal and written production of English. The less grammar mistakes you make, the more fluid and natural you will sound.

3.    Learn a new English word every day. The more English words you know, the better you will be able to express yourself. The only way to improve and expand your vocabulary is to learn more words. Aim to learn a new English word everyday. Flashcards can really come in handy here.

4.    Make an English-speaking friend. When it comes to learning practice is crucial. Ideally, you want to be speaking the language on a regular basis to master your pronunciation, oral comprehension, and overall speaking skills. Obviously, it is best to practice with a native speaker. If you don’t know any English speakers, see if there are any language exchange programs in your area. These language exchange programs allow you to learn English from an English speaker in exchange for teaching him or her your native language.

5.    Read a book written in English. From Shakespeare to Whitman to Hemingway, the world of English Literature is vast, varied, and incredibly rich. Reading the classics is also an excellent way to pick up on the more finer, nuanced points of English language expression. If you are a literature aficionado, you might even take a course in English Literature, like this classics of American Literature course on the works of famous poet T.S. Eliot or this great literature course about Shakespeare’s famous Macbeth.

And if you’re just getting started with English and can’t handle a classic just yet, don’t hesitate to pick a children’s book. They can really help you to master the basics of grammar and sentence structure.

6.    Watch an English movie. There are an abundance of English movies out there, from romances to horror films to comedies, so there is something to suit everybody’s interests. To give your English language skills a boost pick one and start watching. If you’re afraid you won’t understand everything, you can always put subtitles on in your native language. Even with subtitles, English movies can help you to boost your vocabulary and oral comprehension.

7.    Purchase a computer program. Though a bit pricey, programs like Rosetta Stone can be a great way to learn English. They can be especially ideal if you are serious about learning English but simply don’t have time to make it to an English course on a regular basis.

8.    Work on perfecting your accent. When it comes to mastering any language, pronunciation is key. Remember, there are many different dialects of English. English in New Zealand is not the same as the English spoken in Scotland and the English spoken in the United States is not the same as the English spoken in Jamaica.  Think about where you will be using your English and what specific dialect you want to learn. For example, if you have always dreamed of studying abroad for a year in Australia, perfect the Australian accent by learning how Australians specifically pronounce things. Conversely, if you are planning on working in the United States, you will probably want to focus on the American English dialect. To master an American accent check out this this sound American course to learn American English for success in business or this great accent reduction course.