So you want to learn another language, HTML coding or marketing? Time dictates that you will have to learn faster and smarter. The only problem is that there are certain misconceptions about learning floating around. Let’s get these out of the way first. We can examine what is wrong with them and look at alternative approaches. Then you will be on the fast track to learn more rapidly and efficiently.
“It isn’t what people don’t know that hurts them. It’s what they do know that just ain’t so.” – Will Rogers
1. There are no shortcuts
Yes, there are! If you think that learning is a long, hard slog, then think again. Whatever your field or area of study, find out who the gurus are and what their advice is to make the learning curve less steep. By consulting the experts, you can find out nifty shortcuts. Did you know that 80% of businesses go to the wall within the first eighteen months? Why? Because most entrepreneurs are not taking product/market fit into account or learning enough about their customers’ needs. A lot of learning needs to take place to reduce that very high figure. One suggestion is to find the top 10 influencers in your industry and then find out what they know and above all, how they went about learning all that knowledge. Find out what books they read and what skills sets they have. Most of them are willing to help and pay it forward. This is an excellent time saver.
As to the actual learning process, you will be able to discover new hacks to get faster results. One study shows that just by doing 15 minutes of physical exercise, you can boost your thinking ability. Get expert advice on memory tips which will help you remember all that new information for longer. Learn to use all the technology and software in your field of study. Practise how to present the information by using mind maps or testing yourself by ‘teaching’ a friend what you have learned. Learn how to put multitasking in its place. No, it does not help you to learn better, most studies show.
2. Note taking will not really help
Let us imagine you have to get through a ton of reading to complete your MBA or university degree course. Students mistakenly think that taking notes will be a waste of time. But notes are useful. They help you to clarify your thoughts and they are great for revising. If you read in small chunks, they are great for helping you master the concepts and facts. They help you engage with the subject matter and that is an essential part of the learning process.
3. Time management is overestimated
If students feel that they will study best when the mood takes them, they are under exploiting their best resource, time. Once you start to manage your learning time, you are on the road to success. You can establish whether you learn better in the morning or the evening. How long can you study productively? Build in breaks for physical activity and healthy snacks. You will need to dedicate chunks of time to study so that no time is wasted and you will avoid terrible cramming and maybe even resorting to stimulants, which is illegal anyway. Cramming occurs because of poor time management. Stuffing your brain with masses of information is the surest way to forget it!
4. Studying grammar and vocabulary is the best way to learn a language
Some teachers and students still pursue the mistaken idea that grammatical knowledge plus mastery of vocabulary will get you proficient in French or German in no time! The research simply does not support this at all. Stephen Krashen is a distinguished linguist and he has always advocated that the most efficient way to acquire language is to understand messages from people’s conversations and what we read. He defines this as “comprehensible input.” Watch him in this 3 minute video where he gives a practical demonstration of his theory.
5. Everyone learns with a different learning style
For many years, teachers have been convinced that learners have a preferential learning style, for example if they are more visual, auditory or kinaesthetic (learning through doing). But there is very little research to actually demonstrate that this is true. But about 90% of UK teachers still believe this is the case. There are still unanswered questions about how people really learn and there are moves to help teachers understand neuroscience in finding these answers. The best solution is for students to discover what gives them the fastest results and helps them climb the learning curve in the shortest space of time.
The next time somebody asks you about which side of the brain you are using for learning, you could ask them to give you solid scientific evidence that this will affect the learning outcome. At the end of the day, learning is much more straightforward than many people like to think.
Featured photo credit: Learn/Got Credit via flickr.com