How to get your brain to think faster in English

A question that I (and every other English trainer) often get is ‘’how can I learn to think faster in English? When I’m speaking, the words just don’t come to me fast enough!’’

If only we could just implant a chip in our brain or (maybe a bit less drastic…😉) take a pill to help us speak fluently without having to do anything for it, right? Or even just a set of rules we could learn, a certain number of words we could memorize? Most language learners are constantly looking for a magic trick, or at least a straightforward, well-defined technique or formula. But those of you who’ve been doing it for a while will probably have reached the disappointing conclusion that there is no such thing. The hard truth is, unless you have some sort of language-learning superpower (which some polyglots seem to have!), it takes hard work, discipline and repetition.

What does that mean in practice? Here are my ideas on what really helps to become fluent in English, i.e. to be able to speak without thinking (too much).

  • Engage with English EVERY DAY – through language apps, television, reading, music, talking to someone, etc. For how long is not really relevant, 10 minutes a day can be just as effective as one hour. Short on time? Make the most of ‘dead time’, i.e. when you’re on public transport, in a waiting room, waiting for a friend, etc.
  • Learn at least one new word every day (by getting daily exposure to English this should be easy!), then write it down and USE it as soon as you can!
  • Use an English-English dictionary to look up new vocabulary. This will stop your brain from non-stop translating, which only takes up more brain power. If you keep translating every time you come across a new word or even worse, every time you speak, you will never ‘flick the switch’, i.e. stop thinking in your own language and start thinking in English.
  • Review new vocabulary as often as you can, but at least once a week! Language apps and online dictionaries are great for this as they often have a ‘quiz’ function.
  • Talk to yourself in English (yes, out loud – do it when no one is around if you’re worried about looking like a crazy person! 😉) and even role-play situations and conversations with yourself. Even better would be to record yourself, so you can hear how you sound and where you can improve (of course, a teacher or conversation partner would be hugely helpful in this case).
  • Test yourself all the time: when you’re on the train, out shopping, walking down a street….look around you at all the things you see and ask yourself: ‘’what’s that in English?’
  • TALK to people (preferably native speakers but anyone willing to speak English will do!). You can learn as much vocabulary and grammar as you like, it won’t get you anywhere unless you USE it as often as possible. Learning a language is like going to the gym: those muscles won’t get stronger if you only train them once a month! More importantly, regular speaking practice is so important to build that CONFIDENCE which we all lack (I know the feeling!). So, get out there and find a conversation group, a tandem partner, a language class, an English-speaking barista at your local café …any situation that will allow you to speak the language will help!

I’m not saying it’s easy….I’m not saying you have to do it….I’m saying that if you REALLY want to learn that language, this is what you will have to do. It’s not rocket science; all it takes is a bit of willpower and discipline.

Do you find it hard to motivate yourself to make a plan like this and/or stick to it? Why not sign up for language coaching at our school? Language coaching means that we combine distance learning (daily exercises for you to do in your own time) with face-to-face lessons for maximum results. You will sit down with one of our teachers, who will help you make a 100%-customized learning plan, based on your existing knowledge and skills. As always, we are here to help you achieve your goals!

 

GLOSSARY

(since I just told you to stop translating I’m doing an English-English one this week, no translating! 😉)

IMPLANT (v)

to put (eg human tissue, a device etc) permanently into a part of the body

The operation to implant a new kidney in her body had been a success.

DRASTIC (adj)

(especially of actions) severe and sudden or having very noticeable effects:

drastic measures

STRAIGHTFORWARD (adj)

without difficulties or complications; simple

a straightforward task

WELL-DEFINED (adj)

clearly expressed, explained, or described

We were not expecting Mr Levy to give us a clear or well-defined answer.

ENGAGE (v) something/someone

to become involved, or have contact, with someone or something

She’s an intelligent child but in class she doesn’t really engage.

POLYGLOT (n)

someone who can speak or use several different languages

My tutor’s something of a polyglot – she speaks seven languages.

EXPOSURE (n)

the conditions that make available an opportunity to learn or experience new things.

We got more exposure to the Japanese language talking to our colleagues at dinner time.

ROLE-PLAY (n)

to pretend to be someone else, especially as part of learning a new skill:

Children play with dolls and role-play to learn about empathy and caring.

PREFERABLY (adv)

if possible:

Water the plants twice a week, preferably in the morning.

(it’s not) ROCKET SCIENCE (idiom)

used to say that you do not think that something is very difficult to do or to understand:

My coach always said, “Basketball is not rocket science. It’s about putting the ball in the basket.”

WILLPOWER (n)

the ability to control your own thoughts and the way in which you behave:

It took a lot of willpower to stay calm.