Folium: The Science of Learning a New Language via Lifehacker
It is a natural instinct for children to learn new languages, but as we get older, it becomes more difficult to learn and retain new languages. A child’s brain has much more plasticity, or the ability to create new neurons and synapses. By adulthood, this ability is greatly reduced. As a result, adults are at a major disadvantage when it comes to learning new languages. If you have attempted to learn a second language as an adult, you have surely found the great difficulty that so many other people are also experiencing. However, there are many great techniques that will make this cumbersome task much simpler.
Perhaps the most straightforward of the techniques is to practice a little every day. Have you ever found that by beginning to study for a big exam weeks before produces a better grade than trying to cram everything in the night before? Well, the same goes for learning a language. Our brains only have a limited amount of short term memory space. So, if you practice your second language a little bit every day rather than big chunks sporadically, that second language will most definitely come easier.
On that same note, practicing before going to sleep will strengthen your language skills. Sleeps acts as a short term memory clearance. When we are sleeping, things we’ve just recently learned are moved from our short term memory to our long term memory.
Spaced repetition is a proven memory technique that is especially useful while learning a new language. By reviewing what you have learned in spaced intervals, beginning with small intervals and gradually getting larger, the information you have learned will become stronger in your mind and more easily accessible. This method goes hand in hand with mixing new and old. When you learn new words and phrases, try mixing them with words and phrases you have already learned. This will allow your brain to latch on to the new words and phrases more easily since there is a natural connection with those that you have already memorized.
Finally, study the content, not the language whenever possible. This means that instead of just trying to learn a second language, learn about another topic in that second language. Once you have mastered the basics of a language, pick a topic that you are interested in and learn about it in your second language. This will perhaps increase the motivation to understand what you are reading or listening to.
Once you’ve mastered the basics of a new language, try including some content on a topic you’re interested in to improve your understanding. You could have conversations with friends learning the same language, read articles online or listen to a podcast to test your comprehension. – The Crew Blog
Any adult who has tried to learn a second language has most likely come to the same conclusion: it is very difficult. However, by using the methods which are laid out in more detail in the full article, this universally difficult assignment will come more naturally.
[Ed.] Check out the Resources below for a more detailed guide on how to successfully study languages!
- Lifehacker: The Science of Learning a New Language
- The Crew Blog: The Science of Learning New Languages
- SprinkerLink/Gleitman: Biological Predispositions to Learn Language
- Duolingo.com (Free Language Study!)
The LEAF Project
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