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Here Are The Best Ways to Learn a Language (And the Pros & Cons)

Here Are The Best Ways to Learn a Language (And the Pros & Cons)

Want to learn a language? Congratulations! Committing to learn a new language is a big step to make, since most people remain comfortable with the language they learned in high school, whether they learned Spanish, French, German, etc. Now that you’re ready to take the next step – actually learning the language – you’re probably wondering, what’s the best way to learn Spanish, French, German, etc.?

You’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll share with you the 5 best ways to learn any language, where you can go to start learning, and the pros and cons for each option. Before we dig in, let’s first understand how we best learn, beyond just languages.

How humans best learn

Given the decades of research and studies done on the human brain, learning institutions have publicly shared the results of how humans best learn. A notable study published is the development of the Learning Pyramid in the 1960’s – widely attributed to the NTL Institute in Bethel, Maine – which outlined how humans best retain information.

It turns out that humans remember:

5% of what they learn when they’ve learned from a lecture (i.e. university/college lectures)
10% of what they learn when they’ve learned from reading (i.e. books, articles)
20% of what they learn from audio-visual (i.e. apps, videos)
30% of what they learn when they see a demonstration
50% of what they learn when engaged in a group discussion
75% of what they learn when they practice what they learned
90% of what they learn when they use immediately (or teach others)

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learning pyramid

    Anyone who endured through the boring lectures in university or college can probably relate to how ineffective learning is when done through lectures or traditional textbooks. It’s one information in one ear, and out the other!

    lecture presentation

      While you can learn mathematics or history without any interaction, that’s not how language learning works. In other words, languages were meant to be learned and used with other humans, not through an algorithm based app like Duolingo, Rosetta Stone, or Youtube. It’s a good way to learn as a hobby, but if you’re seeking real results, the decades of scientific research shows that this is the wrong approach.

      The good news is that there are better ways to learn a language than relying on the traditional, ineffective methods that our brains were not trained to learn with. Compared to learning through lectures, you’ll notice that learning through immersion (i.e. speaking with native speakers/humans) is up to 18 times more effective.

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      This leads us to reveal the 3 best ways to learn a language (through immersion!)

      1. Accountability Partner

      Where to start: Your inner circle and network.
      Pros: Free
      Cons: Very difficult to find someone that can help you, unless you’re offering something in return. Sustaining the relationship is also complicated over a longer period of time.

      A good place to start learning anything is within your own circle of friends. If you can think of someone that already knows how to speak Spanish, Italian, or your target language, ask them to help you out. The worst thing that can happen is, they will tell you they’re too busy or they may know another friend that can help out.

      In terms of difficulty finding someone, this ranks the highest because most of us lack the network to find a credible person to help us out, or we just don’t feel comfortable asking our friends without giving anything back in return.

      2. Conversation Exchange

      Where to start: MyLanguageExchange.com
      Pros: Free and lots of fellow language lovers you can meet online
      Cons: Time consuming and requires patience to find the right language partner that matches your schedule. Most language partners you will find will also not have any professional experience teaching.

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      The second option to learn a language through immersion is a conversation exchange.

      A conversation exchange is where people that are looking to learn a language come together, in order to help each other practice their target languages. In a perfect situation, you can find someone who’s a fluent speaker in your target language and also wants to learn the language you speak fluently. This way, there’s a mutually beneficial relationship that’s formed.

      From personal experience, most conversation exchanges can suck up a ton of time just trying to find a language partner that fits your target language, schedule, and personality. If you’re missing even one of those factors, the conversation exchange will most likely not last.

      Screen-Shot-2015-05-20-at-3.15.39-PM-750x283

        With that said, if you do have a lot of time on your hands and you’re incredibly motivated to learn a new language, going with the conversation exchange route may be the best option for you. For the rest of us, who don’t have a lot of time, or want to work with a native speaker who’s a professional, you should go with…

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        3. Professional Language Lessons

        Where to start: Rype, Craigslist
        Pros: You get to work with a professional teacher, who’s 100% dedicated to your needs and success. Unlike a conversation exchange, you can usually choose the time you want to learn on your schedule, which saves you a lot of time.
        Cons: Like any professional service, language lessons is an investment.

        What if you want to learn a language, but you don’t want to bother your friends, and you have a busy lifestyle? Language lessons online is the answer for you. Instead of going to a language school and learning with 15-20 other students, or commuting an hour to meet an in-person language teacher, you can learn at the comforts of your own home, or wherever you are around the world.

        Rype

          If you go with a service like Rype, you can also get unlimited private lessons (yep, that’s one-on-one) with professional teachers who are available 24/7.

          In summary, here are the main benefits of language lessons online (and why it’s our favorite option):

          • Save more time (no commuting, and no preparation required)
          • Connect with native speaking professionals who actually live in countries that speak your target language (real-life immersion learning brought to your screen)
          • Get accountability and full access to ask questions & feedback when you want (not something you get with conversation exchanges)

          What’s next?

          Share the first step you’ll take today to learn a language. Which of these best ways to learn a language resonated most with your lifestyle? Let us know!

          More by this author

          Sean Kim

          Sean is the founder and CEO of Rype, a language learning app. He's an entrepreneur and blogger.

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          Last Updated on March 30, 2020

          What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

          What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

          Have you ever walked into a room and felt like your nerves simply couldn’t handle it? Your heart beats fast, you start to sweat, and you feel like all eyes are on you (even if they’re really not). This is just one of the many ways that being self-conscious can rear its ugly head.

          You may not even realize you’re self-conscious, and you may be wondering, “What does self-conscious mean?” That’s a good place to start.

          This article will define self-consciousness, show how practically everyone has faced it at one point or another, and give you tips to avoid it.

          What Does Self-Conscious Mean?

          According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, self-conscious is defined as “conscious of one’s own acts or states as belonging to or originating in oneself.”[1]

          Not so bad, right? There’s another definition, though — one that speaks more to what you’re going through: “feeling uncomfortably conscious of oneself as an object of the observation of others.” For those of us who regularly deal with extreme self-consciousness, that second definition sounds about right.

          There are many different ways self-consciousness can spring up. You may feel self-conscious around people you know, like your family members or closest friends. You may feel self-conscious at work, even though you spend hours every week around your co-workers. Or you may feel self-conscious when out in public and surrounded by strangers. However, you probably don’t feel self-conscious when you’re home alone.

          How to Stop Being Too Self-Conscious

          When you’re in the throes of self-consciousness, it’s nearly impossible to remember how to stop feeling that way. That’s why it’s so important to prepare ahead of time, when you’re feeling ready to tackle the problem instead of succumbing to it.

          Here are a variety of ways to feel better about yourself and stop thinking about how others see you.

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          1. Ask Yourself, “So What?”

          One way to banish negative, self-conscious thoughts is to do just that: banish them.

          The next time you walk into a room and feel your face getting red, think to yourself, “So what?” How much does it really matter if people don’t like how you look or act? What’s the worst that could happen?

          Most of the time, you’ll find that you don’t have a good answer to this question. Then, you can immediately start assigning such thoughts less importance. With self-awareness, you can acknowledge that your negative thoughts are present and realize that you don’t agree with them.[2] They’re just thoughts, after all.

          2. Be Honest

          A lie that self-consciousness might tell is that there’s one way to act or feel. Honestly, though, everyone else is just figuring life out as well. There isn’t a preferred way to show up to an event, gathering, or public place. What you can do is be honest with your feelings and thoughts.[3]

          If you feel offended by something someone says, you don’t have to smile to be polite or laugh to fit in with the crowd. Instead, you can politely say why you disagree or excuse yourself and find a group of people who you relate to better. If you’re nervous, don’t overcompensate by trying to look relaxed and casual — it’ll be obvious you’re putting on a front. Instead, nothing is more endearing than saying, “I’m a little nervous!” to a room of people who probably feel the exact same way.

          On the same note, if you don’t understand why someone wants you to do something, question it. You can do this at work, at home, or even with people you don’t know well. Nobody should force you to do something you don’t want to do.

          Also, even if you’re willing to do what’s asked of you, there’s nothing wrong with asking for more clarification. People will realize that you’re not a person to be bossed around.

          3. Understand Why You’re Struggling at Work

          Being self-conscious at work can get in the way of your daily responsibilities, your relationships with co-workers, and even your career as a whole. If you’re facing some sort of conflict but you’re too nervous to speak up, you may be at the whim of what happens to you instead of taking some control.

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          If you’re usually confident at work, you may be wondering where this new self-consciousness is coming from. It’s possible that you’re dealing with burnout.[4] Common signs are anxiety, fatigue and distraction, all of which can leave you feeling under-confident.

          4. Succeed at Something

          When you create success in your life, it’s easier to feel confident[5] and less self-conscious. If you feel self-conscious at work, finish the project that’s been looming over your head. If you feel self-conscious in the gym, complete an advanced workout class.

          Exposing yourself to what you’re scared of and then succeeding at it in some way (even just by finishing it) can do wonders for your self-esteem. The more confidence you build, the more likely you are to have more success in the future, which will create a cycle of confidence-building.

          5. Treat All of You — Not Just Your Self-Consciousness

          Trying to solve your self-consciousness alone may not treat the root of the problem. Instead, take a well-rounded approach to lower your self-consciousness and build confidence in areas where you may struggle.

          Even professional counselors are embracing this holistic type of treatment[6] because they feel that the health of the mind and body are inextricably linked. This approach combines physical, spiritual, and psychological components. Common activities and treatments include meditation, yoga, massage, and healthy changes to diet and exercise.

          If much of this is new to you, it will pay to give it a try. You never know how it will impact you.

          If you’re feeling self-conscious about how your body looks, a massage that makes you feel great could boost your confidence. If you try a new workout, you could have something exciting to talk about the next time you’re in a group setting.

          Putting yourself in a new situation and learning that you can get through it with grace can give you the confidence to get through all sorts of events and nerve-wracking moments.

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          6. Make the Changes That Are Within Your Control

          Let’s say you walk into a room and you’re self-conscious about how you look. However, you may have put a lot of time and effort into your outfit. Even though it may stand out, this is how you have chosen to express yourself.

          You have to work on your internal confidence, not your external appearance. There’s nothing to change other than your outlook.

          On the other hand, maybe there’s something that you don’t like about yourself that you can change. For example, maybe you hate how a birthmark on your face looks or have varicose veins that you think are unsightly. If you can do something about these things, do it! There’s nothing wrong with changing your appearance (or skills, education, etc.) if it’s going to make you more confident.

          You don’t have to accept your current situation for acceptance’s sake. There’s no award for putting up with something you hate. Confidence is also required to make changes that are scary, even if they’re for the better. Plus, it may be an easier fix than you thought. For example, treating varicose veins doesn’t have to involve surgery — sometimes simple compression stockings will take care of the problem.[7]

          7. Realize That Everyone Has Awkward Moments

          Everyone has said something awkward to someone else and lived to tell the tale. We’ve all forgotten somebody’s name or said, “You too!” when the concession stand girl says to enjoy our movie. Not only are these things uber-common, but they’re not nearly as embarrassing as you feel they are.

          Think about how you react when someone else does something awkward. Do you think, “Wow, that person’s such a loser!” or do you think, “What a relief, I’m not the only one who does that.” Chances are good that’s the same reaction others have to you when you stumble.

          Remember, self-consciousness is a state of mind that you have control over. You don’t have to feel this way. Do what you need to in order to build your confidence, put your self-consciousness in perspective, and start exercising your “I feel awesome about myself” muscle. It’ll get easier with time.

          When Is Being Self-Conscious a Good Thing?

          Self-consciousness can sometimes be a good thing[8], but you have to take the awkwardness and nerves out of it.

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          In this case, “self-aware” is a much better term. Knowing how you come off to people is an excellent trait; you’ll be able to read a room and understand how what you do and say affects others. These are fantastic skills for people work and personal relationships.

          Self-awareness helps you dress appropriately for the occasion, tells you that you’re talking too loud or not loud enough, and guides a conversation so you don’t offend or bore anyone.

          It’s not about being someone you’re not — that can actually have adverse effects, just like self-consciousness. Instead, it’s about turning up certain aspects of yourself to perform well in the situation.

          Final Thoughts

          When you’re self-conscious, you’re constantly battling with yourself in an effort to control how other people view you. You try to change yourself to suit what you think other people want to see.

          The truth, though, is that you can’t actually control how other people view you — and you may not even be correct about how they view you in the first place.

          Being confident doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it happens in small steps as you slowly build your confidence and say “no” to your self-consciousness. It also requires accepting that you’re going to feel self-conscious sometimes, and that’s okay.

          Sometimes worrying that there is a problem can be more stressful than the problem itself. Feeling bad for feeling self-conscious can be more troublesome than simply feeling it and getting on with the day.

          Forgive yourself for being human and make the small changes that will lead to better confidence in the future.

          More Tips for Improving Your Self-Esteem

          Featured photo credit: Cata via unsplash.com

          Reference

          [1] Merriam-Webster: Self-conscious
          [2] Bustle: 7 Tips On How To Stop Feeling Self-Conscious
          [3] Marc and Angel: 10 Things to Remember When You Feel Unsure of Yourself
          [4] Bostitch: How to Protect Small Businesses From Burnout
          [5] Psychology Today: Self-conscious? Get Over It
          [6] Wake Forest University: Embracing Holistic Medicine
          [7] Center for Vein Restoration: What Causes Venous Ulcers, and How Are They Treated?
          [8] Scientific American: The Pros and Cons of Being Self-Aware

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