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Living Overseas? 10 Tips To Help You Easily Learn Your New Language

Living Overseas? 10 Tips To Help You Easily Learn Your New Language

Living abroad is one of the best ways to truly experience a different culture. It’s an amazing feeling to wake up in a new timezone with new food options, scenery, people, and a completely different way of looking at the world. When you move to a new country it can be a little frightening, and very intimidating–especially at first. However, after you learn the ropes and get adjusted to the differences, the experience takes on a completely new feel.

When you move to another country, everything is fresh and new. It feels great to learn and explore unfamiliar territory. However, the terrain is the only thing that should be completely new to you. This is because having a preliminary sense of the culture and knowing a bit of the language is expected.

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If you’re thinking of going to a new country, or are looking to learn how to speak a foreign language while you are in a different country, the tips in this article will help you to find the support you need. Below are 10 tips to help you learn new languages easily, just in time for your next global adventure.

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  • Listen for phrases that get said in passing conversation throughout your day. Keep a notebook or cell phone with you to make and maintain list of words that you aren’t familiar with and need to learn.
  • Try to find an employee at a local restaurant or department store to help you with languages. When restaurants or stores aren’t busy, employees are being paid to make sure that you are finding everything you need. When it’s slow or there aren’t many other customers, it may be appropriate to ask a few questions about the language, or brush up on a few verb tenses. However, don’t abuse this privilege. While most employees are polite, they aren’t paid tutors. This is a great technique for learning a phrase or two, and having someone who is a native speaker correct your pronunciation.
  • Carry a pocket dictionary with you. This is one of the most important things that you can do because it will program you to listen for words you aren’t familiar with. Always wait until after your conversation to look up words–unless it is an emergency. You don’t want to spend five minutes thumbing through a dictionary while having a conversation about the weather.
  • Work with a language teacher online. This option doesn’t require you to wait until you arrive at a new place, since you can do it anywhere in the world. The good news is, you can continue to learn with your language teacher even if you move to a new location. Check out websites like Rype, which offer unlimited access to handpicked professional language teachers for 1-on-1 language lessons.
  • Speak to the hotel/hostel staff about friendly areas that speak the place’s native tongue. Usually the staff on-hand are trained to work with people from multiple countries and have a process to assist them. However, you shouldn’t count on it in every country you visit. Before you leave to go on an adventure, make sure to ask the front desk if they have any recommendations for places that will speak the place’s native language.
  • Join Facebook Groups, online forums, or other virtual places. You can learn more about people living in your intended destination who are from your home country. More and more frequently, groups of people all around the world are sharing their travel tips thanks to a boom in what is known as digital nomadism.
  • Practice with the bartender. It’s the best way to feel like you’re the one calling all the shots! Plus, you can lose your inhibitions over mispronouncing a word or two and in the meantime, develop a confidence for a language you might not be very comfortable using.
  • Look for Meetup groups. If you are new to a location or looking for new things to do, Meetup.com has organized meeting groups all around the world. Meetups occur at coffee shops, bars, and other public places every week for just about every passion, interest, hobby, or activity that you can think of. It is very likely that you can either find or start a local meetup group that is devoted to learning your chosen language.
  • Live with a host family. There are certain advantages to staying with locals. Whether it’s getting home-cooked cuisine or learning the local slang, it’s always great to meet other people in a new country, rather than journeying alone. Local host families may be free, but working out those arrangements is up to you. If you want paid accommodations that are guaranteed, try Airbnb.com or homestay.com.
  • Find someone who needs to learn your language. This is by far one of the most rewarding aspects of going to a new country: meeting new people and forming new relationships. When you form a friendship with someone who needs to learn your native tongue, you can bond at a deeper level and help them while they help you.

Language learning is a lifelong skill and ideally is something that happens before you visit a country. However, if you really want to go somewhere don’t let a lack of language knowledge stop you. Cut down the barrier by expressing yourself more amicably and make sure to smile a lot–at least until you get a better handle of what everyone else is saying.

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Most importantly, use your lack of knowledge to your advantage. In many cases, people will be willing to lend a helping hand. Who knows? It could become a fantastic way to make new friends.

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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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