Category: Memory

Think Images Not Words

Written by Yuri Karabatov. Tell me what you think on Twitter.

Language learners of all ages use word lists to learn foreign words. Are they as effective as they seem?

Word lists, however simple they are, are deceptive. Without you noticing it, they change the way you speak and think, making your speech in foreign language slow and hesitant.

What to do? How to avoid this?

Let’s look in detail at how thoughts become words.

Read on »

Gesture Your Way to Fluency

Written by Yuri Karabatov. See what I have to share on Twitter.

All people gesture when they speak: gestures help get the meaning across almost as well as words.

Gestures, however, are much more than that. We can use them not only to convey meaning, but to learn it.

You can literally gesture your way to fluency.

Let me show you how.

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Learn Just for Fun

Written by Yuri Karabatov. Follow me on Twitter.

Study is hard work,” school taught us. “Dare to bash the granite of knowledge!

This attitude to knowledge became ingrained in our souls: chalk, ink and sweat. As a finger-smashing ruler, it stops us doing the impossible.

Succumbing to the calm of TV and remaining ignorant is easier.

It’s high time to banish this conspiracy of difficulty from our minds.

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How to Memorize Kana in 60 Minutes

Written by Yuri Karabatov. Follow me on Twitter.

I’ve finally started on Japanese, and there’s not much time until December, when I’m taking the JLPT.

My mission for today was to memorize all Japanese kana characters, most of which you can see in the picture.

Kana Chart

I tried to do it once, several years ago, and failed miserably. It took me three days and even then I confused the characters. Those three days were my first and last days of learning Japanese.

This time, it took me 60 minutes.

What did I do right this time?

Read on »

The Simplest Way to Improve Memory

To achieve the impossible dream, try going to sleep. ~Joan Klempner

Oh well, after reading the quote you must have guessed already what I will be writing about today. It will be sleep, good and bad. What has it got to do with language learning, you ask? You will see. Soon, I promise! Keep reading.

There are lots of sayings and quotations about sleep, like the one up there under the post title. Many of them are about insomnia, or lack of sleep.

Sleep deprivation

I bet that at least once you have looked at your worn out self in the mirror after a sleepless night, and maybe a day after it, and maybe yet another night, and hoped it was not you. You aren’t five years older and don’t have those blood-shot eyes! What you may have seen is a result of severe sleep deprivation: your body craves sleep but doesn’t get it. You feel bad, your head hurts, thoughts fall down on themselves and you wake up in strange places, not knowing how you got there. This is a rare condition and doesn’t happen too often. You can just sleep a lot afterwards and be as good as new.

But there is another case of sleep deprivation which you may not be totally aware of, because you live with it every day. It is chronic sleep deprivation, and it’s much worse than the previous one, because you stop noticing it after a while and think that things are the way they should be, which, of course, is not the case.

Read on »

Language Courses Don’t Work for You? Find out Why

How did people learn languages when there were no textbooks? Human brain is not a copybook to put words in, it is a complex system, which is unique to each person. Language acquisition is closely tied to memory, and brain has a lot of ways to memorize.

Despite the fact that we are thinking in terms of words, our brains did not change much in the last several dozen thousands of years. The best way to memorize something is still by using all five senses at once, which is contrary to our reading columns of new words over and over again.

The more senses are used to memorize a new word, the better. Imagine a mother teaching her child what a book is. She says the word and rustles the pages, shows the book to the child, lets the baby touch it and smell it. The baby makes sure to taste the book as well. See? All five senses present. No wonder children learn new words so fast!

Besides, such natural learning is fun and engaging. Instead of straining your back over incomprehensible strings of letters it’s much easier to actually see and touch things. Well, of course you can’t avoid some chores like grammar altogether, but they can be made more fun.

People often forget that any language is meant for speaking with other people. There’s no point in studying a language if you are not going to use it for speaking, extensive reading or just enjoying its beauty. Being able to speak to other people or read poems in the target language inspires. That’s why it’s so sad to see goals like “study this whole textbook by the end of the year” at schools: when all exercises are complete, you don’t know what to do next and how to actually use the language.

Language may come naturally with little to no writing at all. However, you should write to polish your grammar: in many languages a lot of it works only for written text. You shouldn’t be obsessed with it like some of the language courses’ authors. Two thick tomes dedicated to minor grammatical intricacies won’t take you anywhere.

Thus we come to language courses. I’ve seen many, and most of them are disappointing. Why? Because they neglect so much. They are content-oriented and don’t give a damn about students. “Here’s the material, memorize it and you’re good to go.” Yes, their content is sometimes brilliant, but not their methods of teaching. Students are presented with the material and the exercises, but no instructions on how to actually study.

What does a common student do when sitting in front of a column of new words? Well, read them until they stick, of course. That’s exactly what most people do. Some have been taught what to do elsewhere, but they are a minority. Most language courses do not address this issue at all, ignore it altogether and leave no choice of learning new material but to repeat it until it is memorized.

Yes, I see a point in sole repetition: people are different and repetition is the basic technique which works for everyone. Oh, really? We would still be in the Stone Age if we used this “one-fits-all” principle. Progress is made by individuals, and they are all different. Each student has strengths, and they should be leveraged, but how can one leverage his or her strengths, if one is not aware of them? People can only choose what to do after they know what they can do apart from the “basic” technique.

This excessive use of repetition not only makes the courses boring, but also painfully slow. Repetition takes time and much effort, eliminating fun and joy of communication, which slows progress even more and depletes motivation to study, which is not infinite. A way to avoid!

Fortunately, we are now aware of the other way: more natural and enjoyable, which leverages a person’s strengths and interests, keeps motivation up and inspires to walk an extra mile.

I will teach you how to avoid common mistakes when starting on a new language, how to use your brain’s abilities to the fullest when studying, how to use mnemonics and train your memory to study faster, how minor details matter a lot — and how not to miss them. I will show you how to make learning a new language enjoyable and hassle-free. Don’t worry, it’s not another marketing scam: you won’t be able to avoid the difficult bits, so sit tight and hang on to your helmet!

I bet you’ve heard the saying “practice what you preach”.  It’s what I’m going to do on this blog: I will pick a language and will study it using the tips and How-To’s which I will be posting on the blog. In the end I will take a certified exam to prove that my methods work. Neat, isn’t it? :)

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