Tuesday, February 9, 2010

11 Tips to Speed Learn a Language

Trying to learn a new language or in a rush to learn the language of the country you’ll be moving to? Here are some tips to help you with your memory technique, as well as ideas to help you optimize your speed learning process.

1- Practice first thing in the morning.
Did you know that the morning is the best time for learning and memorization? Your mind is fresh, alert (after you’ve had your coffee…), retentive and most permeable to suggestion.

2- Create your own immersive environment.
Dress up in your sari or beret and bombard yourself with the language in various forms- watch films, listen to radio news and music, listen to language tapes, join language groups. The more you surround
yourself with a language, you become familiar with its sound and the way it’s spoken. This will help your mind’s receptivity to it- intuitively, rhythmically and tonally.

3- Employ active listening.
Listening to a language doesn’t have to be a passive sport- you can add other activities to it to optimize your lesson and make it fun. Be creative! If listening to a language CD, visualize the words and their spelling. If your language has different alphabet characters, challenge yourself to write the characters out as its spoken.  If concentrating on a dialogue, test your visual memory of sentence structure and word placement. If you can find active ways to “participate” in your listening-learning process, you will engrain its lesson by forging active relationships with it. This will also help you with what I mention next…

4- Physicalize it…Visualize it.
Did you know you store memory in more places than in your brain? A well-known acting technique for memorizing scripts is  to “own the words”. The goal is take a cold and unfeeling word and make it a “tangible and warm” part of your own personal expression and vocabulary. How? Everyone has their own way of personalizing language.  Ivanna Chubbick, a re-known acting coach, said we speak from the memory of images, not words.  Interesting huh? Where actors might practice creating a physical, visual or emotional memory-association with a word, you might try simply highlighting words in your book, making notes and writing words down, make flash cards or labels and stick them around your house and on various objects.  For me, sometimes writing words down in my own (flawed) handwriting helps make them more concrete, personal and easier to recall.

5. Observe the non-verbal patterns of a language and get into the role.
Mastering a language is not only gaining the ability to “speak its words”- observe the culture’s non-verbal transmissions and pick up on its idiosyncrasies and physical ticks.  Then get your  foreign groove on and play! If you’re learning French, “become French” and speak through a pout and blase Parisian accent; Hindi, learn the body language- hand movements and head swivels- that Indian people use to extend emphasis to their communication. For Korean, my current observation is that exaggerated facial expressions and head nods up are used to punctuate speech! Every country has their own cultural way of conveying themselves… beyond words. When you pick up on a culture’s joire de vivre and non-verbal ways of communication, it will offer spice to your learning and add dimension to your memory’s retention of the word.

6 TIPS FOR YOUR SPEED LEARNING PROCESS: In a rush? Short on time? Can you feel a ticking clock?… If so, here are some language basics to consider giving your attention to:

1) Take a deep breath, calm down and repeat after me- OM…
The more you rush, the more you’ll be fighting against your own learning. Relaxation makes your memory more receptive.

2) Remember “Less is More”.
Gorging out on too many diverse foods at once will probably give you a stomachache and make you want to hurl.  Spend quality time getting your basics down pat. Even if you only learn one thing really well (i.e. counting numbers), you’ll have gained an overall sense of achievement, enthusiasm and confidence that you’ve mastered a part of the language. That’s a big step in building a strong foundation.

3) Learn Survival BasicsThis is the backbone and meeting point of all communication:
-   Greetings/Thanks/Apologies
-   Survival phrases
(i.e. Where is…? How much..? )
-   Polite excuses
(i.e.  I don’t understand,  I don’t speak….)

4) Counting numbers.
Obvious one- necessary for dealing with money and making sure you don’t get swindled!

5) For Verbs- learn Present Tense, “I” forms and always the “polite” form (over the causal).You want to communicate to locals in the most rudimentary way, but not collect scowls.  Many languages have a formal (or polite) vs. informal way to address people in conversation. Some countries take this seriously as a sign of respect.  Also for the most part, when communicating your wants/needs, you’ll be dealing in the present tense of a situation.
6) Learn the language’s general sentence structure.
Sentence structure is the backbone of any language..the heart, the steak…everything around it is just dressing.

If there are any helpful tips you know of that have helped you to learn a new language, please feel free to share them!

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