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When learning how to swim, the most important thing to do is to take swimming lessons! You may be able to teach yourself to stay above the water and dog paddle around, but you will never be able to swim with the proficiency and learn the necessary stroke and lifesaving instruction that you would if you took swimming lessons.
There are swimming lessons for adults and for children. There are swim lessons for all levels and abilities. The American Red Cross breaks swimmers into different levels of ability for swim lessons. There is the pre-school level, and then levels 1-7. Do not stop taking swimming lessons until you have reached a level 6 proficiency. Level 7 is teaching competitive techniques and training strategy.