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How to Learn English Fast(er)

6 years ago
I have quite a few students that come to me and say they want to learn English. I ask them if they have a time frame in mind, and many do not want to spend more than a month or two learning the language. Additionally, most admit to not having the time to study outside of the classroom instruction. Unfortunately, you must spend outside time each day learning or you will never progress. Yes, life it hectic sometimes, but if you really want to speak a language you need to find the time and understand that it is a slow process for most people.

It will be a lot of work, and while teachers can guide you to specific things to do, it is ultimately up to your and your level of discipline to do it. We cannot learn it for you. Many students give up at this point because they claim they do not have the time to put in to learning. I recommend instead of saying you don't have the time, replace it with "English is not a priority for me." How does that feel? Most often this is the case for why you are not progressing as quickly as you would like.

However, if you are determined, and if you really want to learn English fast(er), here is what you can do. This advice is valid for other languages as well. The only difference between English and other languages is that most people learning English have had a lot of classroom instruction, which is not usually the case for learners of other languages.

1. Find the Thinnest Grammar book possible.
Grammar explanations try to account for all the subtle ways a language works, with its many exceptions. These explanations are often difficult to understand. Even when we understand them, we quickly forget them. So, don’t attempt to memorize grammar! Skim through your grammar book quickly but refer to it often. Remember, we DO NOT speak how we write, especially in American English!

At a later stage in your learning you can use more detailed grammar explanations that can be found on the Internet. Remember, any benefit of reading a grammar explanation is usually quite short lived.

2. Don't do drills and exercises
These are time-consuming and often frustrating. You are in a hurry and can’t afford the time. You need to spend most of your time listening and reading, and eventually speaking. If you are the kind of person who likes flashcards, you could decide to spend 30 minutes a day on something like Anki or Memrise, but no more!
You will need to immerse yourself in the living language, through listening, reading and speaking.

3. Use graded reading material where audio is also available.
There are many sources of graded readers on the Internet. The best kind of graded reading and listening material consists of lessons or stories where the same vocabulary repeats frequently.

4. After a few months of graded content move on to authentic content
Authentic content could be podcasts, movies, videos, music, whatever you can find, and whatever you enjoy.
If you want to learn fast, you will need to spend hours a day listening and reading in order to get your brain used to the language. You can easily find an hour or so of “dead time” while waiting, while in transit or doing other tasks to get your listening in. Then commit to doing the reading whenever you have the time.
Be a little fanatical about committing the time. The time you spend will determine how fast you learn. Set a mini agenda calendar for yourself each Sunday night with things that you know you can accomplish each week. The key is to hold yourself accountable.

5. Speak AND OFTEN
Look for every opportunity to speak. But don’t stop your listening and reading. That has to continue if you are in a hurry to learn.
If you can find English speakers around where you live, talk to them. If you have to pay for a teacher like here on Verbling, start taking lessons.
Spend most of your time in conversation. If you have no one around you to talk to, you definitely NEED to come here and speak with a teacher several times a week for one hour, if possible. But again, just for conversation. Ask your teacher not to correct you too much while you are speaking, and to send you a list of the words and phrases that caused you difficulty.
Avoid sitting in a classroom with other learners. You don’t want to hear people who speak poor English, especially those whose native language is the same as yours.
You are better off with fewer hours of one-on-one instruction and more time for learning on your own, rather than spending hours every day in a classroom picking up bad habits that other learners might have.

6. Commit to English!
Pretend you are a native speaker of English, or intend to become one. Don’t worry about your mistakes. Study daily like a fanatic and know that you will succeed. Don’t doubt yourself, and don’t resist the language gradually being absorbed by your brain. Be confident that you will continue to improve if you just stay active and determined.
If you are committed, and take charge of your learning in the way I have outlined above, you will learn as fast as is possible. Believe it!

If you want to practice more conversation, sign up for a lesson today. Good luck!