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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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Ragnar Miljeteig

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

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

 

Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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