Orchid English Blog

How many hours does it take to learn English?

Posted on August 6, 2019

When we start something we want to get an idea of how long it will take. So how many hours does it take to learn English? This is really a million dollar question, so let’s have a look at it in more depth.

English language learning depends on a multitude of different things, including:


  • Is English similar to your first language?
  • How much experience do you have learning foreign languages?
  • How much effort will you put into studying?


  • Are you taking good quality English classes?
  • Do you and your teacher focus on your goals when learning English?
  • Are you immersed in an English speaking environment?

In the media: How many hours does it take to learn English?

The BBC set out to tackle the question: “How many hours does it take to learn English?” With this in mind they interviewed a language consultant who gave a guideline of 1765 hours to be able to do a clerical job such as being a secretary. In the same article, English UK, a national association for teaching English, estimates that students need approximately 360 hours of study to be able to have a confident conversation.

Do I really need English classes? Can’t I just spend those hours speaking English?

Taking classes is important. I used to go for winter sports with someone who didn’t want to have skiing classes. She’d had a couple of classes when she first started skiing and could do a snowplough. This is the first way you learn to go down the mountain as a beginner. As a result, after many years of skiing she didn’t get much better and still made the same mistakes. Additionally, without correction she didn’t know what she was doing wrong.

One day someone in our group exclaimed, “Wow that guy’s really good!” They were talking about a man who had skiied for a fraction of the hours that the woman had. He had good skiing lessons which focused on correcting his mistakes, and therefore reached a high level much more quickly.

There isn’t a particular point at which you can speak English

Remember learning to drive? It was a process of improving through controlled practice and correction. There was probably no point at which you thought “I can drive perfectly now.” Consider that even when you first passed your test you probably weren’t as good as you are after some years of practice.

It’s the same with learning English, there is no fixed point at which you can say “I speak English”.  For this reason you should take the number of hours to learn English as a rough guide.

How people slow down the time it takes to learn English

  • Ineffective methods like listen and repeat
  • Trying to learn set phrases rather than creating your own sentences
  • Reading and writing without speaking

How you can speed up the time it takes to learn English

  • Take classes with a teacher who speaks English natively
  • Get corrected by the teacher, and make a note of corrections
  • Immerse yourself in English language culture

For more ideas, have a look at our article, How can I learn English fast?

Conclusion: How many hours does it take to learn English?

Studies indicate you need about 360 hours of study to have a conversation confidently, and continue to 1765 hours in order to do a clerical job. However you must take this as a very rough guide, and try to optimise your learning as best you can.

It would be unethical for any training provider to promise a certain level of English after a particular number of hours. This is because language learning depends on so many factors. Be suspicious of any course that promises to get you fluent in a short space of time!

We provide great quality English classes at your company in London. Get in touch today to set up your free demo class.

By Emily Stallard, owner of Orchid English

Should I Learn British or American English?

Posted on August 5, 2019

Something that people often ask is “Should I learn British or American English?” The first thing to say is that the answer depends entirely on you! That said, let’s look at some points to think about when choosing to learn British English or American English.

Where do you live?

If you live in an English speaking country, it makes sense to learn the English that’s spoken in that country. Additionally, where do you want to go on holiday in the future?

Where are your clients from?

You may want to choose to learn the variety of English that your clients speak, whether they speak English natively or non-natively. Have a look at this interesting map, which shows where people learn British English and American English.

Do you prefer the sound of British or American English?

Do you love listening to the British accents on Game of Thrones, or the American accents on Big Little Lies? When you learn a language you will hear a lot of it!

Should I learn British or American English? Conclusion

Bear in mind that while there are several articles about the differences between British and American English, they are really very similar. Read a typical UK or US article and then consider the proportion of words that are identical. As you will see, it’s the vast majority. As a non-native speaker you are extremely unlikely to have problems due to speaking to someone who learned a different form of English to you.

In fact, some English students hold themselves back because they only want exposure to one type of English. It’s better to dive in and listen to lots of different varieties of English. If you only, for example, practise listening to standard American English, you will find it hard to understand other native and non-native accents of English.

Let’s return to your question, “Should I learn British or American English?” I recommend that you ask your English teacher for exposure to both British and American English through listening activities. As a result, you will be in the best position to understand and be understood by as many native and non-native speakers as possible.

To take your English to the next level, get in touch for great English classes at your company in London. You get a free demo class to try us out, and English classes are tailored to your needs.

By Emily Stallard, owner of Orchid English


Why English is Hard to Learn

Posted on August 2, 2019

People wonder why English is hard to learn. We have put together a list of some of the main reasons for the difficulties.

Our top 3: Why English is hard to learn

Spelling to pronunciation rules

As a native speaker I started learning English spelling rules as a young child. One day I happened to find my old exercise books and realised quite how much time my poor teacher spent correcting almost every spelling in my creative writing.

I love spelling because it shows us the history and richness of our language. However, its low correspondence with pronunciation makes it difficult for foreign learners and native speaker children. There is no “l” pronounced in “calm”, nor does “heart” rhyme with “beard”. Two different words can have the same spelling and mean different things. Consider:

  • Close the door – shut the door
  • We are close friends – we are good friends

Phrasal verbs

Often, you can’t guess the meaning of the phrasal verb from its components, or they may have double meanings.

  • I need to put off (postpone) our meeting until tomorrow, because I’m so busy.
  • He was put off (discouraged) from applying for the job because of the lack of work life balance.

Stress patterns

See how the bold text shows stress falling in different places:

A linguistic feature of English is that every word has a primary stress. Importantly,if the word is three syllables or more, it has secondary stress as well. Additionally, there is sentence stress, which can entirely change the meaning of the sentence:

  • You can’t phone her – Someone else should phone her
  • You can’t phone her – Emphasis, or contradiction
  • You can’t phone her – You have to use another method of communication
  • You can’t phone her – You should phone someone else

5 additional reasons why English is hard to learn

Several standard forms

English is spoken natively in several countries, so there is no one form of “standard English”. Consider these ways to say “a lot”, which are all correct:

  • There were loads of people – UK
  • There was a bunch of people – US
  • There was a heap of people – Australia

Fast evolution

English changes quickly. My colleagues and I have all taught adults who learned some English at school and are restarting as adults. These adults frequently say things like “It’s a fine day” and “My boss scolded me”. Both these phrases are technically correct but they sound old fashioned now. Better to say “It’s a lovely day” and “my boss told me off”.


Collocations are words that sound natural when put together, and there are tons of these in English. If you put words that don’t “collocate” together, like “do a mess” or “sleep a nap” it sounds unnatural. You should say “make a mess” and “have a nap” (or take a nap, in the US).

Read more about collocations in this English Club article. 

Polite forms

There is no way to change verbs to speak politely, as in some other languages. In order to sound polite, native English speakers often speak in a more indirect way, using longer phrases with more formal grammar and vocabulary.

Word order for adjectives

In a list of adjectives you need to put them in a particular order like this:

  • A really useful, large, flat, modern, white, Japanese interactive whiteboard.

Learn more about adjective order in our previous blog post. 

If you would like to read more about this topic, have a look at our previous post, Is English the Hardest Language to Learn?

Conclusion: Why English is hard to learn

Well, now you know some of the main reasons why English is hard to learn. But don’t despair! If you can read this you are doing well on your journey to learning English. No language is easy to learn and we must keep motivated in order to reach a good level.

We provide excellent, reasonably priced English classes to adults in London and we come to you at your company at your convenience. Contact us today to set up a free demo class to try us out.

By Emily Stallard, owner of Orchid English

How to Speak Business English Fluently

Posted on July 31, 2019

By Emily Stallard, owner of Orchid English

At Orchid English we specialise in training international professionals to speak business English fluently. If you already live in London you have made a huge step in improving your English. Here are our top 5 tips for how to speak business English fluently.

5. Watch the business news

Watching TV is a stress-free way to learn, and if you have breakfast by yourself it can be a nice way to start your day. You can hear real business English in use and listen to clear, native pronunciation of business terms.

4. Read the Financial Times, or business journals from your field

Likewise, sitting quietly with some good quality reading material related to your job can expose you to new phrases and ways of explaining current business topics. Reading at your own pace allows you to highlight or make a note of new words and phrases that you may not have time to do in a real work situation.

3. Ask British colleagues to correct your English

Most of your British colleagues will assume you’d like to improve your English while in London. However your British colleagues won’t always know the best way to help you.

There is a common misconception that adults can learn English like young children, and figure out the patterns for themselves. Coupled with the typical hesitancy of British people to correct a foreigner’s English, you should insist that your work friends correct you at a quiet moment.

Read more about how to get British people to correct your English.

2. Take every opportunity to speak English at work

This means in meetings, on the phone and, if appropriate in your job, making presentations. It’s not the end of the world if the person you’re speaking to has to ask you to repeat yourself. After all, most of the people in the meeting and calling you are probably aware of your level of English.

1. Take English classes one on one or in a group with colleagues

Classes with Orchid English focus on what you want to improve. We have years of experience teaching business English. We use up to date materials such as the excellent Market Leader series of textbooks, which uses authentic articles and modern international business English language.

Are you ready to take your English to the next level? Get in touch today and set up your free demo English class at your company in London.

How to Learn and Memorise English Grammar Rules

Posted on July 29, 2019

By Emily Stallard, owner of Orchid English

What’s the best way to learn grammar? Here are four steps on how to learn and memorise English grammar.

Step 1.

Tell your English teacher that learning grammar is one of your main objectives

If you’re taking classes with Orchid English, you’ll know that your English classes are tailored to your objectives. It doesn’t matter if your objectives change along the way, either. So the first step is to understand and learn the rule with your teacher. Remember it’s not a race, and your teacher will be patient with you!

Step 2.

Practise new grammatical structures in class and for homework.

The important thing about learning grammar is that you can’t just know the theory. It’s equally important to practise. Your English class is where you can practise in a controlled way, being corrected by your teacher, and you should also ask for homework.

If you’d like additional homework that you can mark yourself, have a look at English Club grammar quizzes. Alternatively, if you prefer to sit down with a book, you could invest in the classic English Grammar in Use by Murphy. It has a double page for each grammar point and you can mark it yourself. English teachers love this book because it’s clear and covers so much.

Step 3.

Practise new grammar in real life

Find excuses to use new grammatical structures in your conversations. Say you want to practise the past perfect. You know the theory from your English class but you have never used it spontaneously in real life. You will probably discuss your weekend with colleagues on Monday morning, right? Have a think about when you can use that grammar:

  • Your colleague is in Brighton this weekend, so on Monday you can ask her: Had you been there before? 
  • You started a great book: I’d never tried that author before. 
  • You went to your local gastropub: It was new for me although my partner had been there before. 

If you can create situations where you practise that newly learned grammar, you will soon find yourself using it naturally in conversations.

Step 4.

Review in class and real life

The most important thing about how to learn and memorise English grammar is that you can’t just learn it once. Our brains learn and forget information more than we would hope! It’s totally normal for you to learn and then later forget a rule – your teacher will notice and review it in your English class. Be patient with yourself.

Have a look at your old grammar worksheets and notes regularly. Do you still remember the rules? If you don’t, it’s time to go back to step 2, followed by step 3.

Do you remember the rule but never use that grammar in real life? Then revisit step 3: make a real effort to use the structure in real life. Using the grammatical structure in real life is what will cement your English learning.

Those were our top tips on how to learn and memorise English grammar. Good luck with your English studies and let us know in the comments how you get on.

If you work in London and you really want to give your English a boost, why not get English classes at your company? Get in touch for excellent quality, reasonably priced English language classes.