Readers’ Blog

How to Learn (Anything, Especially Languages)

Viewed 485 times 2018-12-23 07:14 |Personal category:Consulting|System category:Life

First, have a great attitude. This is essential in everything. 

When we are learning, we make mistakes. We feel burdened. We feel bored. We feel discouraged. Keeping a positive attitude, creating healthful 

pattern, so practice, so get reward,

positive feedback cycles, and creating an encouraging environment are all essential to learning well. 



Time management and self-discipline is the next most important quality good students all share. Learn to use those precious 10-minute breaks: 
1. New material needs to be re-read immediately. 
2. Instead of merely reading material a 3rd time, reformat it into Question and Answer bits on flashcards. Play memory games with your flashcards regularly.
3. Use your 10-minute breaks between classes to get your homework done, or review a set of flashcards. 

While learning new procedures such as scientific solutions or new language grammar, in the beginning get your practice work checked immediately and tell the teacher the reason you want it checked: because you don't want to be practicing any mistakes. 

Plan your day, plan your week, and most importantly, observe yourself to note the times of day when you are most awake, to plan the activities that need your attention for that time of day. Suppose you are great at writing essays, struggling in math, and you're a morning person: then you may want to practice math in the morning and write essays in the afternoon. 



The third most important preparation habit is to duplicate exam conditions. If your school plays rock and roll music during final exams, then it's a great idea to do homework while listening to rock and roll, because that way, your brain habituates the music with the work and the subjects. All the caffeine, sugar, sleep, exercise, noise habits that you have, are all part of how your brain is habituated to doing the work for your classes, and on exam day many students give their brains a big shock: 
- insufficient sleep,
- too much caffeine, 
- skipped the morning exercise routine, 
- who turned the music off? 
- let's fill the gap with sugar... no?

Great students who habitually create great exam results do their homework in close to exam conditions: silence, good sleep, the same amount of nutrition, caffeine and sugar regardless of the day, and a controlled environment for exercise so the routine can't be changed by an external factor. 


Special hints for language learners:

Beginner students memorize vocabulary and grammar, and flashcards are useful in that phase. Listen to as much of the target language as possible to increase intuition. 

Intermediate students start experiencing gaps in communication, intended messages not getting through although all the words are translated. These students need to know the intended audience better. For example, I teach TOEFL preparation students logic and fallacy rejection that isn't in the syllabus, but that gives them easy scripts to learn for various question patterns so they make sense to westerners without needing to memorize a ton of new vocabulary - it's efficient. When you say it to them their way, you said it right.  Read as much of the target language as possible to increase intuition. 

Nearly fluent students are back to the niggly details that are suitable for flashcards, having gotten a good intuitive grasp on the target language already. Find a safe environment where kind teachers correct you, to practice writing as much as possible; continue reading to improve your fluency, but use writing practice to fish out the bugs. 


A great online flashcard tool is Quizzlet. 


I hope this blog is helpful for you. If it is, please let me know. 

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)


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  • Teaching English in Many Places 2019-3-28 14:10

    You have lived some countries and collected some amazing experiences while teaching English.
    Its a kind of great property to lead a happy life.
    I suggest you to write a book about students' feelings while learning English which can depict a learning style of some countries too and that includes your  teaching methods too.
    good write up dear sister! Cheers!!

  • Teaching English in Many Places 2019-3-28 02:45

    "The different regions in East Asia have different cultures."

    I wonder how each may interpret the Batman movie line, "Have you ever danced, in the pale moonlight?"I never let the moonlight into my home, it is forbidden. Our police say the crime rate fluctuates with the lunar cycle.

    "Will you have dinner with me and my friends?"

    What if one of them likes salmon?

    "It's a riddle, isn't it?"

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