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7 Ways To Learn a Foreign Language Faster (That Are Backed by Science)

7 Ways To Learn a Foreign Language Faster (That Are 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. Learning grammar was tough, and remembering the correct pronunciation was even worse!

Here are some of the tips and hacks I’ve gathered along the way both from my language school and independent studies. I hope that they will help you as well!

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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. 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.

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. 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.

Here’s a diagram illustrating this process:

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    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, it was discovered that 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. 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 and 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, it was discovered that 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. 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.

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    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.

    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!

    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!

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    Elena Prokopets

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    Last Updated on December 13, 2018

    12 Practical Tips To Stay Fit For Christmas

    12 Practical Tips To Stay Fit For Christmas

    Christmas is approaching fast, and lots of people not only tend to ruin their usual diets, but they also gain a few extra pounds. Based on studies, the majority of people tend to gain additional weight during the holiday season that starts at the Thanksgiving Day and ends with the New Year celebrations. Excessive eating is claimed to be the main cause for the additional weight gain, but it is also due to lack of physical activity and exercise.

    A lot of individuals out there tend to set aside their fitness routines during the holidays since they believe that they do not have enough time to perform their workouts. And because they feel guilty after the holiday season, most of the gyms and fitness centers are packed with fresh members. Always bear in mind that you can still enjoy the holidays and stay fit at the same time. If you want to stay fit during the holiday season, especially during Christmas and the New Year’s Eve, here are some useful tips that might help you:

    1. Eat Before Heading Out

    First, it is best that you eat something before heading out to visits, trips or family dinners. By doing so, you will no longer be tempted to eat a lot or overindulge yourself since you have already eaten. Skipping on meals is not a good idea either, because you will only be forced to eat more later.

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    2. Select The Treats

    Make sure to select the treats that you eat in a wise manner. You should choose something that you can only enjoy during the holiday season and not something that is readily available all the time.

    3. Avoid Skipping Meals

    Don’t skip meals, especially breakfast! Even though it can be tempting to skip on certain meals, believing that it will make up for the treats you consumed in the previous day, don’t do it because it will only lead to counterproductive results.

    4. Drink With Moderation

    It is best to regulate your drinking since alcohol, coke or other juices will only add more calories to the ones you already eaten!

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    5. Be Active

    You should still perform your fitness routine whenever possible and if you can’t do that, simply walk more, park your car some distance away from the store or just use the stairs!

    6. Get Out Of The House

    Make the holidays a family affair and plan outdoor activities where everyone is involved. Even a snowball fight in the backyard will burn a lot of calories and will keep the children entertained.

    7. Don’t Skip Your Strength Workouts

    Always remember to perform your strength training in order to maintain that muscle mass you worked hard to get. You might be tempted to use lightweights and just do some cardio, but you can burn just as many calories by lifting weights. And with all of those extra stakes you had on the holiday meals, you might even gain some extra muscle. And this is much better than gaining some extra fat.

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    8. Set Realistic Goals

    You should set realistic exercise objectives. Aim for at least half an hour per day and you will be very happy when you will achieve that. If you plan one hour or more and not achieve it, you will only end up disappointed.

    9. Enjoy Yourself

    Also make sure to set realistic diet plans! Trying to restrain yourself totally from some foods will only make you eat more. Feel free to enjoy the treats that you really love, but in small portions.

    10. Drink A Lot Of Water

    This can satiate your appetite as well as keep you hydrated at all times. And it will also prevent a possible hangover if you overdo it with alcohol.

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    11. Eat Less And More Often

    Distribute your meals evenly throughout the day, and do not eat everything at once.  Instead of having 2 enormous meals, have 5 small ones.  Eat your dinner earlier and have a nice walk before going to bed.

    12. Prioritize Your Workouts

    Try to do them early in the morning while everyone else is still sleeping. This way you will also avoid remarks like “Oh, come on! It’s Christmas…”

    So there you go! Twelve simple tips that will help you avoid gaining weight during the winter holidays, but will also allow you to enjoy yourself and have a great time with your loved ones.

    Happy Holidays everyone!

    Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

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