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

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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

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    Elena Prokopets

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

    20 of the Most Amazing Swimming Pools in the World 10 Powerful Tips To Become A Better Photographer 20 Incredible Places Ski Lovers Should Visit This Winter 20 Essential Apps And Websites For Digital Nomads 50 Incredible Travel Experiences To Have Once In Your Life

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    Last Updated on January 24, 2022

    21 Best Tips On Making A Long Distance Relationship Work

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    21 Best Tips On Making A Long Distance Relationship Work

    Having texting and video conferencing at our fingertips, it appears that maintaining a long-distance relationship is easier than ever. Long-distance calls are no longer a luxury; the days when they needed to be rationed are long gone.

    Long-distance couples do not have to depend on 3 p.m. postal delivery, waiting for news that is at best four days old.

    Now we’re no longer even in the days of waiting for our loved ones to check their e-mail when they get home from work. Instant messaging keeps us hooked to each other even when we are out shopping, working, playing, watching a movie and doing much more.

    Technology, however, cannot compensate for everything in a long-distance relationship, as anyone with a long-distance relationship will tell you.

    Many long-distance relationships still seem emotionally difficult despite the lack of regular physical proximity.

    People often think long-distance relationships will never work. It may be discouraged by your family, and some of your best friends may tell you not to take it too seriously in case you end up heartbroken.

    Many things are not possible due to the extra distance – no one can promise it will be easy. Things could get complicated, and you might feel lonely and sad at times.

    Still, many of us try them.

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    However, the extra distance also makes the simplest things the sweetest. Being able to hold the other person’s hand, eating together at the same table, feeling each other’s touch, taking a walk together, smelling each other’s hair… these small wishes could suddenly mean so much more in a long-distance relationship.

    Long-distance relationships may be tough, but they have their own surprises too.

    Here’re 21 tips on how to make a long distance relationship work:

    1. Avoid excessive communication.

    It is unwise to be overly “sticky” and possessive. You two don’t really have to communicate 12 hours a day to keep the relationship going. Many couples think that they need to compensate for the distance by doing more. This is not true. And it might only make things worse. Soon you would get tired of “loving.”

    Remember: Less is more. It is not about spamming — you are only going to exhaust yourselves. It’s really about teasing at the right moments and tugging at the right spots.

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    2. See it as an opportunity.

    “If you want to live together, you first need to learn how to live apart.” – Anonymous

    View it as a learning journey for both of you. This is an opportunity for you to prove your love for one another. According to a Chinese proverb, “Real gold is not afraid of the test of fire.” Instead of thinking that this long-distance relationship is pulling you two apart, you should believe that through this experience, the both of you will be bound together even stronger.

    As Emma says it to Will in season four of Glee,

    “I would rather be here, far from you, but feeling really close, rather than close to you but feeling really far away.” – Emma, Glee Season 4

    3. Set some ground rules to manage your expectations.

    Both of you need to be clear with what you expect of each other during this long-distance relationship. Set some ground rules so that none of you will do things that will take the other party by surprise.

    For instance, are you two exclusive? Is it all right for the other person to go on dates? What is your commitment level? It’s better to be open with each other about all these things.

    4. Try to communicate regularly, and creatively.

    Greet each other “good morning” and “good night” every day — this is a must. On top of that, try to update your partner on your life and its happenings, however mundane some of the things may seem.

    To up the game, send each other pictures, audio clips, and short videos from time to time. By putting in this kind of effort, you make the other person feel loved and attended to.

    5. Talk dirty with each other.

    Sexual tension is undoubtedly one of the most important things between couples. In a way, sexual desire is like the glue that keeps both parties from drifting apart. Sexual need is not only biological but also emotional.

    Keep the flames burning by sending each other teasing texts filled with sexual innuendos and provocative descriptions. Sexy puns work pretty well too.

    6. Avoid “dangerous” situations.

    If you already know that going to the club or going drinking with your group of friends late at night will displease your partner, then you should either 1. Not do it or 2. Tell your partner beforehand to reassure them.

    You should not let this sort of thing slip by because it will only make your partner extra worried or suspicious – and of course, very upset because they will feel powerless or lack control over the situation.

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    You can fall victim to your traps by going out with eye candy from work after work or dating someone from your past who has been flirting with you without realizing it. Before entering a dangerous situation, you need to recognize the dangers.

    Listen to your heart, but don’t just rely on it. Make sure you also listen to your mind.

    7. Do things together.

    Play a game online together. Watch a documentary at the same time on YouTube or Vimeo. Share a song on Skype while another plays the guitar. Video-call each other and go for a walk together. Together, go online shopping – and buy each other gifts (see #13).

    You really have to be creative and spontaneous about it.

    8. Do similar things.

    Recommend books, TV shows, movies, music, news and etc., to each other. When you read, watch and listen to the same things, you get to have more topics in common to talk about.

    Even if you live apart, it’s nice to have some shared experiences.

    9. Make visits to each other.

    Every long-distance relationship is enriched by visits.

    After all the waiting and yearning and abstinence, you finally get to meet each other to fulfil all the little things like kissing, holding hands, etc. These are typical for couples in long-distance relationships but more special and intimate for long-distance couples.

    The atmosphere will be filled with fireworks, glitter bombs, confetti, rainbows, and butterflies.

    10. Have a goal in mind.

    Are we going to be apart for a long time?” “what about the future?” These are the questions you should ask yourselves.

    In fact, a couple cannot stay in a long-distance relationship forever. Eventually, we all need to settle down.

    So make a plan with each other. Set up a timeline, mark down the estimated times apart and times together, and draw an end goal.

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    It is important that you two are on the same page and have the same goals. So that even if you are not living in the same space and the same timezone, both of you are still motivated to work together in the same direction towards a future that includes one another.

    That’s right, you need some motivation to make a relationship last too. Find out more about what motivates you here.

    11. Enjoy your alone time and your time with your friends and family.

    You are alone, but you are not lonely unless you choose to feel like it. You don’t have to let your world revolve around your partner — you still have you, your friends, and your family. Take this time apart to do more with your friends and family. Go to the gym more often. Get a new hobby. Binge-watch shows. There are plenty of things for you to do that don’t involve your partner.

    12. Stay honest with each other.

    Talk about your feelings of fear, insecurity, jealousy, apathy, whatsoever. If you try to hide anything from your partner, that secret will sooner or later swallow you up from the inside out. Don’t try to deal with things all by yourself. Be open and honest with each other. Let your partner help you and give you the support you need. It’s better to look at the problem during its initial stage than to only disclose it when it’s all too late.

    13. Know each other’s schedules.

    It’s helpful to know when the other person is busy and free. So that you can drop a text or make a call at the right time. You wouldn’t want to disturb your partner when they are in the middle of class or halfway through a business meeting. Make sure you are aware of everyone’s small and big events in their lives, i.e., college midterms and exams, important business trips and meetings, job interviews, etc. Particularly if you live in different time zones, this becomes more important.

    14. Keep track of each other’s social media activities.

    Facebook and Instagram photos of each other. Send each other tweets. Tag each other on Facebook. Post stuff on each other’s wall. Let them know you care. Be cool with stalking each other.

    15. Gift a personal object for the other person to hold on to.

    Memories have power. No matter what it is–a pendant, a ring, a keychain, a collection of songs and videos, or a perfume bottle. Everyday items and things have meanings to us, whether we realize it or not. We all try to store memories in material things so that when our minds fail, we will still be able to look at or hold onto something that will help us recall our memories. This is why something so simple can mean so much to a person when others may see little or no value in it.

    16. Get a good messaging app.

    This is extremely important because texting is the most frequent and common way of communication the two of you have. You need a good messaging app on your phones that allows interactions beyond words and emoticons.

    Personally, I use this messaging app called LINE. I find it highly effective because it has a huge reserve of playful and very funny “stickers” that are free for its users to use. You can also go to the app’s “Sticker Shop” to download (or gift!) extra stickers of different themes (e.g., Hello Kitty, Pokemon, Snoopy, MARVEL, etc.) at a low price. Occasionally, the app will give out free sticker sets for promotions. This messaging app is cute and easy to learn to use.

    17. Snail-mail your gift.

    Mail each other postcards and hand-written love letters. Send each other gifts across the globe from time to time. Flower deliveries on birthdays, anniversaries, and Valentine’s Day. Shop online and surprise each other with cool T-shirts, sexy underwear, and such.

    18. Stay positive.

    You need to constantly inject positive energy into the long-distance relationship to keep it alive. Yes, the waiting can be painful, and you can sometimes feel lonely, but you need to remind yourself that the fruits at the end will be sweet as heaven.

    One good trick to staying positive is to be grateful all the time. Be thankful that you have someone to love — someone who also loves you back. Be thankful for the little things, like the hand-made letter that arrived safely in your mailbox the other day. Be thankful for each other’s health and safety.

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    19. Keep each other updated on each other’s friends and family.

    This will help you two to know each other’s culture and values. Knowing small habits of each other helps in developing an understanding and building mutual trust.

    Talking about family and friends gives you more matters to talk about. The best thing to talk about is gossip and scandals.

    20. Video-call whenever possible.

    Because sometimes looking into each other’s eyes and hearing each other’s voices can make everything feel alright again.

    A video call is though nothing like being together, but it’s the best thing and the most to do for coziness in a long-distance relationship.

    21. Give each other pet names.

    Because it’s cute. It keeps the lovey-dovey going. Having special names for each other reserved only for one another are heart-warming. Hearing that one word with love lifts our spirits up, and we feel assured all over again.

    Chaos seems to fade away just by hearing that special word from someone special.

    With the best wishes…

    Love (or like) is a force that is beyond your control. Love just happens. The same goes for turning off those feelings, even when you get the perfect job halfway across the country.

    Neither one of us expects to be long-distance in a relationship. But if you’re in a relationship like this, you’ll just have to make the most out of a difficult situation. These advice for long distance relationships will hopefully help you stay strong and cheerful when living apart from one another.

    More Recommended Relationships Experts on Lifehack
    • Carol Morgan —  A communication professor, dating/relationship and success coach
    • Dr. Magdalena Battles — A Doctor of Psychology with specialties include children, family relationships, domestic violence, and sexual assault
    • Randy Skilton —  An educator in the areas of relationships and self-help

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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