• Daniel Bullock

Beginner's Guide: How to Quickly Learn English Idioms and Phrases

It is a common worry or frustration among students: Why can’t I learn English (or any subject) faster? How can I learn things faster for an exam? It is a pretty universal gripe that people have. In this tutorial, we will look at ways to speed up the learning process and make it a more efficient use of your time. Some of the ways include testing yourself frequently, interleaving, using mnemonics, and spreading out your study schedule. Find out how to become a fast learner by reading on. Over 10 practical and effective study tips are here!

cheetah representing speed and learning fast, running, dashing
Become a fast learner, just like this guy!

  1. English Idioms: How to become a fast learner in 11 steps

  2. How to learn things faster for exams: Guide for beginners

  3. How to learn anything faster: A table to Memorize English idioms or anything else for that matter!

  4. Fast idioms you must know

  5. How do you memorize idioms and phrases quickly and easily?

English Idioms: How to become a fast learner in 11 steps

How do I learn idioms more quickly? How do I study or learn faster in general? Here are 10 steps, backed by science, which can help you learn. Credits at the bottom of this section for the valuable information provided in these steps.

1. Inclination to study and do research

This is one of the most important steps that contribute to becoming a fast learner. If you have the inclination to actually sit down and do the reading, writing, listening, and speaking necessary to learn idioms and phrases, then half of the battle is already won!

motivated english speaker, making a presentation, using idioms quickly
Be inclined to be an active learner - including reading, writing, listening and speaking

2. Use a pen and paper

Research has shown that people who take handwritten notes retain the information better than those who take notes on their computers or phones. There is something really fundamental with the way we use our hands to form words on paper, that connects to the brain. This surely makes pathways in the mind which are more solid and wide. I have seen many students in my English classes here at Daniel’s English Club over the years, and I have noticed one very clear fact. Those that take notes regularly, and also organize them logically, improve faster.

3. Distributed practice

This expression just means that you spread out your study sessions. Instead of practicing for 3 hours straight, break this up into 30-minute chunks. With enough downtime between study sessions, you may find that you can better retain information. Many people also find that if they study continuously for a long period, their mind becomes distracted. If we are distracted then we aren’t remembering everything we should be.

4. The sleep sandwich approach - get to sleep!

There is a strong connection between getting good sleep and being a fast and effective learner. Research shows that if we get to sleep within 12 hours of learning something new, we can better retain and utilize that information in the future. It comes down to getting deep sleep, also known as non-rapid-eye-movement sleep. Even without research backing this up, it makes sense that being refreshed and untressed would help us not only learn things faster but also more deeply.

5. Utilize mnemonics (and how do we even pronounce that word?)

Mnemonics can be a very helpful tool for remembering things. We pronounce the word “nuh·mo·nuhks”. When you were a child, you more than likely learned to sing the alphabet by heart. This is because of mnemonics. If you can find a correlation between the words and meanings, then your memory processes will be triggered. Try to find something to connect a new word or expression to. Make a chant or song to connect very phrases. It can be silly and doesn't have to make sense to anyone but you! An example of mnemonics for learning the alphabet:

A B C D E F G...H I J K L M N O P...Q R S...T U V...W X...Y and Z. Now I know my ABCs...next time won't you sing with me?

6. Change things up!

Do you think it is effective to always study in exactly the same way? Not really. It follows the rule of ever-diminishing returns. If you keep doing the same thing, you will improve your English, but at a slower rate than you would if, you rotate and refresh your learning routine. Research has shown that if we alter some part of our study routine, the brain reacts in a positive way. Examples of changing it up would be writing out a conversation instead of saying it. Also, speeding up your study session, or doing it at a different time of day.

man checking stopwatch, fast idioms in use, want to learn quickly
Why not speed up your study session?

Another way to alternate things would be to try different exercises. If you always study by “filling in the gaps” from a list, try doing the exercise with no suggestions. Instead, use your imagination to try and figure out a word. Like this:

Where did Ralph visit ( ) the weekend? Maybe your textbook suggests on, over, in, by. Change this up by covering the answer choices and using your own judgment. It is a small change, and that is the way to do it, slight alterations to your study methods.

7. Try these other methods for changing it up, too:

  • Use information-gap exercises, and alternate where the “gaps” go.

  • Try memorizing sentences by writing them down, then repeating them. Gradually erase words from the sentence (works best on a whiteboard) and keep repeating the whole sentence, until there is nothing left on the board.

  • Repeat longer phrases and sentences multiple times in different accents or voices (for example a high pitch voice then a low pith voice) These differences may help our brains to remember.

8. Say out loud what you want to remember

lady, megaphone, talking to herself, try to remember idioms by heart
The brain benefits from active involvement: speak what you want to remember

Research has shown that while reading information is one way to remember things if we actually say aloud what we are learning, the brain benefits from active involvement. So, if you are reading a list of English idioms that you need to remember for an upcoming exam, what should you do? Instead of simply reading through the list several times, do this instead: Say what you are reading. I would add to this, as an English teacher - try to pronounce the words as a native speaker would. Include correct stress and intonation. If you are unsure about this, there are plenty of resources online. Youtube or Google will be your savior!

9. You should test your knowledge and understanding frequently

Do not just assume that you know the words and phrases. In my experience, when learners say they “understand” a passage, they probably do not understand all of it or have missed a few nuances. Look into the details, and check words' meanings against a dictionary. Check frequently. Getting things wrong is actually a good thing as it registers in your brain that you made a mistake, and perhaps it will be more difficult for you to make that same mistake again in the future. Think about riding a horse. Did the professional riders never fall off when they were learning to ride? Highly unlikely!

10. Look after your body and mind

Exercise frequently. Studies have shown that regular exercise improves memory recall. Research also demonstrates that staying hydrated by drinking plenty of water actually helps our brains learn. If the body is feeling dehydrated, then the brain has to work harder. Think about a car. If it is overheating, some damage is occurring to the engine. If it is well maintained, you get much better performance out of it, and it also lasts longer!

11. Do not discount sleep

how to learn anything 10x faster, have a sleep, rejuvenate
In order to rejuvenate the mind and learn faster, get lots of sleep.

Sleep is so important. Not only for studying, remembering, or speeding up the learning process. But also for general wellbeing. How much sleep is a healthy amount? It depends on many factors, but here is a good guide. But, in terms of becoming a fast learner, studies have shown that if the person is well-rested through sleep, information can be committed to memory more effectively. Get enough sleep every day!

Once again, thanks to the sites entrepreneur.com and inc.com for the great information on the above steps.

How to learn things faster for exams: Guide for beginners

Studying for exams can be a stressful endeavor, even at the best of times. One of the pressures students encounter is the sheer volume of information that is needed to be learned. It stands to reason that we would like to know how to learn things faster so that we can save valuable time in the revision process. While some sites and videos claim to teach you to learn anything 10x faster…I am not convinced it's actually possible to learn that much more quickly, but some of these tips will definitely help you learn more speedily!

How to learn by heart fast?

how to learn by heart fast, big red heart shape
Try to memorize English idioms until you know them by heart

One simple method of learning things by heart is mnemonics. If we chant an English sentence with a memorable rhythm, we will be able to remember it by heart eventually. If you want to learn more quickly, space out the practices throughout the day. Practice intensely, then have a relax. Come back when you are refreshed and do it again. And again! You will find that you quickly learn to speak or produce an idiom or phrase by heart!

Talk to yourself (Don't worry, it's not crazy!)

According to this article, simply talking to yourself, and covering the material needed for the exams can help you to remember, to commit the memories. They also mention it is good to practice interleaving. This technique involves mixing up the things you need to study. For instance, you could study English grammar for a time, then move on to vocabulary practice, and come back to grammar. Or, you could study science for a while, then have a go at maths, history and then back to science again. It is said that this technique yields better results than simply concentrating on one area for an extended period. It sounds counterintuitive, but I think it is worth trying.

Bring the past into the present (No time machine is required!)

It may seem obvious but a lot of learners fail to practice past exam papers. These are absolutely invaluable. If we can learn past papers by heart, we not only discover new things but also attune our brain to the patterns required to take the exam. One very good example is the Eiken test for English. In the written section, there are various patterns that play out each time. For instance, in the Grade 3 test, examinees are expected to give an opinion. The question might be: Which do you like better, summer or winter? The ideal answer for this test would follow a distinct pattern:

I like summer better. I have two reasons for this opinion. First, I can go to the beach in summer. Second, there is a long school vacation in the summer.

past paper, exam question, how to learn more quickly and remember test answers, beach example
I can go to the beach in the summer!

The underlined parts are the same for the majority of questions in the written section. So, if you practice past papers frequently, by the time the eventual test day comes, you should be more than ready to give a winning answer.

How to learn anything faster: A table to Memorize English idioms or anything else for that matter!

Here is a summary of the points covered in today's post. If you would like more details on these, head back up the page to find the necessary section.

Be inclined to study and look things up

Use a pen and paper lots of the time

Try the "distributed practice" method

Sleep -Study - Sleep!

Practice mnemonics - nuh·mo·nuhks (It's more fun than it sounds!)

Variety is the spice of life, so change things up!

Use information gaps differently each time for English practice.

Memorize sentences from the whiteboard and gradually erase words whilst repeating the whole sentence.

​Repeat longer phrases and idioms using different intonations, accents, and pitches.

Want to remember something? Keep saying it out loud.

Test yourself as much as possible

Take care of your physical and mental condition - be in the best shape for your brain to learn and remember.

Get plenty of shut-eye (sleep) At least 8 hours a day!

Learn things by heart if possible.

Talk to yourself - it helps commit things to memory.

Do lots of past exam papers - this consolidates knowledge and test expectations.

Fast idioms you must know

lightning bolts, how to become a fast learner, analogy
He runs as fast as lightning. I wish I could too!

Here are a few English idioms that are related to speed. Very fitting considering we are talking about learning things faster for exams and studying in general. If you would like to find out some more speedy idioms, have a look at this post.

Fast idiom 1: as fast as lightning

Just like lightning in the night sky comes and goes before you can even see it sometimes, this expression means: extremely fast!

What's an example of as fast as lightning in a sentence?

Usain Bolt, the fastest runner in the world, runs as fast as lightning.

Fast idiom 2: Get your skates on

This simply means hurry up. Imagine putting your ice skates on in preparation for having a skate.

What is an example of getting your skates on in a sentence?

Look at the time! We'll have to get our skates on if we want to finish this test revision today!

Fast idiom 3: As fast as possible

This means to move or do something at the fastest possible speed.

Try to complete the past paper as fast as possible. If you have any time left over, you can go over your answers again.

Fast idiom 4: Have at it

man having at it, getting on with work, quick and time-efficient
Let's have at it and get this project finished today!

This means to do something with energy and enthusiasm. There may also be the feeling of speed associated with it.

What is an example sentence for "have at it"?

We should be more time-efficient. Let's have at it, otherwise, we won't finish our English project!

How do you memorize idioms and phrases quickly and easily?

Use the various techniques outlined in this post to memorize vocabulary quickly. Spend time with mnemonics, get plenty of sleep, interleave and read out aloud. There are more things you can do, too. Take plenty of notes if you are taking an English class. Even if you aren’t, take notes from your own study sessions, and organize them into clear groupings. For instance, make a chart for sports idioms, one for business, and one for animal idioms. Have another area for writing out whole, original sentences. There was a lot to remember in this post. I would recommend going back through it several times until you have gotten all of the concepts. Good luck in learning English idioms and everything else, quickly!