How to Learn English Fast According to Science: 7 Effective Tips
There is a lot of advice online about how to learn English fast.
So how do you know which tips to use? You can always choose the language learning methods that work best for you—but that often means you need to try many different methods before finding your favorite one. You might waste a bunch of time trying other methods that do nothing for you before you find the perfect ones.
If you are in a hurry for faster English learning tips that really work, then you need to look at what science has to say! In this guide, I’ll introduce you to 7 great ways you can improve your English skills quickly!
- How to Learn English Fast
- And One More Thing...
How to Learn English Fast
1. Listen to a lot of English
Scientists who study languages have a special term for one of the ways we learn languages: unconscious or implicit language learning. This kind of learning happens when we are not even trying.
It does not happen by sitting at a desk and studying rules over and over. Instead, it happens when we listen to lots of English and when we are not paying a lot of attention.
The crazy thing is that we learn from listening even if we do not understand what the words mean. Study after study shows that it is possible for people to learn any language by listening this way—we can even learn fake languages (ones that scientists invent for their research) just by listening to people speak them.
So, listen to as much English as you can. Listen constantly! Whenever you can, make sure that you have something in English playing in your room, in your office or in your headphones.
Watch English TV, listen to English music and listen to audiobooks in English. Go to places where you can hear native English speakers talk to each other. Listen to as much spoken English as you can. You do not have to listen closely—while you are listening you can just do your daily routine.
2. Learn the similarities
One of the hardest things about learning a new language is learning all the new sounds. The English language might even have some sounds that your native language never uses!
There is good news, though—according to this study, we are all born with an understanding of which sounds make sense and which do not. Even though languages can be very different, they all share some similarities.
For example, even though some English words begin with the letters “BL” (like “blink”), you will probably never hear a word begin with the letters “LB.” Try to make that sound. It is weird! Some sounds just do not make sense, even to babies who do not know any words at all.
Keep this fact in mind when you are learning English. If you hear a word or a sound that seems impossible, there is a chance that it is impossible! If you know that some sounds are very unlikely to happen in the English language, you can learn to spell more easily.
For example, if you are trying to write the word “ghost” and you are not sure if the h comes before or after the g, try saying it out loud.
If you try to say “hgost,” the sound “HG” seems impossible to pronounce, doesn’t it? But the sound “GH” in “ghost” is possible. Use that!
3. Learn new sounds separately
Learning English changes the way your brain works. Amazingly, learning a new language actually makes your brain grow! One study discovered that, as we learn a language, parts of our brain grow bigger. The bigger the growth, the easier the new language will be for you to learn.
An even more interesting part of the experiment in this study, though, showed that our brains react differently to different sounds.
For example, the letters L and R can be difficult for language learners to hear, especially if their native language only has one letter for both sounds (like Japanese). The experiment showed that when English speakers heard the letters L and R, two different parts of their brains reacted to the sounds. Japanese speakers only had one area react.
Before you can speak and understand English like a native, learn English sounds. Here is a post full of information about different English sounds and how to pronounce them.
Some experiments show that listening to slowed down sounds can help learn them in as little as an hour. Now that is fast!
You don’t need any special software to slow down sounds—YouTube can do that for you! Find some videos of native speakers using the sound (or sounds) you need help with. Here is a great one with different words that use the letters R and L.
To change the speed, click on the settings icon on the bottom right of the video player (it looks like a little gear or wheel). Then click on “speed,” and choose a speed that is less than 1.
4. Use word associations
When you use word associations you are connecting words with other words, sounds, movements, ideas or pictures. When you hear the sound “woof,” you associate it—connect it—with a dog. When you see a picture of a sun, you immediately think of the words “sun,” “warm” and “hot.”
Learning words through associations is not only fun, it is a very useful way to speed up your English learning. Scientists used this study to look at sign language, a language that deaf people can use to communicate and which uses the hands and fingers instead of sounds to make words.
An experiment showed that it is much easier to remember signs that look like the word they stand for. This means that it is easier to remember the sign language word for “eat” because it looks like a person eating. It is harder to learn words when the motion of your hands is not connected to the idea as strongly.
When you are learning new words, try to learn them in groups. Combine a word with an image, a movement or another word. When you have this strong connection in your mind, you will have an easier time remembering it.
Try using your hands and body to show the meaning of the words you are learning, at least until you remember it on its own. You could also try to draw some pictures instead of writing the definitions.
For a fun activity, try turning the words into what they mean. You can find some ideas by using Google Images search. Doing this will not only help you remember the meaning, but also the spelling!
5. Remember patterns, not rules
Watch the first minute of this video.
Can you repeat the pattern? How well you can remember and repeat patterns might mean a lot for how easily you can learn a new language.
In this study, students were shown a group of shapes one after the other. The students who were the best at finding the patterns in the shapes were also the best at learning Hebrew. Languages are made up of patterns, and the easier it is for you to find these patterns, the easier it will be for you to learn the language.
You might have spent some time already learning the rules of grammar and spelling in English. Instead of thinking of them as rules, try to remember the patterns.
Look at the regular past tense, for example. The rule says “to change a regular verb into its past tense form, add -ED to the end of the verb.” If you can remember that from just reading the sentence, great! For most of us, though, it is hard to understand the rule unless we see it being used.
To learn the rule as a pattern instead, just look at a group of regular verbs and their past tense versions:
Rain — Rained
Want — Wanted
Learn — Learned
Do you see the pattern? Let’s take it another step. There is a difference between this next group of verbs and the previous group.
Plan — Planned
Rot — Rotted
Stop — Stopped
Notice the difference here? What is the pattern? The rule these last three verbs are following says that “when a verb ends in Consonant – Vowel – Consonant, the last letter is written twice before -ED is added.”
6. Learn phrases, not words
Some words have one meaning on their own, but a completely different meaning when they are put together with other words. As we listen to or read a sentence in English, we look for these groups.
In the sentence “I ran around,” you are saying that you ran without a goal. If you add just two words, it turns into “I ran around the park,” which has a different meaning. You learn more and more information about the sentence and the words in it as you listen.
This might not seem so surprising, but until recently linguists (people who study languages) thought that we listen to a whole sentence and then break it down into parts. One study explains that the order of the words might be more important than the whole sentence.
Think about it this way: “Bread and butter” and “butter and bread” have the same meaning, but only one has the right order of words (bread and butter).
Learning words on their own can be difficult since many words have more than one meaning. Just knowing a word does not mean you will be able to actually use it. So when you learn new words, learn how they are used in phrases, sentences and conversation.
The word “retrospect,” for example, means to look back on something. You will probably never hear it used without the word “in” before it: “In retrospect, I shouldn’t have eaten the whole cake.” Learn how words are grouped and you will sound more natural when you speak.
7. Learn with music
Do you remember the cute songs you learned when you were very young? I bet you can still sing the songs your mother or your teachers taught you. But you learned those songs a very long time ago! How can you still remember them so well?
When you are a child, music is very important for language learning. That is why children have songs that help them remember numbers and letters, learn how vowels work and learn new words. Songs repetition and music to help kids remember important parts of language.
Adults learn easier with music, too. Language skills are usually seen as very important and music is not as important. But according to one study, the ways we learn both music and language are very similar, and both are very important! We learn that “ba” and “da” sound different, in the same way that we learn that a trumpet and a piano sound different.
Language is almost a kind of music of its own. Learning language skills by using music makes learning easier and faster. There are many songs for learning English, many of which you can find on YouTube or right here on FluentU.
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
There are no real shortcuts for learning English quickly, but science has proven that some tips work better and faster than others.
According to scientific studies and experiments, the tips above will help you learn English better and faster.
And as you learn and grow, so will your brain!
And One More Thing...
If you like learning English through movies and online media, you should also check out FluentU. FluentU lets you learn English from popular talk shows, catchy music videos and funny commercials, as you can see here:
The FluentU app and website makes it really easy to watch English videos. There are captions that are interactive. That means you can tap on any word to see an image, definition, and useful examples.
For example, when you tap on the word "searching," you see this:
Learn all the vocabulary in any video with quizzes. Swipe left or right to see more examples for the word you’re learning.
The best part? FluentU remembers the vocabulary that you’re learning. It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned. You have a truly personalized experience.
Start using FluentU on the website with your computer or tablet or, better yet, download the FluentU app from the iTunes or from the Google Play store.