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8 Proven Ways to Learn a New Language Fast

8 Proven Ways to Learn a New Language Fast
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Learning a second language is something we can all do and should do at some point in our life. Not only does it exercise our brains, but it also helps us to appreciate the differences in cultures around the world.

I am very lucky to be living in South Korea, one of the most vibrant, exciting cities in the world. The culture here is very different from the culture in which I grew up in. And while there were some customs and cultural differences that were immediately obvious when I arrived here—such as taking your shoes off when you enter someone’s house or in some more traditional restaurants—it was when I began learning the language that I came to fully appreciate the more subtle and fascinating differences.

Learning a new language can be very difficult and for most of us, our experiences of learning a foreign language has been tainted by a school system that focuses on repetitive rote learning and memorisation so we can pass an exam and make our school look good instead of being able to communicate effectively in the language.

But the way we learned languages at school doesn’t have to be the way we learn a new language today. We do not need to take an exam, we can test ourselves by speaking and communicating with a native speaker of our target language at any time. The internet has opened up so many exciting avenues for learning languages that there has never been a better or easier time to learn a new language.

In this article, I will give you my top tips for getting to grips with a new language as quickly as possible without having to feel the stress you may have felt when you were at school.

1. Have a Purpose for Learning the Language

Confession time: I arrived in Korea nearly 17 years ago. In the first few weeks, I told myself I would learn to speak Korean as quickly as I could. I had no goal and because the level of English ability here in Korea is good, most places I went to always had an English speaker. I never needed Korean. So, after 16 years, all I had was what could, at best, be described as “survival Korean”.

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It was not until I set the goal to do a TEDx type talk in Korean in twelve months time when I sat down and got serious about my studying. Six months in and I am on target to do my TEDx Talk.

Every time I sit down to do some studying now, I begin with a two-minute visualization of standing up in front of an audience speaking in Korean about how to become better organized and more productive. It focuses my mind on the goal and it gives me the focus I need to do some quality studying.

2. Learn How to Say “Hello” and “Goodbye” Naturally First

Okay, I know this might be obvious and I know you probably already know how to do this. But, when I first began learning Korean, I used the language CDs that came with the textbook I bought to learn from. The voices on those CDs over-pronounced the words and when I copied them, I sounded like a person learning a foreign language.

I quickly discovered that Korean people never sound like that and a few syllables I was adding were dropped by native speakers. Once I started listening to how native Korean people said hello and goodbye, I soon changed my pronunciation and I began getting compliments on my pronunciation. A great boost for my confidence and enthusiasm right from the start.

If you cannot find anyone locally who speaks your target language natively, then use YouTube to find clips from dramas or news programmes. Listen to how they speak and talk to each other.

3. Find the 100 Most Common Words and…

Now a lot of advice about learning a foreign language will tell you to learn the most common 100 words. And that is good advice. But it is only half the story.

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Many languages, English included, have a lot of irregular words. In English, a classic one is “teach” the past tense of teach is not “teached”, it is “taught”. The past tense of “run” is not “runned”, it is “ran”. So just learning the words is not enough. You need to be able to apply those words to common sentences.

A very common word in Korean is the word “go” (ga-da) but to turn that into to a usable word, I need to change the ending of the word from “da” to “yo” so it becomes “ga-yo”. Now I have the equivalent of “go” in Korean.

But of course, I am not likely to ever just use “go” on its own, so I need a complete sentence or phrase. In English, that might be “where are you going?” In Korean, that becomes “odi-ga-yo?” You may have noticed I only added “odi” and that just means “where” so what I am saying is “where go?” No pronoun. In Korean, pronouns are rarely used as it is usually obvious who you are talking to or about.

So when you construct usable sentences or phrases from the most common words in your target language, you not only get to learn very common phrases and sentences, you also get to learn some of the nuances in the language.

4. Get a Language Buddy

No excuses here. You can use Facebook or Twitter to find a language buddy very easily, and you can chat with them in your target language using a free messenger service. They will correct you and you can correct them. Even better, if you can arrange a weekly coffee meeting with your language buddy, although that might not necessarily be possible.

If you can do this, it has the advantage of you being able to hear a native speaker speak and you can copy their pronunciation. If it is not possible, free services such as Skype and FaceTime can be just as good. Just make sure you set up a regular time with your language buddy and stick with it.

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5. Schedule Consistent Daily Practice

This was where I was having a lot of difficulties. I tried to do my language study in the evenings after work but often found myself exhausted and just not in the mood to sit down and study.

Once I decided learning Korean was important, I started waking up an hour earlier every weekday morning so I could practice for around 45 minutes.

Now there are no excuses. Not waking up early to study would just be me being lazy, so now that is what I do. Every weekday morning I wake up at 5 AM, make a coffee and then sit down and begin to study. I always begin the same way with ten minutes introducing myself in Korean, and then I sit down and practice the key phrases for that day.

Since I made the switch from evening times to morning times, I have consistently studied and never missed a practice session.

6. Be Curious

If you find yourself using a phrase or question frequently in your own language, find out how to say it in your target language. Often, it can be very interesting to see how it translates into another language. It’s also another way to pick up language buddies.

Post a question on Twitter _“how do you say…. In Polish”_ for example and you will get some amazing answers. People are wonderful and very generous and you will get some excellent suggestions. Many kind people will expand the answer and you will learn much more than just the phrase you were asking about. Don’t forget to hashtag it with your target language though.

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7. Use YouTube

YouTube has become my best friend when it comes to learning Korean. There are so many videos on there about learning Korean. A quick search and you will find a channel that you like. I found an excellent channel called “Korean Unnie ”. I’ve learned so much from Korean Unnie in the last six months. Most of her videos are less than fifteen minutes long and that fits perfectly into my learning schedule.

And the great thing about using YouTube is you can always go back and re-watch the video and save the ones you found useful in your own private playlist. Perfect for those times when you are lost for something to do. You can just open up your playlist and begin at the top and go through your collection and reinforce your learning experience.

8. Use Your Technology

I have a note in Evernote I call “Useful Phrases” and I am adding to it every day. Of course, it helps to live in the country of your target language, but you can still create a note in whatever notes app you use. When you have a phrase you want to know how to say in your target language, you can add it there and then when you have time research it and find out. You can also use this list for your Twitter questions too.

Make sure your notes app is with you everywhere you go, on your phone, accessible on your computer on any other device you might use. That way it will be very easy to add phrases and vocabulary to your list at any time.

The Bottom Line

Learning a language used to be hard. You had to find the right textbooks with the right CDs or tapes. Today, it can be very easy. If you have an Internet connection, you have all the resources you need to become fluent in your target language very quickly.

But, language learning still needs you to adopt the principles of P.A.C.T (patience, action, consistency and time). You need to be patient, take action consistently every day over a period of time. With time and a purpose, you will quickly learn your new language and begin making new friends, discovering a new culture and add a new skill to your repertoire. Good luck!

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Featured photo credit: Dmitri Popov via unsplash.com

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Carl Pullein

Dedicated to helping people to achieve their maximum potential through better time management and productivity.

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)
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You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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