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7 Habits That Make You Learn Languages On Auto-pilot

7 Habits That Make You Learn Languages On Auto-pilot

No one likes the traditional form of studying, face down in a textbook taking notes. At least very few of us do. So if you’re interested in learning a new language, but don’t want to do it through the most mind-numbing form of learning, then you should definitely try these 7 habits that can help you learn a language on auto-pilot.

The first step to learning a language is, of course, picking one to learn. If you’ve already chosen, skip straight on to the habits. If you haven’t decided yet, here are a few things to ask yourself: Is there a language you have always wanted to learn? If several(or none), which language would be more beneficial to know given your current location and life plans? If several again, go with your gut feeling, or check out this post for further guidance.

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Watching TV shows/Movies In Target Language With Subtitles

Pretty straight forward. The only thing I would add is that this isn’t going to have much of an impact if you watch one TV show, or one movie every now and then. Commitment makes all the difference here. If you manage to substitute at least half the time you spend watching normal TV, then you’ll see some drastic results over time. You can also, of course, watch shows with target language as subtitles, but then you don’t hear the correct pronunciation.

Sometimes access can be an issue. But you could, for example, sign up to a site like Netflix through a Spanish proxy, or sign up when you’re on vacation in Spain to enable yourself to watch shows in Spanish without having to go out of your way to buy box sets online.

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Intentionally Hanging Out With People Who Speak Target Language

This might sound selfish and self-serving, but it really doesn’t have to be. In many cases, people will be happy to speak it with you, either because they rarely get the opportunity themselves, or they simply like that someone is trying to learn their language and want to help. If you don’t know anyone who speak the language you want to learn, you should try going to international events, or events specifically for people who are from/interested in the country/language you want to learn. Don’t be afraid to take initiative and arrange events and get-togethers.

Journal Or Blog In Target Language

Using a service like lang-8, you can write random things and get what you write corrected by native speakers. So not only are you getting practice and memorizing vocabulary and grammar by actively using them, you get corrected when you make mistakes. Sounds almost too good to be true right? Well it isn’t. And if you’re too self conscious to share right away, you can always start off writing for yourself, and then start sharing on platforms to be corrected later on.

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Change Operating Languages To Target Language

Many of us are so used to the interfaces on our computers and phones that we intuitively know where everything is, even if we can’t completely understand the language. So changing to your target language, is likely not going to affect your ability to use the device, even if you don’t know it very well yet. This forces you to interact with the target language many times on a daily basis, and will help by installing basic vocabulary so you don’t ever forget it.

Play Games In Target Language

There’s two approaches to this. If you play one or more online games, you can go all out and play with people who speak the target language. That way you’re forcing yourself use it to interact with other people on a regular basis. If you only play games offline, you can stick to changing the language where possible. Sometimes that means re-installing one of your favorite games. Even in offline games, a lot of dialogue comes up, and as such can be a great source for remembering basic grammar and vocabulary. Particularly because it is a leisure activity and very easy to motivate oneself to keep doing for long periods of time.

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Study Vocabulary Using Pockets Of Time

There’s a lot of downtime during any given day. If you’re stuck waiting for the bus, or on the train, or sitting constipated on the toilet, waiting and praying for something to happen… take out your phone and study some vocabulary. There are decent free apps for almost any language, but you want to focus on ones that make it very practical to study one piece of vocabulary at a time. If you don’t have a smartphone, you could always make your own flash cards. It takes a bit more effort, but because it requires more active involvement, it is probably better for the actual learning. My personal favorite for Japanese is the Obenkyo app for Android.

Advanced: Read Books In Target Language

Again, pretty straight forward. And again the key is commitment. If you read a book every 7 months, not much will change. But if you start reading books in your target language on a regular basis, you will see your skills soar higher than you had imagined possible.

Advanced: Think In Target Language

If you don’t have enough opportunities to do actual conversation, this can be a way to test your grammar skills and notice any huge gaps in your vocabulary. Try to think about things that would come up in normal conversation at first, and then move on to more complicated matters as you get better. Talking out loud to yourself is optional here, but again, it is good training if you find yourself lacking opportunities to speak to someone in the target language.

Alone these habits won’t make that much of a difference. (Except the hanging out with people who speak your target language part. That can really make all the difference. I’ve seen it transform people who could barely speak one phrase, into semi-fluent in a matter of weeks.) But regardless, you will see the best and fastest results if you manage to implement multiple of these habits into your daily routine. Start with 1 or 2 and work your way up. Pretty soon you’ll be learning a language at a rapid pace and it won’t feel like you’re even trying that hard.

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

When you train your brain, you will:

  • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
  • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
  • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

1. Work your memory

Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

For example, say you just met someone new:

“Hi, my name is George”

Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

Got it? Good.

2. Do something different repeatedly

By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

But how does this apply to your life right now?

Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

3. Learn something new

It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

4. Follow a brain training program

The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

5. Work your body

You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

6. Spend time with your loved ones

If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

7. Avoid crossword puzzles

Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

The bottom line

Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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