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5 Awful Instructions to Ignore When Learning a Language

5 Awful Instructions to Ignore When Learning a Language

Getting the right advice when you’re learning something new can transform your learning process. But getting the wrong advice and mistakenly following it can undo that process very quickly.

So how do you distinguish the great advice from the awful? We’ll be honest, it’s difficult. Some of the worst advice out there about language learning can appear useful for the beginners or those without any previous experience learning.

This is why we’ve curated the top 5 awful advice for you to ignore (and run from).

1. “You’re too old” to learn a language

Despite what conventional society tells us, how ‘old’ we are shouldn’t affect our ability to reach fluency in a language. We’re not saying that a 50-year-old person can learn as fast as someone who’s 5 years old, but it’s more than possible.

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In fact, a study done by Hakuta, Bialystok and Wiley compared the language learning abilities in adults of different ages. Each participant was taught the same words in the same learning environment. The results showed that people over 50 learn just as well as people in their 20’s or 30’s.

2. You need to travel to a foreign country

With the advent of technology today, there’s no reason for anyone to travel to a foreign country to learn a language. Instead of spending thousands of dollars on a plane ticket and finding accommodation, you can find amazing teachers where you are.

From my experiences traveling, I’ve seen many people that assumed living in a foreign country will guarantee their ability to learn. Because of this, they didn’t make much of an effort, and by the time they had to come back home, it was too late.

The key is motivation, not just environment.

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3. Just use free mobile apps!

There are plenty of free mobile apps out there that can help you practice your vocabulary and grammar. But there’s only so much that these apps can help you with.

Duolingo is probably the first tool you think of, but the following is the response from some customers at Rype:

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        The point we’re trying to make is not that you shouldn’t use these free language apps to learn, but you shouldn’t rely on it being your sole method of learning. It’s like trying to get in the best shape of your life by relying on a fitness application on your phone, there’s more to it!

        4. Focus on using just one method to learn a language

        Focus is certainly important, but as we shared before, relying on one method is not the way to go. There’s a method you want to use for developing your writing skills, another method for speaking, and so forth.

        You should also find different ways to activate your brain. The purpose of learning a language for most people is to communicate with others, and that’s how we should be learning how to speak it. You can do this via language meetups, finding accountability partners, or working with a private language teacher online (especially if you’re busy).

        5. You can learn conversation in the classroom

        Last but not least, the advice on how to become a better speaker in a foreign language.

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        Tim Ferriss, who’s a polyglot and bestselling author, says:

        “Somewhat like riding a bike, though unfortunately not as permanent, language fluency is more dependent on practicing the right things than learning the right things. The rules (grammar) can be learned through materials and classes, but the necessary tools (vocabulary and idiomatic usage) will come from independent study and practice in a native environment.”

        His point was that there’s nothing that can replace practicing with a real human being to improve your communication skills. That’s how we learned our first language, and it’s still the best way to learn the second.

        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

        How to Tap into Your Right Brain’s Potential

        How to Tap into Your Right Brain’s Potential

        You may have heard someone say they are “totally right brained” or that they’re “a left brained person.”

        There is a pervasive myth that’s been making its rounds for over a century: people have two hemispheres of their brains, and if they have a dominant left brain, they’re more analytical; and if they have a dominant right brain, they are more creative.

        Before we go debunking this theory and then giving some tips for how people can access their creative brain centers, let’s first take a look at where the left brain/right brain lateralization theory comes from.

        The Left Brain/Right Brain Lateralization Theory

        In the 1800s, scientists discovered that when patients injured one side of their brains, certain skills were lost.[1] Scientists linked those different skills to one side of the brain or the other. Thus began the left brain/right brain myth that continues to this day.

        Then, in the 1960s and 70s, Roger W. Sperry led 16 operations that cut the corpus callosum (the largest region that connects both brain hemispheres together) in order to try to treat patients’ epilepsy. Sperry wrote about the differences in the two hemispheres as a result of those surgeries.[2]

        Sperry’s work was popularized in 1973 with a New York Times article about his lateralization theory—that people were either right brained (read: logical) or left brained (read: creative). From here, Sperry won the Nobel Prize for his work and numerous other publications spread the right brain/left brain myth.

        Debunking the Right Brain/Left Brain Myth

        If anything, the lateralization theory of the brain is a gross exaggeration. It is true that people have two hemispheres of their brains. It is also true that there are differences in the composition of those two hemispheres.

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        However, the hemispheres are actually much more interconnected than Sperry’s work initially made it seem.

        In a 2013 study,[3] scientists scanned over 1000 people’s brains, checking for lateralization. They confirmed that certain brain functions occur predominately in one hemisphere or the other but that, in reality, the brain is actually much more interconnected and complex than the right brain/left brain lateralization theory makes it seem.[4][5]

        A New Metaphor for Right Brain/Left Brain

        How do we get past this right brain/left brain myth?

        First, let’s look at what contemporary cognitive science says about brain regions, and creative and logical modes of thinking.

        My background is as an improviser and improv researcher. I wrote Theatrical Improvisation, Consciousness, and Cognition and think looking at improvisation and the brain can shed light on a new model for talking about unlocking the brain’s creative potential.

        Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) brain scans have shown that while trained improvisers improvise (musically on a keyboard, rapping, and comedic improvisation) an interesting shift happens in their brain activity. [6]

        A region called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex decreases in activity and creative language centers such as the medial prefrontal cortex increase in activity. The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is linked with conscious thoughts—that inner voice that tells you not to say something or criticizes you when you do.

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        The medial prefrontal cortex is among the brain regions linked with creativity. So, instead of thinking about right brain and left brain, perhaps it’s more current and correct to think about more specific brain regions instead of hemispheres. Perhaps, it’s more useful to think about which activities and strategies will allow us to inhibit our dorsolateral prefrontal cortexes and allow our medial prefrontal cortexes to flourish.

        How to Enhance Your “Right Brain” — Creativity

        Whether we’re talking about right brain versus left brain, creative versus logical, or medial prefrontal cortex versus dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, we still know enough to talk about strategies to tap into your creative brain’s full potential.

        So, now that we’ve dispelled the right brain/left brain myth and looked at a more contemporary, cognitive neuroscience theory of brain regions and creativity centers, let’s look at how to tap into the potential of your creative brain.

        1. Performing Arts

        One way to tap into your creative brain centers is to participate in the performing arts. Whether you improvise, act, or dance, the performing arts allow you an embodied experience that will help you snap out of your habitual, logical thoughts.

        Another benefit of the performing arts is that it changes your attention. Attention and creativity are inextricably linked. When we improvise, act, or dance, we have to focus intently on our fellow performers. This means we are forced to focus less on our conscious, logical thoughts. This frees us up for more creative thinking and expression.[7]

        One of the conclusions of my research on improvisation is that focusing intensely on fellow improvisers and the task at hand makes it more likely that we experience a flow state. Dr. Csikszentmihalyi,[8] a Professor of Psychology and Management defines flow as an optimal psychological state when our skills match the difficulty of the task at hand. Our perception of time is altered as we get into the zone and become more present and in the moment during our chosen activity.[9]

        A flow state is a creative state. It’s the opposite of crunching numbers and forcing ourselves to work out a problem with the conscious regions of our brain. So, get up, improvise, act, or dance to access your creativity.

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        2. Visual Art

        Art teacher Betty Edwards[10] wrote a book called Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. Here again, we see that a shift in our attention can lead us to an increase in our creative thinking.

        Edwards’ book gives art students tricks to shift the way they see the world. For example, one exercise encourages students to literally flip whatever it is they’re drawing upside down before they draw it. This forces budding artists to literally see the object in a new way. This shift allows them to focus more on the individual components and patterns of the object, which allows them to draw it better.

        Shifting how we see things is another way we can access our creative brain centers. Take an art class to shut off your conscious, critical thoughts and start seeing things from a new, more creative perspective.

        3. Zone Out

        If there’s one thing creativity doesn’t like, it’s being coerced.

        I think we’ve all felt that awful feeling of trying to force ourselves to be creative. When we force it, we’re really trying to force our logical brain regions to be creative. It’s like asking your gardener to perform your appendix surgery. It’s just not what she does.

        Instead, stop forcing it. Take a break. Take a long walk or a relaxing bath or shower. Let your mind wander.

        Whatever you do, stop forcing it. This break lets your creative centers rise to the surface of your attention and get heard.

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        4. Practice Mindfulness

        The final trick to start accessing your so-called right brain is to practice mindfulness.

        Now, there’s a lot of different ways to go about mindfulness. You can take a more physical approach with a yoga class. Or you can try meditating to become more aware and in tune with your thoughts and feelings: Meditation for Beginners: How to Meditate Deeply and Quickly

        You could also try to incorporate fun mindfulness exercises[11] into your everyday routine like forcing yourself to go on detours or pretending you’re a detective who needs to examine people and places closely.

        Any way you do it, mindfulness exercises and training can help you become better versed in how your brain works and what your normal thought process is like on a day-to-day basis. If we’re ever going to reach our optimal creativity, we have to become an expert in how our individual brain functions. Mindfulness is one way to become your very own brain expert.

        Mindfulness also has added benefits like calming us, slowing our breathing, and helping us become more observant, which are also great ways to start tapping into our creative potential.

        Final Thoughts

        So, it may not be correct to say that our right brain is our creative brain, but it is still a valid pursuit to try to optimize our creative brain centers.

        The key to do so is to relax, become observant, shift your perspective, move your body, try something new, and, whatever you do, don’t force it.

        Creativity can feel slippery. It can abandon us when we need it most, but by slowing down and looking at things from a new perspective, we can give ourselves a better chance of tapping into our ultimate creativity, even if that doesn’t exactly mean our “right brain.”

        More Tips on Boosting Creativity

        Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

        Reference

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