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Last Updated on August 8, 2019

How to Be More Knowledgeable

How to Be More Knowledgeable

Learning new skills at any age reaps a huge amount of benefits including raising self-esteem, increasing our sense of accomplishment and personal growth, as well as keeping those brain cells active and well-used.

We can all struggle to find the motivation to carry on learning no matter what the subject is but there are several different ways that can help us along the way. So how exactly can we learn effectively and become more knowledgeable as a result?

Motivation, the Sweet Spot and the Information Gap

To learn something effectively, we need to be present in the sweet spot. This is the magical space where we are neither sitting in our comfort zone nor forcing ourselves so much that we become demotivated.

Motivation is paramount in keeping us on track when learning new things and the sweet spot is the key to keeping this motivation going. Lingering too long on information we already know can lead to boredom and going too far into unknown territory can cause us to lose that much-needed motivation very quickly. It’s important that you keep a good balance and take small but challenging steps to keep you moving forward.

By doing this you need to be aware of the information gap. This is crucial when keeping up the motivation to gain more knowledge; we should always start with a subject in which we have basic understanding but where we still need an advancement of information to fill the gap. This way we can better connect our knowledge to what we’ve previously learned.

Remember, curiosity is one of the greatest motivations for learning, but this can be easily killed off if the level at which we are learning is too difficult. Maintaining a good pace and remembering that small steps achieve big goals will keep demotivation to a minimum.

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Not Everyone Learns in the Same Way

The important thing to remember is that we are all different when it comes to learning new information and skills. Intelligence is commonly thought of as our intellectual potential which can be measured with IQ tests, but in fact, research has shown there is a large spectrum of intelligence that differs from person to person and cannot be limited to conventional tests; this means that people have the potential to excel with different cognitive abilities and therefore, learn effectively in completely different ways.

Understanding your learning technique and utilizing it will allow you to become more knowledgeable on the subject you’re learning. Once discovered, make this your main source of learning, making sure you throw in some alternative ways for optimal results.

With this in mind, here are the most effective ways for retaining information and gaining the skills that you’ve learned.

Memory Tactics

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    Memorizing information can come more easily to some than others. If you struggle with retaining key points and more complicated topics then improving your focus is one way of dealing with this.

    Neuroscientific studies have shown that listening to certain type of music not only increases productivity but helps to focus the mind and retain information. Websites such as focus@will aim to keep you in the state of flow and concentration allowing your brain to utilize its memory function.

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    Cramming too much information into a short space of time can be tempting but ultimately, this is laziness in disguise. When we cram, we don’t think carefully about the meaning of what we’re learning; in other words, it’s all about quality not quantity.

    Make sure you structure your time well. Structured study sessions over a period of time allows you to process the information more adequately and research has found that the brain takes in more of this information through small regular sessions than one long, marathon.

    Relatable Learning

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      Relating and applying what you’ve learned to already-known situations is an effective way to understand new information. By doing this, you allow your brain to see connections through experience and previous knowledge, cementing this in the mind and allowing it to stick.

      If you try to apply it to the relevance in your own life or how it relates to things you find interesting and important, then this will help with focus and motivation in the long run.

      Learning Through Practice

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        This is one of the most popular methods of learning and one that I find the most effective. Lifting words from a page can be good in doses, but often our brain needs to experience the theories to fully understand the connections.

        A good example of this is when we learn a new language. The most effective way is the immersion technique where you are in a situation where you’re forced to speak the language and the brain is pushed to reach in and find translations as well as picking up on subtleties of speech, intonation, and assumption through gestures. Putting your mind through this trains it to find connections fast and efficiently much more than sitting down with a book.

        Explain What You’ve Learned to Someone Else

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          Another great method is to attempt to explain the new information to someone else. Doing this reinforces what you’ve learned in your mind, allows you to pinpoint any gaps in information or points you haven’t fully understood, and helps you translate the information you’ve gained into your own words and in a way that others can understand.

          This is an effective way to test whether or not your techniques are working for you. Start a blog, create a presentation or participate in discussions on the subject to solidify your knowledge.

          Try Different Methods of Learning

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            As I pointed out earlier, finding a particular way of learning that resonates with you is your first port of call. However, don’t limit yourself to just one method. The brain needs stimulation and even if one method is very effective, you can run the risk of getting bored and it’s in this space that motivation can wane.

            Once you find your most effective method, then utilize it but try to also mix it up by reading, watching related video clips, practical sessions, and explaining to others; being visual and verbal are both important factors when learning effectively and becoming more knowledgeable in your chosen subject and creates a good balance.

            Always remember that becoming an efficient learner takes time and practice as new habits need to be formed and established. Be patient with yourself and focus on one method at a time to allow yourself to find out what suits you. Motivation is key so do what you can to keep this up; focus on the small, steady and effective steps to get you to the next level.

            Featured photo credit: Unsplash via pixabay.com

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            Jenny Marchal

            A passionate writer who loves sharing about positive psychology.

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            Last Updated on September 17, 2019

            What’s the Easiest Language to Learn for English Speakers?

            What’s the Easiest Language to Learn for English Speakers?

            Who says learning a language needs to be hard?

            The better question to ask is: what is the easiest language to learn in the shortest amount of time?

            How to Know Which Languages Are Easier to Learn?

            Playing to Your Strengths

            One way to hack this process is to first understand that as English speakers, we have in our hands one of the most connected languages that exists. It’s linked to many European Germanic languages by descent or influence, and over 50 percent of English words stem from Latin or French.

              This probably doesn’t come as a big surprise to most, as the structure, alphabet, and makeup of the language is very similar to Spanish, Italian, French, and other languages from the latin root.

              Bestselling author and polyglot, Tim Ferriss, says that you should consider a new language like a new sport.

              There are certain physical prerequisites (height is an advantage in basketball), rules (a runner must touch the bases in baseball), and so on that determine if you can become proficient at all, and—if so—how long it will take.

              For example, it would a wiser choice and indicate a higher likelihood of success if a professional water polo player decided to transition into playing handball: similar structures, rules, and physical requirements.

              However, it wouldn’t be too wise if Kobe Bryant started to play professional ice hockey. It involves learning too many new rules, an entire new skill (skating), and the likelihood of success decreases significantly (or will take 10x longer).

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              Language learning is no different. As a “professional” language learner, we need to first breakdown our strengths and our understanding of existing rules and structures.

              If you already speak English, picking a compatible language with similar sounds and word structure like Spanish, instead of a completely different root like Mandarin, could mean the difference between reaching conversation fluency in 3 months versus 3 years.

              Follow the Golden Sentences

              If you want to determine which is the easiest language to learn, you should aim to answer the following questions first.

              • Are there new grammatical structures that will postpone fluency?
              • Are there new sounds that will double or quadruple the time it takes to acquire fluency? (particularly vowels)
              • How similar is it to languages I already understand? What will help and what will interfere?
              • All of which answer the question: How difficult will it be, and how long would it take to become fluent?

              An effective tool to use to answer all of these questions is called The Golden Sentences.

              It comprises eight sentences that expose much of the language, and quite a few deal breakers.

              1. The apple is red.
              2. It is John’s apple.
              3. I give John the apple.
              4. We give him the apple.
              5. He gives it to John.
              6. She gives it to him.
              7. I must give it to him.
              8. I want to give it to her.

              Here’s a directly translated version of these sentences in Spanish.

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                There’s a couple of reasons why these sentences are helpful:

                • It shows you how verbs are conjugated based on the speaker (gender and number)
                • You can see a high-level view of the fundamental sentence structures, which helps you answer questions like: is it subject-verb-object (SVO) like English and Chinese (“I eat the apple”), is it subject-object-verb (SOV) like Japanese (“I the apple eat”), or something else?
                • The first three sentences shows you if the language has a noun case that may become a pain in the butt for you. For example in German, “the” might be der, das, die, dem, den and more depending on whether “the apple” is an object, indirect object, possessed by someone else, etc.

                If possible, I recommend you check with a language teacher to fully understand the translation of these sentences and how transferable your existing languages are.

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                As a rule of thumb: use The Golden Sentences as your guiding map, before you choose the vehicle (the method). It will help you achieve your goals in half the time.

                Difficulty Level for Learning the 7 Most Common Languages

                Now let’s dive into dissecting which of the hundreds of languages that exist, is the easiest language to learn.

                We profiled each of the languages we’ll mention into the following categories:

                • Speaking: This is based on the ease with which learners are able to pick up this language.
                • Grammar: Used as a criterion when ranking a given language as easy, moderately easy, or difficult to acquire.
                • Writing: In many languages, learning to speak first and write later makes the journey easier. Other languages are equally easy to speak and write. This item spells out the easiest languages to write alongside the most difficult. As with speaking, easy, moderately easy, and difficult were used to qualify each language.

                We’ve decided to rank the order of the languages from easiest to hardest to learn.

                1. Spanish

                • Speaking: Very Easy
                • Grammar: Very Easy
                • Writing: Easy
                • Overall: Very Easy

                As English speakers, we can be thankful that Spanish pronunciations are one of the easiest to learn.

                Overall, Spanish has a shallow orthographic depth – meaning that most words are written as pronounced. This means that reading and writing in Spanish is a straightforward task.

                With only ten vowel and diphthong sounds (English has 20), and no unfamiliar phonemes except for the fun-to-pronounce letter ñ. This makes learning how to speak Spanish the easiest out of the bunch, and may give you the best return on your time and investment, as 37 per cent of employers rated Spanish as a critical language to know for employment.[1]

                2. Italian

                • Speaking: Easy
                • Grammar: Easy
                • Writing: Moderately Easy
                • Overall: Easy

                Italian is the most “romantic” of the romance languages. Luckily its latin-rooted vocabulary translates into many similar Italian/English cognates, such as foresta (forest), calendario (calendar), and ambizioso (ambitious).

                Like Spanish, many of the words in Italian are written as pronounced. Moreover, the Italian sentence structure is highly rhythmic, with most words ending in vowels. This adds a musicality to the spoken language which makes it fairly simple to understand, and a spunky language to use.

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                3. French

                • Speaking: Moderate
                • Grammar: Moderate
                • Writing: Moderately Easy
                • Overall: Moderate

                Despite how different French may appear at first, linguists estimate that French has influenced up to a third of the modern English language.

                This may also explain why French’s Latin derivations make much of the vocabulary familiar to English speakers (edifice, royal, village). There are also more verb forms (17, compared to the English 12) and gendered nouns (le crayon, la table).

                But it’s not all easy.

                Pronunciation in French is especially difficult, with vowel sounds and silent letters that you may not be used to in English.

                4. Portuguese

                • Speaking: Moderate
                • Grammar: Moderate
                • Writing: Moderate
                • Overall: Moderate

                With the Brazilian economy ranking 6th in the world, Portuguese has become a powerful language to learn. One great element of the language is that interrogatives are fairly easy, expressed by intonation alone (“You Like This?”) If you can say it in Portuguese, you can ask it. What’s more, in Brazilian Portuguese, there’s one catchall question tag form: não é.

                The main difficulty with the pronunciation is the nasal vowel sounds that require some practice.

                5. German

                • Speaking: Difficult
                • Grammar: Moderate
                • Writing: Moderate
                • Overall: Moderately Difficult

                For many English speakers, German is a difficult language to pick up. Its long words, four noun case endings, and rough pronunciation gives your tongue quite the work out each time you speak.

                German is recognized as a very descriptive language. A good example is how they use the noun by combining the object with the action at hand.

                Example: das Fernsehen – the television, combines the words fern, far, andsehen, watching, lit. far-watching.

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                On the other hand, German can be a fun language to learn and its use of grammar is considered to be quite logical, with many overlapping words in English. Just watch out for the exceptions to the rules!

                6. Hindi

                • Speaking: Moderate
                • Grammar: Moderately Difficult
                • Writing: Difficult
                • Overall: Moderately Difficult

                There are many familiar words in English which are either Hindi or of Hindi origin. For example guru, jungle, karma, yoga, bungalow, cheetah, looting, thug and avatar. Hindi also uses lots of English words. They are read and pronounced as they are in English, but are written in Hindi. For example, डॉक्टर is pronounced doctor and स्टेशन is pronounced station.

                This shows that while learning the vocabulary and pronunciation of Hindi may not to be too difficult due to its similarity to English, writing in Hindi is a different ball game.

                7. Mandarin

                • Speaking: Difficult
                • Grammar: Difficult
                • Writing: Very Difficult
                • Overall: Very Difficult

                Last, but not least: Mandarin. We mainly put this here to show you the contrasting difference between the easiest language to learn (Spanish) and the hardest language to learn, for English speakers.

                While language learners won’t struggle as much on the grammar, mastering the tones can be very difficult. Mandarin is a tonal language, which means the pitch or intonation used when a word is spoken impacts its meaning. For example, tang with a high tone means soup, but tang with a rising tone means sugar.

                Learning Mandarin has its rewards though, providing cultural insights and knowledge. But according to the BBC, you’ll need to memorize over 2,000 characters to read a Chinese newspaper![2]

                What’s the Easiest Language to Learn?

                Winner: Spanish

                The clear winner for the easiest language to learn is Spanish. Everything from writing, grammar, and speaking will come more naturally to the English speaker: similar rules, structure, and latin roots.

                It’ll be like going from playing football to ultimate Frisbee.

                More About Language Learning

                Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

                Reference

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