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7 Habits That Make You Learn Languages On Auto-pilot

7 Habits That Make You Learn Languages On Auto-pilot
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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.

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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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Ragnar Miljeteig

Ragnar is a passionate writer who blogs about personal development at Lifehack.

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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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