I recently read an article posted in Knowable Magazine by Ramin Skibba who questioned Psycholinguist Mark Antoniou about how a second language can boost the brain. This article outlined the benefits of learning a language through immersion, online learning and face to face individual lessons. It documents conducted studies which resulted in showing that second language acquisition learners have improved attentional switching, increased gray matter density and volume and increased neural pathways. This is an indication of a healthier brain! I have included the link below.
He describes advantages which include improvements in executive function, which is the ability to direct and manage your attention. In his article he states "Because language-learning and use is so complex — arguably the most complex behavior we human beings engage in — it involves many levels. You have speech sounds, syllables, words, grammar, sentences, syntax. There’s so much going on; it really is a workout for a wide brain network. And those areas of the brain overlap with the ones in which aging adult brains show decline or neurological pathological disease. As a result, we argue that learning a second language would be an optimal activity to promote healthy aging."
As in every area of your life, setting goals can help propel you forward in your language journey so that you will achieve your goal. Goal setting is a powerful process for thinking about your ideal future, and for motivating yourself to turn your vision of this future in to reality.
"Goals are new, forward moving objectives. They magnetise you toward them." Mark Victor Hansen.
"Goals transform insurmountable mountains into walk-able hills." (author unknown)
So how to set goals for your new language:
For this to be effective, you need to set goals on a number of levels:
1- Firstly, create your "big picture"
Why do you want to speak a new language? The more specific and emotional this goal is the more effective it will be. As many of you know, my goal for Russian is sitting at my brother in law's kitchen table and understanding all his stories (yes, we are drinking some vodka!) Another goal may be to be in a Thai market bargaining with the sellers in Thai, or wine tasting in the south of France with a French winemaker. Whatever your goal, you need to imagine yourself using your language fluently and it needs to make you smile!!! Get excited about achieving it.
2- Secondly, break this goal into smaller milestones.
You may want to use VLLC certificated to do this or a specific vocabulary target, e.g. to reach this goal I first need to complete Certificate II (social proficiency - about 1500 words), then Certificate III (basic vocational proficiency - about 2500 words). Set some time goals as well.
3- Thirdly, break this down into smaller and smaller monthly and weekly targets that you must hit in order to reach your main goal e.g. spend 30 minutes every day on my language; keep up top date with my homework - do it straight after my tutorial; meet a language buddy; aim to finish a Certificate II in 9 months means I need to complete an online lesson each week. Plan how and when you will do your weekly language study in as much detail as you can.
Finally, once you have your goal and plan of attack, it becomes a day to day journey. Enjoy hitting the little milestones
- reward yourself - this provides real motivation.
Remember that "The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step" Lao Tzu
Learning a language for some is easy, and yet for others, it is close to impossible. However, much about learning a language is in the mind, and we must remember that our brain is a powerful thing. The best way to get to grips with learning a language fast, is to have a general idea of how your subconscious works and how we learn in different ways.
Children are the best example of how the subconscious mind helps learn a language. Children who grow up in households, or just countries where more than one language is spoken, become bi or multi-lingual very quickly. They are absorbed in the language through the constant repetition of words, phrases and even mannerisms, allowing the brain and mind to soak up the language while almost resting. There is no forced “you will learn this” when it comes to children, no learning grammar, and this means the child is confident in learning the language and feels confident in speaking it.
The mind plays tricks on us all the time, and for many, overcoming the fear of speaking a language is one of the greatest challenges. However, the childlike approach to using the mind, especially a more subconscious mind technique which uses repetition, is one of the best language learning methods. Vocational Language Learning Centre uses this technique and has had much success with teaching many students a new language. Once one has learned to relax the mind and accepted it is not a race to learn the language fast, you will become more receptive. Being more receptive means you will learn, and may even learn more quickly as your confidence grows.
Becoming socially interactive through language also improves the learning experience. Confidence grows and the immersion in conversation prepares the mind to both listen and speak in a natural, if somewhat daunting situation.
Many people talk about mind maps when it comes to learning a language. Bringing together the lexicon and syntax is in many ways what learning a language is. It is a little like a jigsaw puzzle and once one learns what goes with which, things fall into place. This way of learning is less subconscious and more structured and logical. It basically creates a map for the language learner to follow. It does work and is very much a more deliberate way of teaching the mind to work, or think in a certain way.
Our human brains and our minds are more than capable of learning another language or multiple languages. There is not many people who are unable to learn (unless there is a medical learning difficulty), some just find it more difficult than others, especially those who feel pressured into speaking or using a language. Of course, there are now many shortcuts to learning a language such as translation apps etc but in reality, nothing beats really learning the language and actually communicating to someone in their native tongue.
Language stimulates the brain and the challenge in applying the mind should be embraced. For many, a combination of understanding, applying and using rules along with the social use of language, will be how they eventually learn. The mind is a very powerful tool, and in a nutshell, it needs a combination of stimulation and relaxation to deliver the results you are looking for. When you understand how best your mind works, learning a language is merely a matter of time and perhaps placing mind over matter.
I recently read an article from The Language Nerds, who post on social media. The facts I have listed are their results from a recent study by Pellegrino, Coupé, and Marco. This study is about how linguists measure the speed of languages by how many syllables are articulated per second or per minute. This study doesn't include data from all the languages of the world, but this is what they have discovered so far. I have included the link to the article at the bottom of this blog.
Japanese is the fastest recording language. It has a rate of 7.84 syllables per second! Spanish is right behind Japanese and is nearly as fast with a rate of 7.82 syllables per second. French lags just a little far behind with a rate of 7.18 syllables per second. Italian is relatively slower than Spanish and French with a rate of 6.99 syllables per second. English is among the slower languages with a rate of 6.19 syllables per second. Before last is German with a speed of 5.97 syllables per second. Mandarin is the slowest recorded language with a rate as low as 5.18 syllables per second.
I actually would have presumed that the Asian languages were faster but apparently, languages with either a complex tone (4 or more tones), or complex consonant clusters, tend to be slower while languages with no tone, or a very simple tone system tend to be faster.
In a previous blog, I gave you some ideas of how to get the most out of your learning experience and gave you the idea of breaking up your learning into 15-minute segments rather than 1-2 hours at a time.
This blog is an exercise so that you can see how your memory works. I think it is really interesting and will only take you 10 minutes so give it a try. (I have taken this exercise from Accelerated Learning for the 21st Century, Colin Rose and Malcolm J Nicholl – it’s a good read if you are interested in more information).
The following is a list of words:
Relax, then focus on the words and read through them slowly – just once. When you have finished, follow the instructions below the words:
ACTION. Now cover up the list and write down as many of the words (it doesn’t matter how many) as you can recall in any order. Compare your written list to the full list and you may find that you will notice the following:
You probably remembered the first words. As I mentioned in my last blog, you tend to remember more of the beginning of any learning session. So you probably recalled Grass and maybe Paper. You probably remembered the last words. You tend to remember more of what you learn at the end of each learning session, so you probably recalled Pen and maybe Stream.
You typically remember what’s unusual. You probably remembered the word, Zulu. Why? Because it stood out from the rest of the list and a vivid mental image almost certainly sprang into your mind of a Zulu warrior. We tend to remember what is odd, bizarre, comical or rude. You generally retain information that is organised. You may have automatically written down some words in groups – objects and subjects that fit into the same category - Animals – Cat, Bird, Sheep.
You remember “real” things more quickly. The list also contained words such as Love, Truth, Wisdom and Meaning. These are the least well remembered because they are not unique or concrete. They are not things; they are ideas. “Real” things are easier to remember than abstract ideas because you can picture them in your mind’s eye.
So my memory tips for you today:
Have a lot of beginnings and ends in your learning sessions– take breaks; We remember pictures many times better than words – so find a way to make a picture of what you are learning. Try to associate vocabulary (particularly) with a funny or unusual mental image. Organise what you are learning into groups or categories. This works because you are actively doing something with the information, not just passively looking at it.
Enjoy stretching your brain in new ways.
Joanne Ammerlaan is the National Manager of Vocational Language Learning Centre and a Master Practitioner of NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming)
There is a definite advantage in learning a language through what VLLC calls, the Mother Tongue method! VLLC has been proving its success for 30 years and have thousands of success stories of students who have gained the ability to communicate in a foreign language after learning this way. I recently read an article by Judith Thurman who wrote about her experience with a person who is multi-lingual and speaks over 30 languages. I have included an excerpt below about her observation of how this person experienced language.
Thurman writes "He spent several days raptly eavesdropping on native speakers in markets and cafés and on long bus rides, bathing in the warm sea of their voices. If we took a taxi to some church or ruin, he would ride shotgun and ask the driver to teach him a few common foreign phrases, or to tell him a joke. He didn’t record these encounters, but in the next taxi or shop he would use the new phrases to start a conversation. Hyperpolyglots, Erard writes, exhibit an imperative “will to plasticity,” by which he means plasticity of the brain. But I was seeing plasticity of a different sort, which I myself had once possessed. In my early twenties, I had learned two languages simultaneously, the first by “sleeping with my dictionary,” as the French put it, and the other by drinking a lot of wine and being willing to make a fool of myself jabbering at strangers. With age, I had lost my gift for abandon. That had been my problem with Vietnamese. You have to inhabit a language, not only speak it, and fluency requires some dramatic flair.
If you would like to master a new foreign language with abandon, Contact VLLC.
I was reading from a great site on the Better Health Channel and thought I would share their tips about how to reduce stress over Christmas. Christmas is typically one of the most stressful events of the year. The expense of buying gifts, the pressure of last minute shopping, and the heightened expectations of family togetherness can all combine to undermine our best intentions. Some practical suggestions can help you reduce your 'Christmas stress' and enjoy the true reason for the season.
Budgeting for Christmas
For many of us, the Christmas aftermath includes massive credit card bills that can take months to clear. Christmas doesn't have to be a financial headache if you plan ahead. Stress reduction strategies include:
If you have a large circle of extended family or friends to buy gifts for, it can be very costly. You might be able to reduce the stress and cost of Christmas for everyone if you suggest a change in the way your family and friends give presents. For example, you could suggest that your group:
According to a recent study by Roy Morgan Research, around 60 per cent of Australians dislike Christmas shopping, just 20 per cent plan their shopping expeditions, and the majority of us (nearly 75 per cent) often come home without a single purchase for our efforts.
Stress reduction strategies for successful Christmas shopping include:
The Christmas lunch (or dinner)
Preparing a meal for family and friends can be enjoyable but tiring and stressful at the same time.
Some tips to reduce the stress of Christmas cooking include:
Stress, anxiety, and depression are common during the festive season. If nothing else, reassure yourself that these feelings are normal. Stress reduction strategies include:
The little extras
Other ways you might be able to reduce the stress include:
General health and wellbeing
Some other ways to keep your stress levels down include:
Stimulate your brain with new experiences e.g. learning a language. This is a great way to keep your brain active – it’s socially useful (pick the right language) and it’s interesting because you can feel like a different person. It’s also easy to judge if you’re doing well because you can tell instantly if someone understands you.
Don’t be passive. This can be a problem for people living by themselves. Some research has suggested a great incidence of Alzheimer’s among people who passively watch the television. Have a conversation instead or get involved in an activity where you are interacting.
These are just a few – do you have more memory tips to add to this list??
Planning a vacation or a business trip for most of us is enjoyable, a vacation especially. Travelling can be fun and often is, especially travelling by plane. However, for a percentage of people, traveling by plane is something they fear and the fear of flying is no joke.
For some people, the fear of flying has been something that they have always had, for others it is something that has been brought on by aviation incident. I know of someone who was once a happy globetrotter but one incident of traumatic turbulence changed things forever. Today, this person only has to think of flying and they feel the fear. Flying in some cases is close to unavoidable, so how can one overcome or at least combat the fear of flying? Here are 4 simple tips to help overcome the fear of flying.
Avoid caffeine and alcohol: Many people think that a cup of coffee or glass of wine (or something stronger) will calm the nerves before flying. It does calm the nerves but does not help combat the fear of flying. If you have had a drink or two or have had a bit of a caffeine overdose you will feel downright dreadful on the plane and this makes things worse. Consider a herbal tea such as chamomile before a flight. This relaxes you and has no side-effects others than perhaps helping you snooze on your cruise in sky. On board avoid alcohol further, take a couple of chamomile teabags on board with you if you must to retain the relaxed state. And keep yourself hydrated.
Know what is going on with the plane: For many, the fear of flying is all part of not being in control. Doing a little research before you fly is a good thing. Do not watch something like Air Crash investigation but search for some things that will boost your confidence. Read up on what airline pilots do, read up on how safe your modern aircraft is. Maybe even watch the superb video "flying without fear" video from Virgin. Having knowledge about what is really going on really does help a nervous flyer.
Distract yourself: One superb way of overcoming your fear of flying is to keep your mind and yourself busy. Thankfully, modern aircraft are generally fitted with superb entertainment systems, especially on long haul flights. But on short haul roots, especially with budget airlines, this may not be so. In these cases bring some music to listen to, many airlines permit playback devices today or at the worst bring a good book. Striking up a conversation with the person next to you can also be a great way to take your mind off flying.
Understand that turbulence is normal: One of the biggest fears of flyers, even those who claim not to be afraid of flying, is turbulence. Modern aircraft can actually withstand a lot more turbulence than many imagine. Modern aircraft are tested to limits that few can imagine (see research). The trick with turbulence is to accept that it is part of flying and there are many other aircraft have a ride that is just as bumpy. Try telling yourself that this is just a gravel road not a highway and things are all going to be fine. Before you know it the bumpy patch will soon be over.
These are just 4 simple ways to help conquer your fear of flying. They are easy to do and simply require a little positive thinking. If you can embrace these 4 tips flying should be a little easier for you.
Can you remember the last time you met someone in the street that you know and you forgot their name? You are usually with someone and feel rude not doing an introduction. Your mind goes into a panic searching for the name – which you get - as you are walking away.
You are having a language assessment and the tutor asks you what your name is in your new language and you can’t answer – you have no idea where the information is…..even though you have said it EVERY tutorial since you started.
Often information is on the tip of our tongues, but we just can’t access it in the moment. The following is not scientific – it is my subjective experience, but it may resonate with you.
I imagine my mind like a filing cabinet. Everything I have seen, heard and learned has been filed in the correct drawer, but when I am stressed or putting pressure on myself – T-H-E—D-R-A-W-E-R-S—S-T-I-C-K…….when I am relaxed the drawers open easily and smoothly.
So the secret – as with everything – IS TO RELAX. Don’t put more pressure on your brain to remember – trust that the information is there and that you are able to recall it. Another strategy I use is to ask myself a specific question: What is the Italian word for xxx? What is that person’s name? Then relax…..It will pop into your mind a few moments later. IF you want quicker recall, you need to learn to put your body and mind into a state of relaxation quicker. (This is the subject for another blog).
Try these tips for words you forget in your new language and let me know your experience.
These blogs are about learning a foreign language and how utilising that skill can help to keep your mind active and assist with your cognitive function.