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3 Effective Habits For Learning New Languages

3 Effective Habits For Learning New Languages

There are a myriad of ways to learn exciting new languages available online as well as at classroom sites close to you. There is a greater push underway today to encourage second and third language acquisition.. Being able to speak more than one language will improve communication with business transactions around the globe as well as being useful for other things too, such as making new friends, especially in non-English speaking countries. According to Katherine B. Nielson, the chief education officer at Voxy, a language-learning company based in New York City, America’s mono-lingualism had placed the United States in linguistic isolation. Although the US can be considered one of the most powerful countries around the globe due to its power and dominance, in terms of language, it is the most isolated. Nielson detailed that only 17% of the Americans speak more than one language compared to the 54% of the Europeans. Even Professor Russell A. Berman, the former president of the Modern Language Association, warned that the US can be regarded as “second language illiterates”. This will continue to progress if the nation does not act on this predictive warning. Being able to learn a new language sounds tough. For many, it is. This will require much determination and time, as well as 100% effort. However, learning will be fun if one discovers some creative ways to learn language with utmost efficiency. With that, there is just one formula and three basic habits. EXPERIENCE + STUDY + EFFORT = SUCCESS! I am sharing this to you based from what I have experienced in learning a new language myself. I speak four languages including some dialects. This is because Philippines has more than 100 dialects spoken. However, based from my experience learning German, which is considered a foreign language, these are the most important things a foreign language enthusiast must know beforehand. Here are the habits you need to cultivate: 1. EXPERIENCE the language first. This is the first step you should do before dealing the specifics of the language. a. Experience in a location where you learn the best: this can be from the comfort of home, in a classroom, or even in the country of the language origin. Considering the differences of learning, investigate what methods you should do where you learn the best. In this way, while experiencing the language, it would be easier for you to handle new information (new words, new phrases, etc.). b. Obtain the necessary materials needed for learning   For the materials preparation, here are the some suggestions which were very helpful in my process as well:

  • Audio materials
  • Written texts such as downloaded from the internet or buy a foreign language instruction book
  • Videos ( YouTube, language sites)
  • Downloaded language apps
  • Attend a foreign language class, both traditional learning and/or long distance learning

c. Emotional stability (100% of patience, determination, focus, attitude) In the case of emotional stability, you should prepare 100% of patience and determination. for you to experience fulfillment in learning new language. When I was started to learn German, I was already aware of the complexity of the language. With all the umlauts, and even their lengthy words (even reaching four separate words combined into one). What I did was I just watched first some German videos from YouTube, and downloaded some basic phrases. I started memorizing all of them. Aside from this, I listened carefully to how Germans talk and pronounce these words. It will be a plus if you have a fluent speaker or a native German-speaker with you guiding all throughout this language acquisition journey. According to Lucas Kern, founder of Leicht-Deutsch-Lernen.com, “Learning a new language is more than learning grammar rules by heart. You need to comprehend what you are reading or listening to and you also need to get familiar withe the pronunciation. There’s a lot to be done!” He added, “If you don’t like grammar, then don’t focus too much on it. It would only frustrate and discourage you.” In learning, you should have some chances or opportunities to practice it.  The more you practice, more chances of retaining the memorized phrases and words just learned. Anthony Metivier, a memorization expert holding a BA and  an MA in English Literature, an MA in Media & Communications, and a Ph.D. in Humanities, narrated to ‘treat language as something you love and not HATE’. As new language learners, you should drop the word hate in learning. Part of experiencing the language, the very basic thing you should do is to set realistic goals that you can achieve in a realistic way and time. d. Have many practice drills Practice, Practice, Practice, Practice On its negative side: In contrast, the experience phase of learning language will necessitate much patience and a great quantity of material to memorize. When learning, the very first step to do and the most basic thing is to MEMORIZE everything! When we say memorize, just focus first on the most commonly used phrases. This can be searched online. Download the file and start memorizing. Doing this will take you much determination and focus to be successful. Patience is also a key here. It took me several months to catch up German common phrases. So, in learning a new language, it will be the best weapon to have is focus. 2. STUDY grammar and familiarize vocabulary by heart. This is the second phase you need to undertake and can be considered as the toughest. Studying a new language will include VOCABULARY and GRAMMAR. As Metivier stated on smartlanguagelearner.com, grammar can have limitation to its usage if you lack vocabulary. There is a direct relationship of learning grammar of the language with learning the vocabulary. “You simply can’t traction with grammar until you have a large pool of words that you understand upon sight. Think of grammar as the engine that requires the fuel of vocabulary in order to run the car of your mind and the headlights of your mouth so that you can drive the highway of language.” Metivier said. After several months of familiarizing words, I watched some videos talking about the German grammar. With the materials downloaded which contains the basic grammar to the language, I started studying it. Of course, the start was so hard. I even need the help from an online German dictionary myself. On the negative side: While learning grammar, it cannot be done properly no matter how much you try if you don’t have the HEART of learning the language. That constitutes the familiarization of the words first. Hence, you need a foreign language dictionary (printed or online) to achieve this phase. Apart from that, a lot of techniques are suggested by experts, but take note that not everything listed may be your best fit. Create strategies that is really applicable to yourself. As what Kern told new German language learners, through experiencing the language, plus with the help of the dictionary plus your dedication, it will help you more to be a fluent speaker of the language. It took me several months of studying German and experiencing it more at the same time (the higher level). Again, it would be a plus if you have a German language proficient or a German native speaker with you to help you out. 3. EFFORT should be 100% to achieve desired goal  to successfully learn a new language Experience the language first through seeing a lot of videos on YouTube or language sites, reading materials both printed and online, familiarizing yourself to many words and phrases. Ethan Zinho, a member of Real Life English Team, a group who is dedicated to helping people learn English through integrating real-life experiences, compared learning styles done to the mother tongue to the complexity of learning English, which is complicated by its many rules and slang. He said that even when learning the mother tongue, it took some years to master it from writing ABCs, until achieving the most complex skills. This is same with acquiring understanding and mastery with the new language. It will take time to learn. Thus, represents effort. Remember, that you cannot get something worthy if you don’t put much effort to it. Based from what I have experienced, it took me longer time to understand this concept. But, if you try to make some creative but effective strategies which you know you can easily manage learning that particular language, it will be. As long as you practice it over and over again. Repetition of usage has always been the most important tool in mastering the language. On the negative side:  This oftentimes create frustrations. A lot of new language learners give up because there is so much of work and effort in order to have such fluency in the language. “Listen and repeat over and over again to audio recordings by native speakers.” Cornelius C. Kubler said. Kubler is a Professor of Asian Studies at the William College, a former Chinese Language Training Supervisor, and the Chair of the Department of Asian and African Languages at the Foreign Service Institute. He is also an author of several Chinese language textbooks. With all of this being presented, second, third and even fourth language acquisition can be deeply satisfying and an asset to you in your life and your career. With so many great options available today, whether at a local college or through online sources, there is no reason you couldn’t give it a try yourself. Remember that success cannot be possible without giving 100% to it. Try it and enjoy your new skill!

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Featured photo credit: Johan Klovsjö via flickr.com

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Last Updated on March 21, 2019

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

11 Important Things to Remember When Changing Habits

Most gurus talk about habits in a way that doesn’t help you:

You need to push yourself more. You can’t be lazy. You need to wake up at 5 am. You need more motivation. You can never fail…blah blah “insert more gibberish here.”

But let me share with you the unconventional truths I found out:

To build and change habits, you don’t need motivation or wake up at 5 am. Heck, you can fail multiple times, be lazy, have no motivation and still pull it off with ease.

It’s quite simple and easy to do, especially with the following list I’m going to show to you. But remember, Jim Rohn used to say,

“What is simple and easy to do is also simple and easy not to do.”

The important things to remember when changing your habits are both simple and easy, just don’t think that they don’t make any difference because they do.

In fact, they are the only things that make a difference.

Let’s see what those small things are, shall we?

1. Start Small

The biggest mistake I see people doing with habits is by going big. You don’t go big…ever. You start small with your habits.

Want to grow a book reading habit? Don’t start reading a book a day. Start with 10 pages a day.

Want to become a writer? Don’t start writing 10,000 words a day. Start with 300 words.

Want to lose weight? Don’t stop eating ice cream. Eat one less ball of it.

Whatever it is, you need to start small. Starting big always leads to failure. It has to, because it’s not sustainable.

Start small. How small? The amount needs to be in your comfort zone. So if you think that reading 20 pages of a book is a bit too much, start with 10 or 5.

It needs to appear easy and be easy to do.

Do less today to do more in a year.

2. Stay Small

There is a notion of Kaizen which means continuous improvement. They use this notion in habits where they tell you to start with reading 1 page of a book a day and then gradually increase the amount you do over time.

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But the problem with this approach is the end line — where the “improvement” stops.

If I go from reading 1 page of a book a day and gradually reach 75 and 100, when do I stop? When I reach 1 book a day? That is just absurd.

When you start a habit, stay at it in the intensity you have decided. Don’t push yourself for more.

I started reading 20 pages of a book a day. It’s been more than 2 years now and I’ve read 101 books in that period. There is no way I will increase the number in the future.

Why?

Because reading 40 to 50 books a year is enough.

The same thing applies to every other habit out there.

Pick a (small) number and stay at it.

3. Bad Days Are 100 Percent Occurrence

No matter how great you are, you will have bad days where you won’t do your habit. Period.

There is no way of going around this. So it’s better to prepare yourself for when that happens instead of thinking that it won’t ever happen.

What I do when I miss a day of my habit(s) is that I try to bounce back the next day while trying to do habits for both of those days.

Example for that is if I read 20 pages of a book a day and I miss a day, the next day I will have to read 40 pages of a book. If I miss writing 500 words, the next day I need to write 1000.

This is a really important point we will discuss later on rewards and punishments.

This is how I prepare for the bad days when I skip my habit(s) and it’s a model you should take as well.

4. Those Who Track It, Hack It

When you track an activity, you can objectively tell what you did in the past days, weeks, months, and years. If you don’t track, you will for sure forget everything you did.

There are many different ways you can track your activities today, from Habitica to a simple Excel sheet that I use, to even a Whatsapp Tracker.

Peter Drucker said,

“What you track is what you do.”

So track it to do it — it really helps.

But tracking is accompanied by one more easy activity — measuring.

5. Measure Once, Do Twice

Peter Drucker also said,

“What you measure is what you improve.”

So alongside my tracker, I have numbers with which I measure doses of daily activities:

For reading, it’s 20 pages.
For writing, it’s 500 words.
For the gym, it’s 1 (I went) or 0 (didn’t go).
For budgeting, it’s writing down the incomes and expenses.

Tracking and measuring go hand in hand, they take less than 20 seconds a day but they create so much momentum that it’s unbelievable.

6. All Days Make a Difference

Will one day in the gym make you fit? It won’t.

Will two? They won’t.

Will three? They won’t.

Which means that a single gym session won’t make you fit. But after 100 gym sessions, you will look and feel fit.

What happened? Which one made you fit?

The answer to this (Sorites paradox)[1] is that no single gym session made you fit, they all did.

No single day makes a difference, but when combined, they all do. So trust the process and keep on going (small).

7. They Are Never Fully Automated

Gurus tell you that habits become automatic. And yes, some of them do, like showering a certain way of brushing your teeth.

But some habits don’t become automatic, they become a lifestyle.

What I mean by that is that you won’t automatically “wake up” in the gym and wonder how you got there.

It will just become a part of your lifestyle.

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The difference is that you do the first one automatically, without conscious thought, while the other is a part of how you live your life.

It’s not automatic, but it’s a decision you don’t ponder on or think about — you simply do it.

It will become easy at a certain point, but they will never become fully automated.

8. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There

Marshall Goldsmith has a great book with the same title to it. The phrase means that sometimes, you will need to ditch certain habits to make room for other ones which will bring you to the next step.

Don’t be afraid to evolve your habits when you sense that they don’t bring you where you want to go.

When I started reading, it was about reading business and tactic books. But two years into it, I switched to philosophy books which don’t teach me anything “applicable,” but instead teach me how to think.

The most important ability of the 21st century is the ability to learn, unlearn, and relearn. The strongest tree is the willow tree – not because it has the strongest root or biggest trunk, but because it is flexible enough to endure and sustain anything.

Be like a willow, adapting to the new ways of doing things.

9. Set a Goal and Then Forget It

The most successful of us know what they want to achieve, but they don’t focus on it.

Sounds paradoxical? You’re right, it does. But here is the logic behind it.

You need to have a goal of doing something – “I want to become a healthy individual” – and then, you need to reverse engineer how to get there with your habits- “I will go to the gym four times a week.”

But once you have your goal, you need to “forget” about it and only focus on the process. Because you are working on the process of becoming healthy and it’s always in the making. You will only be as healthy as you take care of your body.

So you have a goal which isn’t static but keeps on moving.

If you went to the gym 150 times year and you hit your goal, what would you do then? You would stop going to the gym.

This is why goal-oriented people experience yo-yo effect[2] and why process-oriented people don’t.

The difference between process-oriented and goal-oriented people is that the first focus on daily actions while others only focus on the reward at the finish line.

Set a goal but then forget about it and reap massive awards.

10. Punish Yourself

Last two sections are pure Pavlovian – you need to punish bad behavior and reward good behavior. You are the only person who decides what is good and what is bad for you, but when you do, you need to rigorously follow that.

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I’ve told you in point #3 about bad days and how after one occurs, I do double the work on the next day. That is one of my forms of punishments.

It’s the need to tell your brain that certain behaviors are unacceptable and that they lead to bad outcomes. That’s what punishments are for.

You want to tell your brain that there are real consequences to missing your daily habits.[3]

No favorite food to eat or favorite show to watch or going to the cinema for a new Marvel movie- none, zero, zilch.

The brain will remember these bad feelings and will try to avoid the behaviors that led to them as much as possible.

But don’t forget the other side of the same coin.

11. Reward Yourself

When you follow and execute on your plan, reward yourself. It’s how the brain knows that you did something good.

Whenever I finish one of my habits for the day, I open my tracker (who am I kidding, I always keep it open on my desktop) and fill it with a number. As soon as I finish reading 20 pages of a book a day (or a bit more), I open the tracker and write the number down.

The cell becomes green and gives me an instant boost of endorphin – a great success for the day. Then, it becomes all about not breaking the chain and having as many green fields as possible.

After 100 days, I crunch some numbers and see how I did.

If I have less than 10 cheat days, I reward myself with a great meal in a restaurant. You can create your own rewards and they can be daily, weekly, monthly or any arbitrary time table that you create.

Primoz Bozic, a productivity coach, has gold, silver, and bronze medals as his reward system.[4]

If you’re having problems creating a system which works for you, contact me via email and we can discuss specifics.

In the End, It Matters

What you do matters not only to you but to the people around you.

When you increase the quality of your life, you indirectly increase the quality of life of people around you. And sometimes, that is all the “motivation” we need to start.

And that’s the best quote for the end of this article:

“Motivation gets you started, but habits keep you going.”

Keep going.

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More Resources to Help You Build Habits

Featured photo credit: Anete Lūsiņa via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Sorites paradox
[2] Muscle Zone: What causes yo-yo effect and how to avoid it?
[3] Growth Habits: 5 Missteps That Cause You To Quit Building A Habit
[4] Primoz Bozic: The Lean Review: How to Plan Your 2019 in 20 Minutes

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