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Top 3 ways to get your brain to learn a new language

Learning a new language is incredibly rewarding and fun, but there are times when our brains seem to work against us.

I speak from a person who has learned to speak four new languages ​​from scratch, I know that there are concrete steps that can be taken to overcome a collapse of learning and recover with a lot of energy.

Here are the three best ways to get your brain to learn a new language as quickly as possible.

1. Create a sense of urgency

A common complaint when learning a new language? Lack of time.

After a whole day of work or school, exposing your brain to huge amounts of information, your brain may refuse to study a new language at all costs for one simple reason: it doesn't want to spend the extra energy!

So what do you do?

Join a real class with human beings

Any class. An online lesson, a personal course or a Saturday workshop. The goal is to take responsibility. Making a commitment to present yourself with other people, especially with a class and a teacher, will provide a healthy degree of pressure.

Keep track of your progress ... and share it

Have you ever thought of recording yourself in audio or video to track your progress? How about sharing your latest essay, your last letter or your favorite expressions on social media? There are many language learning communities on Twitter and several groups on Facebook that should help you.

Don't give your brain the chance to escape from the language it's learning

Listening to music while you go to school or work, watching movies or Netflix series on the weekends, reading a magazine during breakfast, or posting on social media in your language to learn are all great ways to start getting serious about your learning.

You can even label items around the house with post-it notes in language so that you are exposed to a new vocabulary for the whole day. The goal is to send your brain the message that you have to use that language ... because it's all around you.

2 . Make your learning as personal as possible

Our minds tend to forget things we don't need or things that don't interest us. In fact, most of us complain about having a bad memory and not remembering new words, for example, but it is natural given the amount of information that bombard our brain every day.

Your mission? Induce your brain to believe that these foreign words are meaningful, necessary and personal.

Use your photos

The next time you create a flashcard for the word "dog" in Spanish, French or German, take a picture of your pet because your brain is more likely to remember the word if you take a personal picture rather than use the equivalent English translation , for example.

And doing it on your smartphone is simple: install free apps like Quizlet or AnkiApp and upload your photos.

Choose key expressions on the lists

Rather than memorizing word lists, choose words that are relevant to your life experiences, routines and relationships.

For example, it is a common practice to learn words for certain jobs when you start studying a new language. Rather than memorizing endless lists of job positions, start with your tasks, those of your partners, your parents or your best friends! It is much more likely that you will use what you have learned and then remember it longer.

Write about yourself as much as possible

Use the new vocabulary to talk about your life and to explain your feelings, opinions and personal stories, rather than sticking to examples of generic textbooks. What you see in textbooks is the starting point for your learning, not the end point - the goal actually lies in using language in real life and in a way that is useful and natural.

3. Learn to repeat in a way that actually works

Some people can vividly remember entire lists of English or Spanish verbs they learned in high school. However, try asking these people to conjugate them, use them in context or apply them as they tell a story ... and then you will understand why repeating and learning verbs by heart is not always the best way to go.

Although learning through repetition has its benefits, the secret is not simply to repeat, but to repeat it effectively.

Familiarize yourself with the spaced repetition

In his book "Fluent Forever: How to Learn Any Language and Never Forget It" the polyglot Gabriel Wyner introduces us to the technique of repeating distance for learning a second language. Instead of setting aside and never looking at your study materials again, the goal must be to repeat the vocabulary from time to time, for a longer period of time and with longer intervals. 

The goal is to expose your brain to the language to be learned just when you are about to forget it. As Wyner says, "Over a period of four months, practicing the language for 30 minutes a day, you can expect to learn and store 3600 flashcards with an accuracy of 90-95%." Count on it!

Be more visual

Remember what we said earlier about customizing your learning using your flashcards?

Not only does the use of your images help the mind to memorize things better, but the simple act of searching for a foreign word on Google Images and saving one of the images on your phone to use it as a flashcard can really help memorization. Try using your personalized flashcards with funny pictures, places you know, family vacations or faces of loved ones. Surely you will remember it better after a repetition rather than just learning so many words!

Repeat and apply what you learn immediately

Remembering entire lists of verbs is not the same as knowing how to apply them, and our brains are more likely to remember things once they have been used in real-life conversations.

Applying what you have learned by talking to a teacher, a classmate or a group is crucial, as with external gratification we continue our learning. You can also practice writing the same word in at least ten different sentences as soon as you learn it: repetition in context will not only help you remember, but will also help you make sense of what you have just learned.
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About Minh Hiếu

Le Minh Hieu is a national-level weightlifter and a Singapore Weightlifting sports performance coach. Hieu's biggest passion is helping everyone find confidence, happiness, and health through fitness.


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