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6 Science-Supported Tips for Learning a New Language

6 Science-Supported Tips for Learning a New Language

Learning a new language is one of the most challenging but also most rewarding things a person can do. It makes a perfect New Year’s resolution because it is tough, will expand your horizons, and is really easy to give up on. You don’t have to fight the battle alone, however. Science is in your corner and researchers are hard at work finding out what works and what doesn’t in the quest to learn a new language.

1. Relax

If your decision to learn a new language is motivated by needing it for your job or preparing for a fast-approaching trip, the whole enterprise can become very stressful. As the days tick away and you move at a snail’s pace through the material for your new language you might become overwhelmed and frustrated. None of this will help you. Research from the Journal of Neuroscience has shown that relaxation is a key component in your ability to learn anything, languages in particular. So put your feet up, crack a beer, and laugh a little. Reducing anxiety will go a long way to helping you achieve your goal.

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2. Mix things up

Another thing that has been shown to offer a real boost to learning a new language is to be flexible in your strategies. In other words, don’t spend hour after hour pouring over textbooks, or listening to audiotapes, or doing online tests. Instead, do all three. while you’re at it, watch movies and television shows in your chosen language. The Electronic Journal for English as a Second Language advises that using multiple strategies will improve your effectiveness.

3. Stay motivated

Science also tells us that a person’s motivation to learn is usually a great predictor of their success. It only makes sense that the more driven you are to keep studying, the harder you will try and the more you will accomplish. This is supported by research in the Journal of Language Learning. So make language learning into a competition with your friend or partner. Give yourself incentives, like chocolate for every test you score over 90% on. Pretty soon you will be a new language dynamo.

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4. Immerse yourself

Studies cited in the Review of Educational Research point towards immersion as another great strategy in picking up a new language. Find places you can go where you can interact with as many native speakers of your new language as possible. Watch movies, read books, and listen to the radio in the language you are trying to learn. Going back to the first tip, it will certainly help you relax if you know you will probably get a whole lot better as soon as you leave for your trip.

5. Negotiate

If your quest for language immersion takes you into shops where you can interact with native speakers of the new language you are learning, maybe try bartering to get a better price on whatever they try to sell you. According to the Journal of Language Learning, negotiation is a very effective way to get better at a new language. Negotiation forces you to quickly comprehend words and phrases and keeps you motivated to get the best possible outcome.

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6. Flex your memory muscles

Finally, don’t be afraid to force some vocabulary learning by using memory techniques to help you along. Research in the Journal of Turkish Science Education argues that mnemonic devices are a great way to link words you are trying to learn to ones you already know. To borrow an example from the website MindTools.com, if you are trying to learn the French word for a rug or carpet (tapis) it might be helpful to picture a nice Persian rug with a tap popping up in the middle of it.

Featured photo credit: Les Editeurs cafe/Dan via flickr.com

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Last Updated on May 7, 2021

Productivity Boost: How to start your day at 5:00 AM

Productivity Boost: How to start your day at 5:00 AM

I have been an early-riser for over a year now. Monday through Friday I wake up at 5:00 AM without hitting the snooze button even once. I never take naps and rarely feel tired throughout the day. The following is my advice on how to start your day (everyday) at 5:00 AM.The idea of waking up early and starting the day at or before the sunrise is the desire of many people. Many highly successful people attribute their success, at least in part, to rising early. Early-risers have more productive mornings, get more done, and report less stress on average than “late-risers.” However, for the unaccustomed, the task of waking up at 5:00 AM can seem extremely daunting. This article will present five tips about how to physically wake up at 5:00 AM and how to get yourself mentally ready to have a productive day.

Many people simply “can’t” get up early because they are stuck in a routine. Whether this is getting to bed unnecessarily late, snoozing repetitively, or waiting until the absolute last possible moment before getting out of bed, “sleeping in” can easily consume your entire morning. The following tips will let you break the “sleeping in” routine.

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Relocate your alarm clock.

Having an alarm clock too close to your bed is the number one reason people simply cannot get up in the morning. If your alarm clock is within arms reach of your bed, or if you can turn your alarm clock off without getting out of bed, you are creating an unnecessarily difficult situation for yourself. Before I became an early-riser, there were many times that I would turn off my alarm without even waking up enough to remember turning it off. I recommend moving your alarm clock far enough away from your bed that you have to get completely out of bed to turn it off. I keep my alarm clock in the bathroom. This may not be possible for all living arrangements, however, I use my cellphone as an alarm clock and putting it in the bathroom makes perfect sense. In order to turn off my alarm I have to get completely out of bed, and since going to the restroom and taking a shower are the first two things I do everyday, keeping the alarm clock in the bathroom streamlines the start of my morning.

Scrap the snooze.

The snooze feature on all modern alarm clocks serves absolutely no constructive purpose. Don’t even try the “it helps me slowly wake up” lie. I recommend buying an alarm that does not have a snooze button. If you can’t find an alarm without a snooze button, never read the instructions so you will never know how long your snooze button lasts. Not knowing whether it waits 10 minutes or 60 minutes should be enough of a deterrent to get you to stop using it.

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Change up your buzzer

If you use the same buzzer day in and day out, you begin to develop a tolerance to the sound. The alarm clock will slowly become less effective at waking you up over time. Most newer alarm clocks will let you set a different buzzer tone for the different days of the week. If you change your buzzer frequently, you will have an easier time waking up.

Make a puzzle

If you absolutely cannot wake up without repetitive snoozing, try making a puzzle for yourself. It doesn’t take rocket science to understand that the longer your alarm is going off, the more awake you will become. Try making your alarm very difficult to turn off by putting it under the sink, putting it under the bed, or better yet, by forcing yourself to complete a puzzle to turn it off. Try putting your alarm into a combination-locked box and make yourself put in the combination in order to turn off the alarm — it’s annoying, but extremely effective!

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Get into a routine

Getting up at 5:00 AM is much easier if you are doing it Monday through Friday rather than sporadically during the week. I recommend setting an alarm once that repeats everyday. Also, going to bed at about the same time every night is an important factor to having a productive morning. Learn how much sleep you need to get in order to not feel exhausted the following day. Some people can get by on 4-6 hours while most need 7-8.

Have a reason

Make sure you have a specific reason to get up in the morning. Getting up at 5:00 AM just for the heck of it is a lot more difficult than if you are getting up early to plan your day, pay bills, go for a jog, get an early start on work, etc. I recommend finding something you want to do for yourself in the morning. It will be a lot easier to get up if you are guaranteed to do something fun for yourself — compare this to going on vacation. You probably have no problem waking up very early on vacation or during holidays. My goal every morning is to bring that excitement to the day by doing something fun for myself.

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As I previously mentioned, I have been using these tips for a very long time. Joining the world of early-risers has been a great decision. I feel less stressed, I get more done, and I feel happier than I did when I was a late-riser. If you follow these tips you can become an early-riser, too. Do you have any tips that I didn’t mention? What works best for you? Let us know in the comments.

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