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Last Updated on August 8, 2019

How to Learn Quickly And Master Any Skill You Want

How to Learn Quickly And Master Any Skill You Want

Have you ever heard of the idiom ‘practice makes perfect’? I’m pretty sure someone would have said that to you at least once in your life! It’s a common saying, often used to encourage someone when they’re learning or doing something that is new to them.

They may need many tries before succeeding and getting it right. It’s like learning to ride a bicycle, learning how to drive, taking up a second language, or cooking for the first time. It’s rare for anyone to ace it on their first try.

Whenever you want to start learning something new, I’m sure you’re always hoping to get good at it quickly. But the reality is, that sometimes it does take days, months or even years before you can confidently master a skill.

Using the Feedback Loop

That’s simply how learning works. You try, you gain experience, you learn from it, and you try again. And each time, you’re improving and making progress. Everytime you repeat this learning process, you’re going through something called a Feedback Loop. You’ll have to go through multiple feedback loops before confidently executing the skill.

What separates a fast learner from a slower learner is not some innate, natural talent. Instead, it’s because the fast learner understands how they learn, and has a systematic way to apply it all the time to learn a variety of things. They know how to effectively use their Feedback Loop to speed up the learning process.

So the good news for you, is that if you’re currently wanting to learn a new skill as quickly as possible, then you just need to learn how to create an effective Feedback Loop.

What is a Feedback Loop?

When we talk about feedback, it simple means getting information about how well you’re performing each time you make an attempt at practicing or applying a skill. Feedback is what tells you what went wrong, or what went right.

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A Feedback Loop is made up of 3 stages:

  1. Practice / Apply – This is the stage where you put what you want to learn into action.
  2. Measure – This is the stage where you’re acquiring information about your performance. This is also the stage that is most ignored… or done ineffectively.
  3. Learn – This is the stage where you analyze how well you performed, and make adjustments to improve and practice/apply again.

It’s important to recognize these 3 stages and put them into place each time you practice a new skill.

Many people only have Stage 1 completed, and a very unclear or fuzzy process for Stage 2, which leads to poor results in Stage 3.

A good, smooth cycle will help you continuously make improvements with each loop, creating steady progress and upgrading your understanding of the skill.

How to Have an Effective Feedback Loop

To make sure your Feedback Loop is effective, you will have to look at 3 key factors: Consistency, Speed, and Accuracy.

Being consistent means having a regular way to get the same quality of feedback. You need to be able to compare every practice or learning experience in order to measure, learn and make adjustments. If your feedback is not consistent, then you’re going to have a hard time knowing what went wrong or what went right.

For example, say you’re learning to play the guitar. If you play a different song every time you practice, you’re going to get very inconsistent feedback. Because the difficulty, rhythm, and pace of every song is different, you won’t have a reliable way to compare how well you played the current song versus the last. So, the best way to learn would be to play the same song over and over again until you get to a certain proficiency.

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Seems obvious in this case, but it’s just an example. A lot of times learning is hard because we don’t focus on keeping with a consistent environment or actions.

You’ve Got to Be Quick

Let’s move on to the second factor: speed. Having speedy or fast feedback is important because the longer it takes to get feedback, the longer it will take to improve on the skill. That’s why some people spend a tremendous amount of time practicing, but make very slow progress.

On the other hand, the best forms of feedback are almost instantaneous. The shorter the time it takes for one Feedback Loop to complete, the better. This is because you’ll have more attempts, which means more improvements within the same timespan.

How to Get Fast Feedback

So, the key to getting fast feedback is to take the skill or knowledge and break it down. Try to breakdown the skill into different components. They could be broken down into steps, subskills or processes, or even by difficulty.

For example, if the skill you want to learn involves a sequence (ie: there is a step by step process), you can break your learning down by each step. Create a Feedback Loop for each step individually instead of the whole process. Isolate the processes into different parts that you can focus and work on individually.

Let’s say you’re learning to cook. You can break this skill into steps, such as finding fresh and suitable ingredients, preparing and handling the ingredients, preparing condiments and sauces, serving and plating, etc.

Or let’s say you’d like to learn how to play soccer. You can identify the sub-skills that make up the larger learning techniques to playing soccer, and create feedback loops for each of them individually. So you could start by learning how to dribble the ball, followed by passing, and then shooting.

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The third and final factor to an effective Feedback Loop, is Accuracy. This means having feedback that actually reflects your performance accurately. Since you’re relying on feedback to tell you what and where to improve on the next time, this is very important. This is why measuring feedback is a key skill to have for an effective Feedback Loop.

How to Measure Feedback

Obtaining accuracy in feedback becomes a common weak point for many learners, because it’s not always easy to define what “accuracy” means.

To get accurate feedback, we have to have a way of measuring it. The reason why we sometimes get poor feedback is because we’re trying to measure our progress without quantifying our performance. Or, we’re using the wrong metrics to quantify the feedback. Worse yet, it might just be that you were never measuring or recording your performance at all! Can you recall yourself being in a similar situation?

In order to find areas for improvement, you have to be able to compare your current performance with your previous performance. This is so that you have a baseline, or something to measure up against, to look for room for improvements.

Quantifying is a way to accurately measure your performance. Quantifying something means attaching a number to it. This helps to give objectivity and consistency when comparing two things. Quantifying feedback can give you constructive information that will help you improve during each cycle of the feedback loop.

Let’s say you’re practicing how to dribble a basketball. The first time you dribble, your coach tells you you’re doing a good job. The second time round, you get better and your coach affirms you by saying you’ve done a great job! Sure, your dribbling skill has improved–you know it, your coach knows it, but by how much? And how can you further improve your dribbling skills? A good job versus a great job doesn’t indicate how well you’ve performed, and how much better you can perform.

But, now in the second scenario, if you manage to dribble the basketball up and down the court 4 times continuously without letting the ball slip, your coach tells you you’ve done a good job. In the second round, your coach now tells you to dribble the basketball up and down the court 8 times continuously without letting the ball slip. You managed to do that and your coach tells you great job! You can now quantify your improvement by the number of times you were able to dribble the basketball across the court.

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With a quantity attached to your performance, you’re now able to push yourself further by learning to dribble 16 times or more across the basketball court. You can even add in new obstacles like having to dribble across the court with an opponent trying to snatch your basketball. If you’re successful, you can try dribbling across the court with 2 opponents snatching your basketball, so on and so forth. You’re now able to easily quantify your improvement.

Continuously Improve Your Feedback Loop!

So now that you’re familiar with the Feedback Loop, are you ready to put it into practice? What’s a new skill that you’d like to start on?

Try implementing every stage of the Feedback Loop when learning this new skill and see for yourself, whether your learning improves at a quicker rate.

It is essential to continuously improve your Feedback Loop in order to keep up your momentum, and avoid running into the law of diminishing returns. Improving your Feedback Loop means knowing what to measure next, and what questions to ask, to find out.

In fact, the technique you’ve learned from this article is only part of our 7 Cornerstone Skills.

If you’d like to discover more gems that will help you speed up your learning and push yourself towards the goals that you’ve been striving for, check out our ultimate solution here that will help you reach any goals in life.

Featured photo credit: Adeolu Eletu via unsplash.com

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Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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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.

    1BObwE56jfMqAPOokV2IBsA

      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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