As a language coach and member of an active language community online, I often find myself considering the dilemma of posting ‘off-brand’ content that may not feel like it relates to the audience. My posts about self-improvement or self-care most certainly get less engagement and on Instagram and 15% of my audience said they weren’t very interested in self-improvement on the whole.
Despite these numbers, I’m still compelled to share food for thought around effectiveness, simple living, behavioural science and self-care. I simply cannot separate the importance of these basic principles from what’s necessary to the journey of an effective learner. Though I also tend to believe these areas are necessary for all areas of success, it’s even more so the truth for language learners and students. Here are four reasons why I believe the topics to be inseparable:
Language learning is essentially building a new mindset for the acquisition of information that you’ve never experienced through any other discipline.
Language learning is a completely different learning experience from math, science or social studies. Memorising and storing the information for later use is not enough when it comes to a language. We need to interact with the languages in such a way that we create strong connections with the information both to things in our environments and to the words themselves. We have to create a web of information that strings itself together naturally, and automatically- etched into our muscle memory. This takes a whole new approach and mindset towards learning. We can’t compartmentalise between “study time” and “living time” as we do with other things. We have to be open to weaving the information into our space, and open to intruding our comfort zones with languages. As languages need to have an upfront seat in our lives to see progress, that means that our minds and lifestyle must be optimised and considered to truly acquire a language.
The act of becoming a polyglot is in essence “inefficient” as far as the brain is concerned, and therefore needs a brain hacker to achieve.
Our brains, essentially, go about the day trying to help you exert the least amount of effort possible. Of course, to the brain, that counts as efficiency. It’s also a reason why we so often end up building terrible habits so hard to break. Why eat a full meal when a chocolate bar has SO much immediate sugar? Why make the effort to build a sleeping routine? I mean we have coffee. The brain suggests quick fixes to things, to our benefit or detriment.
Let’s think about language now. The brain spends much of its early life slowly figuring out words and grammar, in fact, we go on to polish and add to our vocabulary and communication skills for 18 to 30 years. Communication is necessary, so the brain was willing, but would the brain find doing it all over again when we already have a functioning communication system efficient? Not so much.
As a result, it’s up to us to hack behavioural science and work with our brain who is working against us and our language goals. The more we find out about ourselves, how we function and respond to challenges, the better equipped we’ll be to learn languages.
Language learning takes consistency over time. There’s no avoiding the grind here
This information isn’t new for anyone in the language community. Language learning takes time, and it takes consistency. One study session- no matter how effective they were, is not going to produce long-lasting results. In fact, my experience is that the longer I took absorbing information over a longer period of time, is the longer the information stuck in my head, even years after. Whereas information I crammed and perhaps could remember well over a short period of time was the first to go as time passed.
With studying languages being as rigorous of a project as it is, it is essential that we learn how to manage our time and energy as to not be faced with language burnout or long hiatus.
In the end, it’s clear from multiple angles that languages and personal development go hand in hand. Not only are we building up our brain and fighting Dementia as we add new languages under our belts, but we’re embarking on a journey of self-discipline, energy management and healthy productivity.
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