How to Learn English Smarter and Faster

Through his bestselling book, Outliers: The Story of Success, the famed author, and public speaker Malcolm Gladwell popularized the notion that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill.

No shortcuts

Learning English is no different. If you want to improve your fluency, you’ll have to work hard for it by making a commitment, setting goals, and dedicating time to study and practice. If you live in an English-speaking country, you’ll have an advantage, but you won’t become a better English speaker unless you take steps to improve.

As a matter of fact, there are a lot of people who live in English-speaking countries who say they want to learn English but do all their business and live their regular lives without taking any steps to progress their language abilities. Believe it or not, some people even take English language classes but don’t improve because they’re not willing to put in time to study and practice or to make English a part of their lives.

This isn’t about passing judgment; rather, it’s just a bit of tough love to demonstrate that there aren’t shortcuts to learning English as some might want to believe. Again, making noticeable progress takes time, dedication, and hard work.

In fact, learning English one of the most mentally challenging things you can do. Research shows that people who speak multiple languages or people who study languages have better mental skills and improved mental health.

English advantage

All things considered people who study English instead of other languages have a few advantages. For one thing, English is the language of the internet and of global entertainment. That means that no matter where you are in the world, you’ll probably have access to some English resources to learn from (like TV shows, music, books, websites, podcasts, blogs, etc.). You can use all of these resources to put together your own library of learning materials. Moreover, there are more people studying English in the world than any other language, according to the British Council. This means that you can study and talk with other people in English in any country.

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Make English a part of your life.

Here’s a great quote from another Gladwell book, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking:

We learn by example and by direct experience because there are real limits to the adequacy of verbal instruction.

Don’t wait for situations to speak English to come to you. You should take every opportunity you can to speak English. Never miss a chance to ask a question or include your opinion. Read this post from our blog about overcoming your fear of speaking English to get some ideas about where you speak English outside of a classroom.

Also, you can imagine yourself speaking English in any situation. How would you say hello to your friends? How would you ask for something at a store or order at a restaurant? How would you describe your mood or your day to someone? What would you tell someone if they asked you about your weekend? After talking to someone in your native language, think about how your conversation would have been in English. What would you have said? What would they have said? Let these words and phrases swirl around your head all the time.

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Write it down.

Keep a language journal in addition to any textbooks or other study materials you have. When you’re studying with authentic materials (such as TV or radio programs, podcasts, magazines, newspapers, etc.) write notes in the journal so that you can review them later. Jot down new vocabulary words or phrases in a two or three-column list.

When you come across an interesting or difficult sentence, copy it. Try to write new sentences using the same grammatical structure. Review your notes from previous days before moving on to new material. After having a real-life encounter where you’ve used English, jot down what you discussed or learned from the situation.

Your language journal is for your eyes alone, and you should write it in a way that works for you and makes you feel good. Eventually, you’ll develop your own system of recording notes and keeping track of everything you’ve studied. You’ll emerge as a better, faster learner of English with a long record of all the work that you’ve put into studying. All this leads to the development of higher confidence and understanding to make future study efforts easier.

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Do not try to translate every word.

Communication is key. It’s more important to understand and be understood in general than it is for every word to be understood. This goes for all four of the major language skills: speaking, listening, reading, and writing.

Your aim to understand a newspaper article or a podcast, for example, should not be to uncover the meaning of every vocabulary word (unless that’s a particular study exercise that you’re doing. In that case, you do you!). Instead, you should aim for understanding of the main ideas in a way that you can summarize them to someone else.

When it comes to speaking, think of the language task that you’d like to accomplish: asking for more water at a restaurant, for example. What are the basic words and grammar functions you need to communicate in this situation? Once you know those, you already have a foundation to improve and to move on to more complex communication tasks.

Set small goals.

When do you need to speak English? In what situations would you like to speak English better? Your answers to those two questions are your new English study goals.

When you’re studying Language for a long time, it’s not uncommon to plateau for a while. This means that no matter how much you study, you get the feeling that you can’t improve. This is absolutely normal, and it will go away. So don’t get discouraged!

Your long term leaning will increase with regular practice, but you can help yourself by establishing small learning goals that give a sense of accomplishment. Give yourself daily, weekly, and/or monthly goals. Aim to read an entire section of a newspaper or master a large set of vocabulary flashcards, for instance. These small achievements will add up over time, building your confidence and leading to significant language development.

Find a tutor.

LASC teachers are the best private language school teachers around. Nearly all of them have spent time teaching abroad, and many of them hold advanced degrees and certificates in TESOL (teaching English to speakers of other languages) and education. Every LASC teacher undergoes regular professional development so that they are constantly improving. When you sit in the classroom with an LASC teacher, you’ll feel confident that you’re getting an excellent instructor who will customize the lesson to suit your language goals.

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Take a class. A good one.

LASC in Irvine CA offers intensive English courses for students of any proficiency of English. In addition, students can enroll in our Business English program, our English for Academic Purposes program, or our TOEFL or IELTS programs. Our teachers are highly experienced, and we use a researched-based curriculum that students can use in the classroom and by themselves on their computers or mobile devices.

When you sign up, you’ll take a placement test that tests your reading, listening, grammar, writing, and speaking ability. The headteacher and your student representative will use the results to place you in elective and core classes most suited to your level and your learning goals. That’s just part of the personalized service that our school provides, but it’s a big step to making sure that every student gets the academic attention they need to get the best language learning opportunity possible.

Do you really need 10,000 hours to become a master of English? There are numerous factors to take into account. Not all study and practice methods are equal, and people have to discover what works best for them in terms of making and noticing progress. However, you can probably reduce that number significantly if you take smart steps to learn English smarter and faster.

Contact one of our student representatives today to learn how our school can help you achieve your English learning goals.