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The Science Behind Learning a Language Faster

Image representing students learning about the science behind learning a language faster

Everyone thinks they know best when it comes to the “right” way to study, but neuroscience tells us that some approaches are more effective than others.

(Neuroscience is an area of medicine that looks at how the brain works.)

Based on the things that neuroscientists have found out about how your brain learns new things – and in particular, new languages, here are 5 top tips to help you study better.


  1. Work in Short Bursts


Many studies have shown that it’s much better to concentrate really hard for 30-40 minutes and then give yourself a break. If you try to work for too long in one go, your brain simply gets too tired to function at its best.

Break what you need to learn into smaller chunks and focus on just one area at a time. Turn off all your other distractions and really focus for 30-40 minutes, then stop and relax for 5-10 minutes before you start the next activity.

  1. Use Your Imagination

We remember things much better when we have a story to go with it! Once you have pictured a situation in your mind, you will find it much easier to remember new vocabulary.

For example, instead of just trying to learn 50 new words and phrases to do with ordering food, picture yourself in a cafe or restaurant. Imagine looking at the menu. What would you say to the waiter? What kind of thing would you like to eat? Go through the whole conversation in your head using the new words you have learned.

You can do this for lots of situations, whether that’s having an interview, visiting the doctor, asking for directions, buying something in a shop, going on a date, or anything else!

  1. Use Images

This is similar to the above, except the pictures are real instead of in your head. When you learn a new word, look at a photograph or drawing of whatever it is and say the word over and over. This helps your brain to associate the word with what you are looking at, so that you remember it more easily later.

  1. Repeat Stuff

The more times your brain receives information, the better you will remember it.

That doesn’t mean saying a new word 1,000 in a row and then forgetting about it, though! It’s really important that you come back to the information you have studied regularly. For example, if you look back at what you have learned after an hour, this makes a big difference. If you then read over it again the next day, and then the next week, and then every week after that, it will stick in your mind really well.

  1. Laugh

It sounds silly, but it makes a BIG difference. When you laugh, smile or enjoy yourself, your body releases a chemical called endorphins that make you feel great. If you do this while you’re studying, your brain then connects that feeling with the new information you’ve learned, and it treats the information as something important that it wants to remember again.

That means it’s a great idea to study with someone you have fun with. Make jokes and word games that make you both laugh, try out silly learning roleplays using your vocabulary – whatever makes you giggle will also help you learn.

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