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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 January 21, 2020

5 Proven Memorization Techniques to Make the Most of Your Memory

5 Proven Memorization Techniques to Make the Most of Your Memory

Do you forget stuff every now and then? Are you trying to enhance your memory but not sure how?

All you need is the right memorization techniques to make the most of your memory.

The human brain is fascinating. More specifically, the vast interconnections within our mind. Mendel Kaelen compares the human brain to a hill covered in snow,

“Think of the brain as a hill covered in snow, and thoughts as sleds gliding down that hill. As one sled after another goes down the hill a small number of main trails will appear in the snow. And every time a new sled goes down, it will be drawn into preexisting trails, almost like a magnet. In time it becomes more and more difficulty to glide down the hill on any other path or in a different direction.”

The intent of Kaelen’s discussion is to think of new ways to temporarily flatten the snow. Kaelen remarked,

“The deeply worn trails disappear, and suddenly the sled can go in other directions, exploring new landscapes and, literally, creating new pathways.”

The idea here is to temporarily rewire your brain, or as Michael Pollan remarked in How to Change Your Mind,

“The power to shake the snow globe, disrupting unhealthy patterns of thought and creating a space of flexibility-entropy-in which more salubrious patterns and narratives have an opportunity to coalesce as the snow slowly settles.”

So, how can we rewire our brain allowing deeply worn connections to disappear and new connections to form? The answer is quite simple. We must change the way we store information in our mind.

    Let’s examine 5 specific memorization techniques that will change the way you think and remember information.

    1. Build a Memory Palace

      What is it?

      The method of loci[1] (aka memory palace) is a method of memory enhancement using visualizations with the use of spatial memory. It uses familiar information about your environment to quickly recall information. It is a method that was discussed by Cicero in an ancient dialogue called De Oratore.

      How to use it?

      Ron White discusses in How to Memorize Fast and Easily: Build a Memory Palace, that it’s essentially a room or building that you have memorized and you use locations in the room to store data. Ron informs us,

      “You memorize locations in a room and then you later go back to those locations to retrieve the data that you want to remember.”

      Example

      An easy 5-step example, in the form of a Wiki, can be found at Artofmemory.com. Let’s examine the the steps:

      • Step 1. Choose a place that you know well. For example, your house or office.
      • Step 2. Plan the route and pick specific locations in your route. For example, your front door, bathroom kitchen, etc.
      • Step 3. Decide what you want to memorize. For example, geography, list of items, answers for a test, etc.
      • Step 4. Place one or two items, with a mental image, and place them in your memory palace. Exaggerate your images. For example, use nudity or crazy images forcing it to stick in your mind.
      • Step 5. Make the image into a mnemonic.

      You can learn more about this technique here: How to Build a Memory Palace to Remember More of Everything

      2. Mnemonic

        What is it?

        A mnemonic is a memory device that aids in retention and/or retrieval of information. Mnemonic systems are techniques consciously used to improve memory by helping us use information already stored in long-term memory to make memorization easier.[2]

        How to use it?

        Mnemonics make use of retrieval cues to encode information in our brain allowing for efficient storage and retrieval of the information. The trick is to learn how to easily create mnemonics. If you find that you struggle with creating your own, try the following website: Mnemonic Generator.

        Example

        I recently came across a video using mnemonics to memorize countries. Memorizing Countries using Mnemonics is a video created as an introduction to a class for using memory techniques to learn the names of countries on maps.

        I actively search for videos that provide enormous educational value, yet receive very little exposure. At the time of this writing, this video has received less than 4k views. Let’s examine the video.

        Goal: Create a mnemonic to memorize the countries in the Caribbean (just the countries you need to learn).

        Step 1. Looking at a map – write out each country (for which five were chosen).

        Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico.

        Step 2. Write the first letter of each country vertically.

        C

        J

        H

        D

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        P

        Step 3. Create a sentence or phrase.

        Cubs

        Just

        Hate

        Doing

        Push-ups

        Cubs just hate doing push-ups. (Cuba Jamaica Haiti Dominican Republic Puerto Rico)

        3. Mnemonic Peg System

          What is it?

          According to Artofmemory.com, a mnemonic peg system is a technique for memorizing lists and it works by memorizing a list of words that are easy to associate with the numbers they represent.[3] These objects are the pegs of the system.

          How to use it?

          The trick is to create a Number Rhyme System with each number having a rhyming mnemonic keyword.

          Example

          Let’s look at an example of a Number Rhyme System:[4]

          0 = hero

          1 = gun

          2 = shoe

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          3 = tree

          4 = door

          5 = hive

          6 = sticks

          7 = heaven

          8 = gate

          9 = line

          Another technique like the Peg system is the Number Shape System.[5] Here you are assigning mnemonic images based on the shape of the number. Watch the following video for an example of this system: Number Shape System for Memorizing Numbers.

          4. Chunking

            What is it?

            Chunking is a way to remember large bits of information by chunking them into smaller pieces of information. We are more likely to then remember the information when we put the small pieces back together to see the entire picture.

            How to use it?

            In the video Chunking – A Learning Technique, we can see that there are several ways to chunk information.

            Example

            Let’s examine a simple example using a nine-digit number.

            Step 1. What is the number you are trying to remember?

            081127882

            Step 2. Cut the number into smaller pieces through chunking.

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            081 – 127 – 882

            Let’s look at one more example from the same video.

            “Piano teachers will first demonstrate an entire song to students. They will then ask their students to practice one measure at a time. Once the part has been learned and the neural connections in the brain have been built, then students go on to the next measure. After all chunks have been played separately, they are combined until the entire piece is connected.”

            5. Transfer of Learning

              What is it?

              Transfer of learning is a way to learn something in one area and apply it in another. Authors of Thinking at Every Desk, Derek and Laura Cabrera inform us about the transfer of learning,

              “If a student has a high transfer skills, she can learn one thing and then teach herself 10, 50, or 100 additional things.”

              How to use it?

              There are two specific ways to use it:

              1. Vertical Transfer (aka Far Transfer). Think of learning something in grade school and applying it another grade or later in life.
              2. Horizontal Transfer (aka Near Transfer). Think of learning a concept in history and applying it in math.

              Example

              I provide a detailed step-by-step example for this technique in this article:

              Learn How to Learn: How to Understand and Connect Difficult Ideas Easily

              The Bottom Line

              The key to using the techniques discussed here is to remember that we must actively think about information.

              We cannot simply drill information into our brain through rote memorization. We must change the way we think about memorization. We must find a way to “shake the snow-globe” in our mind or flatten the snow so that we can create new learning paths.

              Or as Derek and Laura Cabrera point out, we must insert “Thinking” into the equation,

              “Information X Thinking = Knowledge”

              More About Enhancing Memories

              Featured photo credit: Nong Vang via unsplash.com

              Reference

              [1] Remember Everything: Memory Palaces and the Method of Loci
              [2] The Learning Center Exchange: 9 Types of Mnemonics for Better Memory
              [3] Art of Memory: Mnemonic Peg System
              [4] Art of Memory: Number Rhyme System
              [5] Art of Memory: Number Shape System

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