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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 September 24, 2020

17 Ways Learn New Skills Faster and Enjoy the Process

17 Ways Learn New Skills Faster and Enjoy the Process

In the movie The Matrix, everyone was intrigued with the ability that Neo and his friends possessed to learn new skills in a matter of seconds. With the incredible rise in technology today, the rapid learning in the movie is becoming much more of a reality than you realize.

The current generation has access to more knowledge and information than any before it. Through the internet, we are able to access all sorts of knowledge to answer almost every conceivable question. To become smarter, it’s more about the ability to learn faster, rather than being a natural born genius.

Here are 17 ways to kickstart your Matrix-style learning experience in a short amount of time.

1. Deconstruct and Reverse Engineer

Break down the skill that you want to learn into little pieces and learn techniques to master an isolated portion. The small pieces will come together to make up the whole skill.

For example, when you’re learning to play the guitar, learn how to press down a chord pattern with your fingers first without even trying to strum the chord. Once you are able to change between a couple of chord patterns, then add the strumming.

2. Use the Pareto Principle

Use the Pareto Principle, which is also known as the 80 20 rule. Identify the 20% of the work that will give you 80% of the results. Find out more about the 80 20 rule here: What Is the 80 20 Rule (And How to Use It to Boost Productivity)

Take learning a new language for example. It does not take long to realize that some words pop up over and over again as you’re learning. You can do a quick search for “most commonly used French words,” for example, and begin to learn them first before adding on the rest.

3. Make Stakes

Establish some sort of punishment for not learning the skill that you are seeking. There are sites available that allow you to make a donation toward a charity you absolutely hate if you do not meet your goals. Or you can place a bet with a friend to light that fire under you.

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However, keep in mind that several studies have shown that rewards tend to be more motivating than punishment[1].

4. Record Yourself

Seeing yourself on video is a great way to learn from your mistakes and identify areas that you need to improve. This is very effective for any musicians, actors, speakers, performers, and dancers.

5. Join a Group

There are huge benefits to learning in a group. Not only are you able to learn from others but you’ll be encouraged to make progress together. Whether it’s a chess club, a mastermind group, or an online meet-up group, get connected with other like-minded individuals.

6. Time Travel

Visit the library. Although everything is moving more and more online, there are still such things called libraries.

Whether it’s a municipal library or your university library, you will be amazed at some of the books available there that are not accessible online. Specifically, look for the hidden treasures and wisdom contained in the really old books.

7. Be a Chameleon

When you want to learn new skills, imitate your biggest idol. Watch a video and learn from seeing someone else do it. Participate in mimicry and copy what you see.

Studies have shown that, apart from learning,[2]

“Mimicry is an effective tool not only to create ties and social relationships, but also for maintaining them.”

Visual learning is a great way to speed up the learning process. YouTube has thousands of videos on almost every topic available.

8. Focus

Follow one course until success! It’s easy to get distracted, to throw in the towel, or to become interested in the next great thing and ditch what you initially set out to do.

Ditch the whole idea of multitasking, as it has been shown to be detrimental and unproductive Simply focus on the one new skill at hand until you get it done.

9. Visualize

The mind has great difficulty distinguishing between what is real and what is imagined. That is why athletes practice mentally seeing their success before attempting the real thing[3].

Visualize yourself achieving your new skill and each step that you need to make to see results. This is an important skill to help when you’re learning the basics or breaking a bad habit.

Take a look at this article to learn how to do so: How to Become a Person Who Can Visualize Results

10. Find a Mentor

Success leaves clues. The best short cut to become an expert is to find an expert and not have to make the mistakes that they have made.

Finding out what NOT to do from the expert will fast-track your learning when you want to learn new skills. It is a huge win to have them personally walk you through what needs to be done. Reach out and send an email to them.

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If you need help learning how to find a mentor, check out this article.

11. Sleep on It

Practice your new skill within four hours of going to sleep.

Josh Kaufman, author of The Personal MBA, is a noted rapid learning expert. He says that any practice done within this time frame causes your brain to embed the learning more rapidly into its neural pathways. Your memory and motor-mechanics are ingrained at a quicker level.

12. Use the 20-Hour Rule

Along with that tip, Kaufman also suggests 20 as the magic number of hours to dedicate to learning the new skill.

His reasoning is that everyone will hit a wall early on in the rapid learning stage and that “pre-committing” to 20 hours is a sure-fire way to push through that wall and acquire your new skill.[4]

Check out his video to find out more:

13. Learn by Doing

It’s easy to get caught up in reading and gathering information on how to learn new skills and never actually get around to doing those skills. The best way to learn is to do.

Regardless of how unprepared you feel, make sure you are physically engaged continuously. Keep alternating between research and practice.

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14. Complete Short Sprints

Rather than to force yourself into enduring hours upon hours of dedication, work in short sprints of about 20-30 minutes, then get up and stretch or take a short walk. Your brain’s attention span works best with short breaks, so be sure to give it the little rest it needs.

One study found that, between two groups of students, the students who took two short breaks when studying actually performed better than those who didn’t take breaks[5].

15. Ditch the Distractions

Make sure the environment you are in is perfect for your rapid-learning progress. That means ditching any social media, and the temptation to check any email. As the saying goes, “Out of sight, out of mind.”

Before you sit down to learn new skills, make sure that potential distractions are far from sight.

16. Use Nootropics

Otherwise known as brain enhancers, these cognitive boosters are available in natural herbal forms and in supplements.

Many students will swear by the increased focus that nootropics will provide[6], particularly as they get set for some serious cramming. Natural herbal nootropics have been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic traditions to improve the mind and learning.

Find out more about brain supplements in this article.

17. Celebrate

For every single small win that you experience during the learning process, be sure to celebrate. Your brain will release endorphins and serotonin as you raise your hands in victory and pump your fits. Have a piece of chocolate and give yourself a pat on the back. This positive reinforcement will help you keep pushing forward as you learn new skills.

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The Bottom Line

Learning a new skill should be exciting and fun. Whether you use online courses, real world experience, YouTube videos, or free online resources, take time to learn in the long term. Keep picturing the joy of reaching the end goal and being a better version of yourself as continual motivation.

More Tips on How to Learn New Skills

Featured photo credit: Elijah M. Henderson via unsplash.com

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