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Last Updated on November 25, 2019

7 Ways To Learn a New Language Faster (Backed by Science)

7 Ways To Learn a New Language Faster (Backed by Science)

I was raised bilingual and started learning a third language when I was about three years old, which means I am really fluent in three languages as an adult. When I was a kid, learning and remembering new words, grammar rules, and exceptions seemed as easy as a pie. I was always among the best in my language classes.

When I decided to move abroad to France and needed to master another foreign language, I thought it would be as easy as in my school days. I’d quickly pick up the new words and reach a decent fluency level in a month or two naturally. How wrong I was!

Learning a new language as an adult proved to be rather challenging.[1] Learning grammar was tough, and remembering the correct pronunciation was even worse!

Here are some of the best ways to learn a new language that I’ve gathered along the way both from my language school and independent studies. I hope that they will help you as well!

1. Focus on Remembering And Learning the Sounds First

Learning a new language when you were a kid seemed much easier, right? Well, there’s an explanation for that.[2] Babies have a remarkable ability to distinguish all sounds in all languages and remember them fast. That’s how we become experts in our native language.

Yet, as we grow older, we lose this amazing ability to remember and distinguish sounds. For example, adult Japanese students find it challenging to distinguish “L” and “R” sounds in the English language.

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So, is there a way to regain that ability to memorize sounds and foreign words? Science says yes.

First of all, focus on repeating and practicing the difficult foreign sounds first, rather than mastering the grammar and vocabulary. Invest more time in listening to the language and repeating the phrases and sounds as they are spoken.

If you have a chance to get immediate feedback on your speaking (for example, with a language learning software like Rosetta Stone or Gritty Spanish), that’s another massive booster for your performance.

Additionally, studies prove that you should listen and learn to comprehend different accents and voices if you’d like to master a language faster. Listening to a vast array of speakers will train your brain and help you transfer that knowledge to the real world in a more reliable way.

2. Use the “Spaced Repetition” Technique

Spaced repetition is an oldie but a goodie when it comes to language-learning tricks.[3] It helps you memorize new words better.

To practice it, you have to review each word and phrase you’ve learned within certain spaced intervals. At first, those should be shorter — you may need to review a new word or phrase a few times during one practice session, and afterwards on the next day. Once it gets stuck in your mind well, you’ll be able to leave days or even weeks between revising without forgetting what you’ve learned.

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Here’s a diagram illustrating this process:

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    Learn more about spaced repetition in this article: How to Use Spaced Repetition to Remember What You’ve Learned

    3. Try the “Pinch Yourself” Hack

    This technique was introduced by Maneesh Sethi, a frequent traveler who mastered four foreign languages as an adult. His approach was based on the fact that negative stimuli massively boost self-improvement.

    According to a study conducted by the Department of Psychology and Center for Neural Sciences at New York University,[4] your body’s threat response improves memory. In their tests, this meant light electric shocks given for incorrect responses.

    How you can use this for language learning?

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    • Get a set of flashcards for memorizing vocabulary or grammar.
    • Master the hard pinch (it should be quite hard) to activate your body’s threat response.
    • Review a category of flash cards (such as adjectives or group of words). Don’t pinch yourself at this stage.
    • Review the same category, now adding the pinch for each vocabulary word. Spend some time studying the card before moving to the next one.
    • During the next study sessions, pinch yourself only on forgotten vocabulary. Your goal is to focus your increased memory retention on the words you have trouble remembering. Again, spend a moment on each card before moving on to the next.

    4. Schedule Learning Sessions Before Bedtime

    One of the huge benefits of sleep is that it allows us to clean our active operating memory, thus boosting our learning capacity.[5] Studying before bed time or getting a nap after your practice session will move all the information you’ve just learned into your brain’s long-term memory storage.

    Once the information gets there, it’s safely stored for a longer period. The spaced repetition technique will help you improve the connection between short-term and long-term memory, meaning you’ll be able to remember everything faster and more accurately.

    5. Study the Content, Not the Language

    According to the results of a study published in the Cambridge Journal, students who studied another subject in French, rather than attending a general language class, performed better in listening tests and were more motivated to learn.[6] However, students in the standard class performed better on reading and writing tests, meaning that both approaches clearly have merit.

    To boost your language learning, try including some content on the topics you are interested in to improve your understanding. Read articles online, watch videos, or listen to podcasts to accelerate your progress.

    6. Mix Old And New Words

    Our brain always wants novelty, but attempting to learn a lot of new words at once can be overwhelming. Thus, to remember new concepts, you should mix them with familiar “old” information.[7]

    For example, you can attempt reading a children’s book you know in a foreign language. The language is simple enough and knowing the story helps you guess the meaning of new words without using the dictionary (mixing novelty and old information). Besides, children’s books are more fun to read in another language!

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    7. Study in Sprints

    Finding time to study a new language can be challenging. If you are busy, you may be tempted to put off your studies and cram a significant chunk of knowledge inside your head every other week. Yet, studying in short sprints every day is much more effective.

    As our brain has limited “inbox” space, which gets cleared out while we sleep, you will hit your study limit rather quickly if you opt to study for hours at a time.

    Studying in small sprints every day and using spaced repetition will give you the best results.

    Happy language learning!

    More About Language Learning

    Featured photo credit: Start Digital via unsplash.com

    Reference

    More by this author

    Elena Prokopets

    Elena is a passionate blogger who shares about lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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    Last Updated on March 25, 2020

    How to Crush Your Lack of Motivation and Always Stay Motivated

    How to Crush Your Lack of Motivation and Always Stay Motivated

    How many times have you not achieved your goals and let yourself down due to your lack of motivation? When you’re not wallowing in sadness and self-pity, you are too busy procrastinating till you can’t anymore and before you know it, you are part of vicious cycle of anxiety and stress.

    Whether it’s losing weight or bringing your business to fruition – motivation is essential for growth and success in every sphere of our lives.

    That said, it is not easy staying motivated. In order to constantly stay motivated, you need to take ownership of your life and consciously make efforts in that direction.

    Well, it’s never too late to take matters in your hands and change the course of your life. Here are 11 effective ways to crush your lack of motivation and always stay motivated:

    1. Write Your Goals

    The power of writing goals down has always been underestimated. Why write when you can remember, right? Wrong.

    Our thoughts are all over the place and the first step to achieve your goals is to organize your thoughts. So, write your goals down, however big or small they might be. Make them as specific as possible and assign deadlines to each of them.

    As you write them down and revisit them regularly, they get further drilled in your head, taking you closer to your goals. Doing this small exercise helps you to remain focused, motivated and lets you track your progress with ease.

    Start today – take to your laptop or a diary and get down to writing what you wish to achieve in life.

    2. Beat Procrastination

    Your lack of motivation and procrastination go hand in hand. Every time you procrastinate, your motivation levels take a greater hit. The only way to bring an end to this loop is to stop procrastinating.

    Next time you find yourself putting off something for ‘later’, stop and assess the reasons behind it. Get to the root of the cause and eliminate it in order to overcome this poor habit of procrastinating which is sabotaging your life and mental health.

    Take a look at this guide and learn how to beat procrastination:

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    What Is Procrastination (And the Complete Guide to Stop Procrastinating)

    When you finally overcome procrastination, you will realize the positive impact it has on your mood and motivation levels.

    3. Celebrate Small Wins

    In the quest to achieve the bigger goals in life, we often forget to celebrate the smaller wins along the way. An achievement is an achievement – be it big or small, it deserves to be acknowledged and celebrated.

    Finished a project on time? Reward yourself. Managed to run on the treadmill for a good one hour? Pat yourself on the back. Found time to meditate? Celebrate it.

    It is these small achievements that reinstate that we are on the right path and take us one step closer to the bigger goals.

    So, get into the habit of recognizing and appreciating small wins. You will be surprised to see how this practice helps you stay motivated.

    4. Practice Gratitude

    It’s easier to whine about what we don’t have rather than counting our blessings. Isn’t it?

    Making gratefulness a part of your life is a very important step to retain high motivational levels. It revitalizes our spirits and renews our enthusiasm for life.

    So, how do you practice gratitude? For starters, keep a gratitude journal to jot down what you are grateful for, express your gratitude to people you love and spread positivity wherever you go. If you need some inspiration to be thankful for, here it is:

    60 Things To Be Thankful For In Life

    By doing so, you begin to focus more on what you have rather than what you don’t and that is a great start to stay motivated.

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    5. Be Optimistic

    Life is not always hunky dory. There will be bad days when things aren’t going in your favor, when you feel lost and all you want to do is give up.

    At such times, instead of letting negativity take over your life, adopt an optimistic approach to life. Quit overthinking, ask the right questions and focus on finding solutions.

    Yes, there will be hurdles along the way but if you hang on to positive affirmations and hopes, the journey will be a lot smoother. So, with every passing day, sow the seeds of positivity and you are sure to build a positive environment around you.

    6. Don’t Dwell on the Past

    A lot of times, our lack of motivation stems from the habit of dwelling on the past. This gives rise to fear and regrets, preventing us from making progress in the present day.

    Dwelling on the past is nothing but a waste of time. Understand that the past is long gone, and you cannot do anything to change that.

    What you can do is make your present day worthwhile. Instead of looking back and having regrets, learn from your mistakes, forgive yourself and move on.

    So, the next time you find your mind wandering off to the past, be determined to change the way you think and consciously concentrate on living in the present. This guide can help you:

    10 Simple Steps To Let Go Of The Past

    7. Face your Fears

    You can never find motivation where there is fear. Identify the fear that is pulling you back and tackle it.

    If you don’t face your fear head on, you cannot expect to conquer it and renew your motivation.

    Ask yourself: What is stopping you? What are you scared of?

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    Once you accept your fear, you can work on an action plan and think of solutions to overcome it. This article will give you some effective tips on conquering your fears:

    How to Overcome Your Irrational Fears (That Stop You from Succeeding)

    Seek external help if required but don’t choose to turn a blind eye over your fears – it will only aggravate matters.

    8. Visualize your Success

    You must have heard the famous quote, ‘see it to believe it’. That is exactly what visualization is about.

    One of the most effective self-motivation techniques, visualizing the process to your desired outcome helps you move in a positive direction and achieve your goal.

    Close your eyes and focus all your energies on the minutest of details that will take you where you want to reach. Doing this exercise everyday inspires you to keep going and not lose hope. The vision of attaining success will drive you to do better while instilling belief and confidence.

    9. Find Inspiration

    Can’t seem to find inspiration inwards? Don’t panic. There are plenty of external sources to gain inspiration from.

    From motivational books and quotes to speeches, films and apps – it is a good idea to take help from motivational material to rekindle your spirits and regain your motivation.

    Everyone is wired differently. For instance, a self-help book might work for your friend, but it might do nothing to move you. So, find what inspires you and turn to it when you are in desperate need for motivation.

    Finding inspiration externally fills you with hope and sometimes that is all you need.

    10. Enjoy Downtime

    You are clearly exhausted with all the running you’re doing in life. So much, that you don’t even have time to stop and think what’s causing you so much unhappiness. All you know is that you are lacking motivation and everyday seems to have become a struggle.

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    Now, that’s certainly not how you should live the rest of your life.

    You need to schedule downtime for yourself, relax and give your mind and body some rest. Take a vacation, indulge in hobbies, meet some friends, put your hair down and stop with all the overthinking. It is important to do things that make you happy in order to think clearly and stay motivated.

    11. Meditate Regularly

    Meditation lets you take control of your mind. It improves focus and concentration while helping you relax.

    Whenever you have had a tough day or find your thoughts going places, the best way to calm yourself down is by closing your eyes and meditating. It helps you to remove all the unnecessary frills in life and keeps you on the right track.

    Include meditation in your daily schedule and you are sure to see an improvement in your productivity and motivation.

    The Bottom Line

    Practicing these simple exercises isn’t the tough part, what’s tough is religiously doing them every day.

    However, don’t expect to get rid of your lack of motivation overnight. There will still be days when you will be low on energy but by making these conscious efforts to stay motivated, you are sure to see a vast change in your perspective and your response to bad days.

    So, start today and be committed to making a positive change in your life.

    More Tips About Staying Motivated

    Featured photo credit: Sonnie Hiles via unsplash.com

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