Sometimes learning English feels like it will take forever. You’ve been taking classes for a long time, but you don’t feel like you’re improving. Sound familiar?
Don’t give up! We’ve lined up 10 useful tips to help you improve your English fast.
But one thing that you must remember is that there are four core tasks in language learning; reading, writing, speaking and listening. You cannot truly know English (or any language) until you have mastered all four of these. I know this can seem daunting, but trust me. Once you get started, it’s a lot easier than you think.
1. Make a schedule and stick to it.
We know you want to learn English fast, but learning a language takes time and dedication. People often believe that going to class is enough but if you really want to improve your English fast, you need to practice everyday. We’ve found that the best way to stay on track is to set a goal and make a schedule. Plan time to do a little something every day. If you don’t know where to start, ask your teacher for recommendations on what resources to use. Test yourself, do online exercises, immerse yourself in English, and just keep practicing.
2. Surround yourself with the sounds of English.
Watch English movies (with subtitles in English), use audio books or listen to podcasts. Intermediate and advanced students can try Stitcher or Ted Talks. Or get a Netflix subscription. These platforms help give you a sense of authentic spoken English, learn new words and improve your pronunciation. And for the fastest improvement, be sure to try our LEARN ENGLISH APP for total, interactive English immersion. This program provides thousands of hours of speaking and listening opportunities with instant feedback for, yes, fast English improvement. In fact, we guarantee one CEFR level with just 3 months of correct use.
3. Write down or record new words and phrases.
Keep track of new words or phrases that you learn – and then use them. Capture your new English words quickly, before they fade from your memory. This way, you will remember them because you have moved the language from “reception” (passive learning) to “production” (active learning). Word retention without production is nearly impossible. For recording, use the free voice recorder in your smartphone. And for you Nederlanders, draw pictures or make notes with “donkey bridges :-)” These memory devices can really help with retention.
4. Write and think in English.
To be able to communicate in English, you need to be able to articulate what you are thinking. You can practice this skill on your own by journaling in English. In your own words, write about what you know. Simple, everyday things are fine subjects. When writing, try to mentally formulate each sentence – in English – before writing it down. Write your emails and text messages in English. Then edit to improve your structure and spelling. DO use digital tools, but track the recommended changes so you learn from your mistakes. And watch out for direct translation. That is a no-no!
5. Chunk your English.
No language is based solely on words. You need to be able to put words in sentences and use them. The easiest and fastest way to get a head start on English idiom is by learning phrases and sentences. Be sure that your new English sentences / word order are truly English and not just a word for word restatement from your native language. And ask your teacher to use Whatsapp Voice Messaging to instantly send you the new phrases from each day’s lesson. That way, you immediately have the sound and “music” of your new phrases right in your hand!
6. Talk, talk, talk.
Talk about everything to everyone! If you don’t have a speaking partner, talk to yourself in the mirror. Don’t worry about making mistakes. The important part is fluency and getting your point across. Grammar will improve with time, and a confident yet humble attitude will compensate for technical errors. You do not have to speak fast or use a lot of fancy words, just keep going. And when you get tired, ask questions! Most people love to talk about themselves, eh?
7. Explain the grammar.
The fastest way to find out if you actually understand the grammar is by explaining it to someone else. If they understand it, you do too! Start with the basic concepts and from there move on to more complex structures. Our favorite grammar books are from Raymond Murphy (Cambridge). Check out Raymond’s #1 best-selling English Grammar in Use. Or get Raymond’s mobile grammar app in the Google Play store. Finally, we recommend the website Grammar Girl. Check out her “top ten grammar myths” and find the answers to all your tough grammar questions, free and easy, online.
8. Plan ahead.
Starting a conversation or keeping one going in a new language is hard. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do it. To help yourself along, create. a cheat sheet. Come up with 10 conversation starters or topics you are familiar with. This keeps the conversation moving and makes it a little less hard.
9. Try tongue twisters.
A good way to sound good (and be understandable to others) is by doing tongue twisters. Everyone struggles with these, but these silly texts are a good way to refine your accent and master the sounds of the English language. View videos of people doing tongue twisters and copy them. Watch the way their mouths moves and make sure you articulate. Ar-tic-u-late! As you get stronger, you will be able to say the twisters faster and faster.
10. Finally, listen like a native.
Listening is often the hardest part of learning a language, especially when there is background noise, like at a party, or when many people are speaking. Another challenge is people who speak too fast, people who mumble (do not articulate), and people with strong, unfamiliar accents. But perhaps the hardest thing about listening is accepting that the language is not spoken the way it is written. In most social English (or any language) native speakers de-emphasize, replace, or totally omit certain sounds. Consider the common casual greeting, “Hey, how is it going?” What we actually say and hear is something like, “howz’t goin’?” Another common, casual question is, “What are you doing?”, but the sound of that phrase is more like, “whacha doin’?” Decoding what you hear is a tough challenge, and test results typically show lower scores for listening than for reading. Thus my advice is to listen to videos with synchronized English subtitles. We highly recommend our favorite LEARN ENGLISH APP. It will help your brain connect the sounds of English with the written words. And that’s the magic of language!
As hard as it sounds, the best way to improve your English fast is by working at it daily. But don’t do it alone. Take a course, challenge yourself, and trust your teacher. Here at the English Center, our teachers are all native speakers who will use their expertise to help YOU be your BEST in English. If speed is important to you, consider an intensive course. One short week to achieve the fast English results you want.
Call us at +31 20 823 0569 to learn about our many English study options. We look forward to speaking with you.
By Isabelle Tomlow
PR and Communications Intern
The English Center