Isn’t English “Improving” and “Learning” the Same?!

By Robby

If you are new here please read this first.

English Improving and Learning

Quite often I receive e-mails like this: “Dear Robby, I’m … from …. and I speak English very bad. Please help me, Robby, to master English fluency and learn how to speak with good grammar.”

Mind this – I’m not mocking those foreigners who’ve just recently embarked upon English studies and have a long way to go before they’ll be able to call themselves fluent English speakers, readers and writers. I’d never do it because I’m a foreign English speaker myself and I can still remember times when, for instance, I’d listen to an English song having no clue as to what the lyrics is about!

Anyway, I’m usually forced to reply to such e-mails with something along these lines: “Dear …, thanks for your e-mail, your interest is much appreciated. Unfortunately I don’t offer English teaching services as my website is about IMPROVING the SPOKEN aspect of English. Your general English knowledge would have to be pretty good before you could consider using the English Harmony System

So as you can see from the above paragraph, you won’t find much on my website if you’re an English LEARNER. If you’re making your first steps in learning English basics and you’re only getting to grips with proper sentence structure and so on – sorry, I’m not much of a help for you then.

I understand it must be slightly confusing to read so much about improving English on my blog and then being told you already have to be able to speak, write and read very well. I suppose the majority of foreigners perceive the two concepts – learning and improving English as being nearly the same.

To make the matters clear – here’s what I understand with IMPROVING English – and please don’t forget that I’m focusing on improving SPOKEN English here on English Harmony! 😉

You LEARN until you’re quite good at it. Then you start IMPROVING!

Personally I think that every foreigner who struggles with English understanding and other aspects of using the language such as speaking, reading and writing still needs to LEARN English.

When you’ve become very comfortable using English but you still lack some skills in one or several aspects of the language – that’s when we can start talking about IMPROVING English.

Can you see where I’m coming from?

I simply think that you can’t be a poor English speaker and claim that your English needs improvement because what you really need is – to LEARN more English until you become very good at it ❗

Well, in theory you might say that you need an improvement if we look at the very meaning of the word “to improve” … (you see how tricky it is even for me?) but then – would that be right if anyone who’s learnt a couple of English phrases would say that he needs to improve his English and that his learning phase has ended?

You see – for me the concept of “improving English” probably carries a different meaning than for the most of English speakers, but it doesn’t mean I’m wrong.

If you say – “I need to improve my English”, for me it sounds as if you’re saying: “My English is sufficient enough to get by in daily conversations, and I can understand nearly everything what’s being said on the TV, on the street and at work. In other words – my English is fairly fluent, but now I want to achieve an even bigger fluency so I want to improve my English”.

In other words – if you haven’t achieved a certain level of English when you can use the language very comfortably, I’d put you in the English learners category. At least that’s how I see it, and please don’t assume that I’m using terms “learn English” and “English learner” with a derogatory hue. Not at all!

I’m just trying to make things clear here – first and foremost for my website’s visitors’ good. As I said in the very beginning of this blog post – many foreigners having browsed around my website assume that I’m an English teacher, and that they’ll be able to learn stuff that 10,000 websites are already providing on the Internet – English grammar, vocabulary … well, you know what I’m talking about.

So in order not to waste your time and not to evoke high expectations, I’ll state it very clearly now what you won’t find on my blog.

English Harmony Isn’t About:

  • … teaching English. I’m not an English teacher, and I don’t hold any professional qualifications. I’m just an ordinary foreign chap living in an English speaking country and I share my advice on how to achieve practical English fluency and gain confidence to speak English in daily situations.
  • … learning English grammar. There’s enough websites online doing exactly that and I don’t see how I could best sites like, for example. On top of that, you can read here what I think of learning English grammar and you’ll understand why you won’t find much of it on my blog.
  • … achieving perfection at all aspects of English. Although I’m a perfectionist by nature, I’ve stopped caring about being perfect when it comes to using the English language a long time ago. You’ll find all sorts of colloquial expressions here on my blog as well as wrong grammar in places – but I’m OK with it. Just like real English used by real people out there my English isn’t flawless!

Where to draw a borderline between Learning and Improving?

The other day I was browsing around Twitter and came across a tweet saying something like – “I wish my English was already fluent so that I don’t have to keep improving it. I’m too lazy!”

To illustrate when learning becomes improving, I’d replace the word “improving” with “learning” in the above example.

“I wish my English was already fluent so that I don’t have to keep learning it. I’m too lazy!”

That’s my understanding of where learning English ends – it’s when you don’t necessarily have to exert a conscious effort on acquiring new knowledge; all essentials have been learnt and now the only option left for you is to improve your English!

Of course, you can also lose it if you don’t use it, but given that you use English on a frequent basis, you’ll improve your communication skills naturally making you more and more fluent over time.

By the way – every single foreign English speaker constantly improves their English even without being aware of it! You don’t necessarily have to keep notes and do other stuff you used to do at school to pass as an English improver. Every time you speak with others and use English as means of communication, you become slightly better at it, and you also build more active vocabulary and phraseology even if you don’t notice it.

So here’s the bottom line – you learn English once, but keep improving it for a lifetime ❗


P.S. Are you ready to get on the fast track to spoken English fluency? Check out my English Harmony System HERE!


English Harmony System

P.S. Are you serious about your spoken English improvement? Check out the English Harmony System HERE!

English Harmony System
  • Hi Yuri,nnI like the description “intermediate plateau” – it’s a very good way to put it. nnAnd of course, improvement is fun because the only way I can see someone would really improve their English is to “live” the English language and use it for enjoying daily activities etc.nnThanks for your comment!

  • Hey Robby!nnJust wanted to say that I’m thinking along the same lines: you have to learn first (using adapted material) and reach an u201cintermediate plateauu201d as I call it, and after that it’s improvement on your own and on unadapted, real-world material. nnWhile learning is rather hard, improvement is much easier and much more pleasant.

  • Hi Sam,nnYou might need need an improvement, but you’re definitely not a learner any more, that much I can tell! nnI wrote this blog post to make it clear that my website isn’t for English learners but for those who seek to improve the conversational aspect. nnWe can play around with terms “learning” and “improving” and of course they do supplement each other. I was just trying to draw a line between those two due to the nature of this blog post.

  • Sam

    Hey!nI agree with you, but how can I know if I need an improvement or learning! I read what youu2019ve wrote but I still canu2019t decide!nMy boss is a native English speaker and of course I have to deal with him every day. I donu2019t have a major problem communicating with him, but itu2019s somewhat difficult! Sometimes he doesnu2019t get what I mean right away, and I need to put it for him other way so he would understand. But I also need to say here that I speak quickly without thinking and I think that might be a part of the reason why he doesnu2019t always get me!nI write better than I speak, I guess thatu2019s because with writing I have time to think!nI really need to be a better English speaker; it will make a big difference in my career. nIu2019m pretty excited about your system, yet I donu2019t wanna waist my time or money!nnWhat do you think, do I need to learn or improve?n