Transparent Language Blog

Learn How to Learn Before Learning a Language Posted by on Jun 10, 2015 in Archived Posts

learn efficientlyLearning a language takes time and effort. You can cut down on both by having the right strategies and tools at your disposal. That’s why I recommend investing time in learning how to learn before diving in to a new language on your own.

In all your years of schooling, you were likely never taught how to learn effectively and efficiently and you probably didn’t think too much of it. After all, school is compulsory to a certain level and you can easily get by just going through the motions. But when it comes to self-guided learning, going through the motions won’t get you very far. Especially with a subject as dense as another language, it’s easy to stagnate, get discouraged, or give up altogether.

According to Barbara Oakley, who is co-teaching one of world’s largest online classes entitled Learning How to Learn, “learning how to learn is the most powerful tool you can grasp.” In her TEDx talk, seen below, she outlines a few keys to learning effectively, including:

  • Switching between the focused and diffuse modes of thinking. In the focused mode, your brain makes several similar attempts to solve a problem, as if it has a predetermined path to the solution. In the diffuse mode, your brain is unfamiliar with the problem and jumps more freely from idea to idea in search of a solution. The most effective learning with go as far as possible in focused mode before switching to diffuse mode when you get stuck.
  • Fighting procrastination with the Pomodoro Technique. This approach involves 25 minute periods of intense focus followed by small breaks. Relaxation is an important part of the learning process—don’t burn yourself out or spin your wheels aimlessly.
  • Testing yourself multiple ways to ensure recall. Understanding the material doesn’t mean you’ve mastered it and will remember it in the long term.

Naturally, there is far more to learn about learning than one brief TED Talk can provide. Below is recommended reading list, curated to help you improve various aspects of your language learning routine, from reading speed to recall:

If you have any resources, tips, or tricks you’d like to share, leave them in the comments. Let’s grow this list and build an army of efficient language learners!

(Note: I am not affiliated with Coursera , I discovered this course via renowned language learner Benny Lewis and thought it was well worth a share!)

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About the Author: meaghan

Meaghan is the Marketing Communications Manager at Transparent Language. She speaks enough French and Spanish to survive, and remembers enough Hausa to say "Hello my name is Meaghan, I'm studying Hausa." (But sadly that's it).

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