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Learning a Language from Scratch – 10 Techniques for Quick and Easy Mastery

Learning a Language from Scratch – 10 Techniques for Quick and Easy Mastery

According to a BBC report last winter, there is an “alarming shortage of people able to speak the 10 languages vital to our future prosperity and global standing… [and that] more adults should learn at least one new language”. John Worne of the British Council, quotes that failure to act will risks the UK losing out “both economically and culturally”.

It seems learning a language is becoming increasingly more important. However the thought of learning a language, especially the older you get, terrifies most people. Our instant reaction is usually “I am not a language person” or “I am too old”. But learning a language is like anything else in life; once you know a few tricks, short cuts and tips, then things become a lot easier.

Here are my top tips on learning a language…

1. Get in the right mindset

Before you even start to pick up the text books and dictionaries, make sure you are in the right mind set first. If you start your learning journey with a negative attitude, you’ll never be as receptive to learning a new language as you could be, no matter how hard you try. You’ll instantly create a block in your mind, so even with the best of efforts, you will minimize your ability to absorb anything new. So ditch any preconceived pessimism and think that you can!

2. Learn the characters and the alphabet (including pronunciation)

Before you plow straight into it and learning to ask where the beach is, make sure you understand the basics first. Learn the alphabet and if the alphabet is not the same as English letters, for example such as Japanese, then take the time to learn this thoroughly.

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There are three parts of a letter or character, and these are meaning, pronunciation and written character. Ensure that you know the alphabet thoroughly first before worrying about verb endings and sentence structure.

3. TV and songs

Immersing yourself in the culture of your learning language, isn’t just fun but actually very beneficial, and just for you coach potatoes, you’ll be glad to hear that watching TV is part of that. Engaging with popular culture (magazines, songs, tv, films etc) is a great way to also pick on different dialects and colloquial phrases too that you might not find in a formal dictionary. Who knew watching a Spanish version of Coronation Street could be so educational!

4. Eat

As with top 3, part of that popular culture you should try to immerse yourself in is the cuisine.  In a study conducted at Örebro University, SwedenEmma Asplund, Maria Backsell and Isabella Samuelsson reported that you can in fact learn about a country’s culture by studying the food culture.

So by indulging more in the cuisine, not only will you broaden your vocab but you’ll also increase your cultural awareness. Choose your restaurants and dishes wisely though – I am not sure a trip to Nando’s will broaden your cultural understanding of Portuguese any more than eating a korma will increase your knowledge of Punjabi!

5. Tap into your inner child

We might have to think back a little while here, but remember when you were at school, how much fun learning was? The cute pictures, bright colors and funny analogies, were all created to help you remember.

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Well, revert back to the good old days and start injecting a little bit of fun in to you language learning! Make brightly colored flash cards and include pictures. I sometimes even use word association to remember new vocab. For example, I remember the word “korobu” which means ‘to fall down/over’ as it sounds like ‘collarbone’…my association is you might break your collarbone if you fall over!

Also perhaps try to attach imagery to your new lexicon… for example, in Japanese “shimeru” means ‘to shut’ so I imagine someone shimmering (sounds like shimeru) through a door that is about to shut. Odd but it works.

6. Set a goal

We all know about SMART goal setting, so set realistic and sensible goals for your chosen target language. For example, making a new year’s resolution to ’start learning Spanish’ is going to be as successful as a “keep off the grass” sign. Set a realistic goal, such as, ‘be able to read a Spanish magazine in a year’ or ‘to be able to ask for directions’ or ‘navigate the capital within 4 months’.

It will also help if you can make a trip to a place where they speak the language. Having the goal of learning Spanish in conjunction with being able to use it on a weekend break to Barcelona will be 10 times more beneficial and rewarding.

7. Stop worrying about “translating”

Learning languages, I have discovered that sometimes there is no like for like translations. For example in Japanese there are no plurals or words such as “the”, their use of “I, he, she, it” is often admitted and they have a polite and informal version of every verb. And in Spanish, the nouns are either masculine or feminine with “el” or “la” in front of the word. When there are such differences in your native tongue and learning languages that it might help to try thinking of the sentence as a whole, in context rather than of thinking a word for word translation.

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8. Scrap the textbook

OK, that is a little harsh as actually there are some great text books out there and I suppose it does depend on what your end goal is. But, if you are looking to be fluent in a conversational way, then it is often best to scrap the learning directly from a formal text book and focus on real-life cases and conversations.

As with most subjects, theory and practical is very different! For example, try having a conversation with a native or try to write a few basic sentences, then only when you get stuck, you can check your dictionary, online or the text book.

9. Learn 100, then 1,000 most popular/common used words

One thing I have learnt through learning languages is that you can apply the 80:20 rule to it. What do I mean by this?According to the Oxford English Dictionary online, the 100 most common words account for 50% of the language, and the 1,000 most common words account for 75%. But to account for 90% you would need a vocabulary of 7,000 words and to get to 95% the figure would be around 50,000*. The correlation of the number of worlds you know and your fluency are not in line.

To be fluent enough, learn the most popular 1,000 words and don’t misuse your initial time on words you’ll never come across again.

10. Focus on some themes

I have already highlighted that when learning a new language, you should at first focus your efforts on the first 100-1,000 words to maximize your lexicon. You can take this a step further though and also consider words within a theme that you would often use.

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For example, if you are a massive sports fanatic, then learning the vocabulary for sporting terminology will be more relatable to you and therefore much more likely to stick in your mind, as well as providing you with the motivation to learn. Perhaps you could buy a sports magazine or watch some matches with subtitled commentary of your learning language to inspire.

Good luck!

*note: the OED uses the term “lemmas” instead of words. A lemma being the base form of a word. For example, climbs, climbing, and climbed are all examples of the one lemma climb. Just ten different lemmas (the, be, to, of, and, a, in, that, have, and I) account for a remarkable 25% of all the words used in the Oxford English Corpus

Featured photo credit: Ardelfin via morguefile.com

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Last Updated on August 15, 2018

25 Most Useful Excel Shortcuts That Very Few People Know

25 Most Useful Excel Shortcuts That Very Few People Know

Imagine if you could use 5 simple shortcuts while working in Excel, and increase your productivity without wasting time for searching information in huge tables, writing long formulas, and sorting the data.

Or even better:

What if you would get 25 useful shortcuts… and each of them could simplify your work, so you could do much more every day?

You’d definitely feel excited to read about them.

Today is your lucky day because we are going to share with you in this article 25 great Excel shortcuts you can use in your work every day! This is your lucky chance, so go ahead and become a real professional in Excel without wasting your time.

How important are Excel shortcuts for you?

The most effective thing to check out if people really need something is to release a survey and look at the results. So, according to the anonymous survey, 99% of people said Excel shortcuts are critical or important for them.

In general, there are more than 200 shortcuts in Excel. But when we have analyzed the data about how many shortcuts people know, we got the next results:

  • 26% of people know 10 or fewer shortcuts;
  • 61% of people know 10-50 shortcuts;
  • 10% of people know 50-100 shortcuts.

As you can see, not so many people know a lot of shortcuts. Probably, some of them never think about increasing their productivity in such a simple way.

Of course, it depends on how deep you use Excel. Some people use this powerful application just for making simple tables or graphs, others use it for everyday work to count something.

Most of the accountants and businessmen use much more Excel functions for more complex tasks such as creating VBA macros, managing PivotTables, recalculating huge workbooks, outlining data, etc.

But even those people who work with Excel every day very close may know a few shortcuts. Needless to say, they can do their job without shortcuts, but it usually takes for them much more time. T

his sounds not funny, especially if you must finish a huge amount of work urgently. There is a great opportunity for you to increase your productivity in Excel and do your job faster with our useful shortcuts.

5 Main reasons to learn excel shortcuts

Many people don’t understand why they should use shortcuts if they can work without them. Of course, if you use Excel twice per year to make a simple table or a graph, it is probably not so important for you to know many shortcuts.

But if you work in Excel every day, sorting huge tables and managing with tons of data, then shortcuts will help you to reach the next five goals:

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  1. Work efficiently and faster in Excel
  2. Manage big amounts of data easily and fast
  3. Stay calm and concentrated even while doing a tedious job
  4. Make your work accurately and properly without errors
  5. Get a better understanding of Microsoft Excel

Who can use Excel shortcuts?

There are a lot of people who can simplify their life with Excel shortcuts, and here are the groups that will definitely love using them:

  • People who work in banks, finance organizations, etc.
  • Businessmen who make tons of various reports and presentations in Excel for meetings and briefings.
  • Students who usually are lazy and impatient to make their homework because they don’t want to waste a lot of time working in Excel.
  • Private entrepreneurs who keep various data in Excel tables.

Whether you are a student who hates Excel because it seems a time-wasting and boring application, or you are an accountant who must recalculate huge worksheets every day without making errors, we recommend reading and learning these Excel shortcuts to make your work simpler and save some time.

With these simple but useful tricks, it is so easy to finish your job and get more time for yourself.

25 Excel shortcuts to increase your productivity

Here are 25 great Excel shortcuts you should learn and use for work or studying to make your job faster and simpler. Try to use them all and you will realize you were totally blind before while working in Excel:

1. Format whatever object fast with Ctrl+1

If you select any object in Excel – a cell, a chart, a chart axis, a drawing object – then press Ctrl+1, and you will get the Properties dialog for the certain object. This shortcut offers a very quick and easy way to format whatever object you’re working with.

2. Use range names with Ctrol+G or F5 key

If you use range names (which we strongly recommend to do) and you want to choose the range with a specific name references, press either Ctrl+G or the F5 key, which launches the GoTo dialog.

If the name is simple, you can click on it in a list in that dialog. But if it’s at all unusual, Excel won’t list it; so you will need to type in the name. Then press OK.

3. Use a range name in a formula with =sum( and F3

Suppose you want to use a range name in a formula. For example, you want to sum the Sales range. Enter…

=sum(

…and then press F3.

When you do so, Excel launches the Paste Name dialog. Just choose “Sales” from the list, press the OK button in the dialog, then enter the SUM function’s closing “)” to complete the formula.

4. Launch Function Arguments dialog easily with Ctrl+A

Suppose you want to check the help topic for a worksheet function. For example, you want to read about the MATCH function. In a cell, type…

=match(

…and then press Ctrl+A, or click the Insert Function (“fx“) button to the left of the formula bar.

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When you do so, Excel displays the Function Arguments dialog, which might offer all the help you need.

But if you still want to see the complete help topic, click the blue “Help on this function” hyperlink in the lower-left corner of the dialog. This technique works with all documented Excel functions.

5. Copy stuff down the column without scrolling with Ctrl+D

If you added a formula in a new column on the right of a huge dataset, and you want to copy that formula down without scrolling, do these steps:

  • go to the right to the column that has data (the column to the left of the new column with the formula);
  • press Ctrl+Down – to get to bottom;
  • move one cell to the right (with arrow key naturally);
  • press Ctrl+Shift+Up to select the new column, at the top of which is the formula you just created;
  • press Ctrl+D to fill down the formula.

6. Quick access to any function with Alt+

By customizing the quick access toolbar, you can create simple shortcuts to commands that you would otherwise have to find in the Ribbon tabs, or macros you have created yourself.

The keyboard shortcut is simply selecting Alt+ (the number of the command you wish to select).

For example, if you have customized your quick access toolbar to have Calc Sheet, Save, Open. To calculate sheet you would hit Alt+1, for save Alt+2, and for open Alt+3.

A lot of people are unaware of this useful function, and it’s a great time saver.

7. Format cells with Ctrl+1

When you need to format cells, use Ctrl+1. Most people know this as the shortcut for the Format Cells dialog, but you can also use it to format almost anything in Excel, without a care about the state of the ribbon. Try this amazing and simple shortcut!

8. Choose visible cells with Alt+

When you need to choose visible cells only – use Alt+. This is the trick to copy only what you see. It is a priceless shortcut when you’re manually hiding rows and columns in the table.

9. Use filtering

Filtering – it is a powerful way to slice, dice, and sort through a huge table of information.

It’s amazingly effective when you’re participating in a meeting to discuss something like a sales forecast, and everyone is looking in real-time at your spreadsheet projected on a screen (or on their monitors).

To some people, you will be seen as the God of Spreadsheets, and this is not a joke!

10. Insert or delete column/row easily with the Ctrl key

Some people waste a lot of time even for simple operations, for example, when they need to insert/delete columns and rows in Excel.

Use this shortcut to insert: with an entire row or column selected, use Ctrl+Shift ++.

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To delete: with an entire row or column selected, use Ctrl + –.

11. See formula results with F9

If you want to check formula results within multiple formulas, highlight the formula and select F9 to see formula result.

Don’t forget to undo before exiting the formula.

12. Use ALT+Enter for more text within a cell

If you want to add a second line of text within a cell, use ALT+Enter.

13. Use EDATE to move a date on by a full calendar month:

Here’s how to use EDATE:

=EDATE(15/01/16,+1) = 15/02/2016 (15th Feb 2016)

=EDATE (15/01/2016,-2) = 15/11/2015 (15th Nov 2016)

14. Use EOMONTH to move a date onto the end of the month:

Here’s how to use EMONTH:

=EOMONTH(15/01/2016,0) = 31/01/2016 (31st Jan 2106)

=EOMONTH (15/01/2016,-2) = 30/11/2015 (30th Nov 2015)

15. Remove spaces with TRIM

TRIM is a useful function known by few people. It removes any spaces at the beginning of a value. This is useful if you are pulling in values from somewhere else.

16. Repeat commands with F4 or Ctrl+Y

In many cases, you may need to repeat your last action. Use F4 or Ctrl+Y; you can repeat many commands like applying the same borders, format, or insert a worksheet again.

17. Quick access to cells with the Ctrl key and Shift key

When you need to go to the first or last cell of a worksheet, no matter where you are, use Ctrl+Home, Ctrl+End combinations.

And here is a pleasant bonus for you: add the Shift key to select everything on the way!

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18. Use Ctrl+ to create a timestamp

If you need a date stamp and/or a timestamp in your document, there is no need to type a date and time! Use shortcuts Ctrl+ ; (date) Ctrl+Shift+ : (time). It works like a magic and helps to save your time and nerves.

19. Use autosum shortcut for sum function anywhere

Autosum shortcut – use Alt =. It is a “magic” shortcut of Excel to automatically insert a sum function.

You can use this shortcut to sum rows, columns, or even an entire table in one step without wasting your time.

20. Use data validation

This is an amazing but underutilized tool in Excel, which can be used for a variety of things:

  • Create dependent drop-down lists;
  • Create drop-down lists;
  • Protect/restrict data input of specific cells (without the need for VBA macros).

21. Use conditional formatting

It can be used for various purposes such as color format or cell format of cells, rows or columns based on dependent cell values or formats.

22. Use formula auditing

This is a great tool to analyze and trace precedent or dependent cells, check errors and evaluate formulas.

The “Watch Window” is a feature to keep a snapshot of an area of the spreadsheet, and then move to another area of the workbook – particularly valuable if you’re managing large spreadsheets or don’t have a second screen.

23. Use Scenario Manager to generate summary outputs of a spreadsheet

Scenario Manager (under “What-if Analysis”) enables users to generate high-level, summary outputs of a spreadsheet – without the need to replicate the entire workbook.

It will present multiple scenarios of a spreadsheet in a succinct, high-level summary worksheet.

24. Use INDIRECT to set up large tables

INDIRECT makes it easy to set up tables which reference larger tables without a lot of referencing work or cutting and pasting; especially for dynamic spreadsheets.

25. Use OFFSET for complicated calculations or formulas

OFFSET can be useful for things like calculating YTD numbers or creating formulas that take data in rows and using in columns.

The bottom line

As you can see, when you have a boring or tedious job to do, the best way to do it fast is not looking for a way how to avoid it, but searching for the shortest variant to do it!

That is why we suggest keeping in mind these Excel shortcuts that will help you to save a lot of time and nerves.

If it seems hard for you to remember all them, you can print out the list of shortcuts and keep it on your worktable. Use it to search for some help when you need it, and over time, you’ll remember all shortcuts easily.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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