Imagine having a car. You drive it to work, you go out of town. What if you forget to maintain it? Oh, you put in the oil when you remember to but you haven’t yet added grease to the axles or you might get around to checking on that noise next week. How long do you think the car will run before it breaks down? Here’s another scenario: Have you ever been at work and switched your lunch hour with the boss so he could keep a business lunch appointment? With a rumbling stomach, it is hard to concentrate on the task in front of you. You feel tired, sluggish, and even a little irritable. You definitely will not be performing to the best of your ability.
Making the Brain Work
In order to function properly, a car needs regular maintenance – gas, oil, grease, new parts, etc. In a similar way, the brain needs a constant supply of proteins, carbohydrates, water, vitamins, and minerals to maintain it. Sugars found in fruits and vegetables give the brain the power and energy needed to function. Foods that are high in protein have amino acids that keep the neurotransmitters working (like an instant messaging system in the brain). Healthy fats keep the brain oiled up to work smoothly. A lack of one or some of these food sources can cause the brain to slow down and not function to its full capability. This will cause confusion and irritability; you’ll be easily distracted and feel tired.
When learning a language, it will take some power and energy from the brain to learn and memorize and use what you’re learning in a conversation. The sluggish, tired feelings will serve to distract you and keep you frustrated because you’re not “getting it”. Keeping it running properly will help improve your concentration and your short-term memory, thus aiding your language learning and all your daily tasks.
Another thing the brain needs, though, is plenty of rest. Whatever you are studying – be it a language, or information for an exam, the brain needs to rest so it can make any necessary “tune-ups” and repairs. It also uses the rest time to file away what you’ve learned into your long-term memory so it can be used later when you need it.
The Bottom Line
To help you learn a language, you will need balanced nutrition, adequate sleep, and even some exercise to keep your engine running and improve your performance.
Try It Out
Make yourself a chart and for a month keep track of your eating and sleeping habits. Is there any place you can make improvements? A couple of good ideas are to probably eat out less often and eat more at home. What healthier foods can you try out? As for your sleeping habits, what can you do to be sure you get a good amount of sleep? (6-8 hours is usually recommended.) You’ll be surprised at how much better you’ll feel and how alert you’ll be as you continue in your lessons.