6 Aspects of a Successful Language Learning

Dear learner, how many times you’ve said that starting next Monday, next month or next year you will begin to learn and to practice more to improve your English (or any other language you learn)?
It is true that only you can know how hard it is to learn a new language for you particularly, but the problem is not only in how difficult this is, it is also in your approach of learning a language.
In this article, I decided to share with you 6 aspects of a Successful Language Learning from a Psychological Perspective as understanding your brain mechanism could help you in this attempt.

Number 1.  You have to answer to yourself “WHY?”.
It seems that our brain needs a very clear answer at this question before he would truly decide to take action. Psychologist noticed that our brain is banning any unexplained action, so, before you proceed with your next attempt of learning a language, you must find a clear reasonable motivation for doing it.

Number 2. Promise yourself you will do it and keep your promise. It is proven that people tend to keep their promises better if they share and engage with someone into the same task. Simply find a teacher or a tutor that will support and will help you to keep going toward your goal.

Number 3. Pay attention to your feelings, neuroscientist observed that people perform the best when they are in a balance between boredom and overexcitement. Your emotions could make you quit or continue until you succeed. Learning should be interesting and fun.

Number 4. Our brain is the best simulating machine ever – use it. Don’t wait for the opportunities to speak in the language you are learning, self-talk is a normal manifestation and why not to use it for language practice?

Number 5. Practice. Practice. Practice. Many studies have shown that the secret of successful learners is not their intelligence, not their natural abilities, and not even the conditions in which they study or with whom they study. The only trait that actually drives people to success is their perseverance. So be gritty! Don’t stop until you will reach your goal.

Number 6. Always push yourself further. The only way of growing is through continuous challenges. You should always keep extending your activities in the language you are learning as time and difficulty otherwise you will not evolve. At this step, I always remember a phrase I heard and works for me perfectly “Don’t practice until you do it, practice until you cannot do it wrong.”

Learning a language is a long process that requires commitment and determinations by the other hand the reward of communicating freely with people from all other the world worths all the effort.

10 Philosophical Principles To Be Brought In The classroom

     The role of a teacher is to transmit to his students the knowledge he had acquired in a certain field, but is it only this?
Looking into the eyes of young learners you can see how they look for a personality to follow, someone they can take also as an example, someone which is more than a robotic information transmitter, someone that has a spirit that inspires to evolve and develop.
It is already obvious that the teachers of the future will face a huge challenge in the competition with the machines that will most probably take their place, but this could happen only if teachers continue to see themselves as information transmitting machines.
Recently, I received a message on Facebook.  A young man’s picture popped in “Thank you for all you have done for me”. When I opened the picture, in my mind, reappeared an image of a 12 years old boy looking at me, I was all that his big black eyes could embrace in that minute…

” – Honestly Miss, do you think I should do this?
  – Definitely, if this is what you like to do and especially because keep doing it you will become better and better every day.”

Nine years ago I was still a school teacher, I was teaching history but I encouraged one of my pupils to develop one of his passions for web designing by creating a website for history passionates, and he did it. Now, he is an adult, and guess what he works as a web designer. He found me by accident but he felt he had to thank me for encouraging him to develop his passion.
Teachers, especially those that work with young learners, even if not aware of it, have incredible superpowers and at the same time a huge responsibility.  Society is evolving faster and faster,  now more than ever before, the future requires teachers first to transmit values, feelings and warmth and only after the knowledge they possess.

     In this article, I gathered 10 Philosophical Principles that need to be brought in the classroom because first of all, we need to educate humans and only after professionals.

     Wisdom is universal, it cannot be identified with a culture, ethnic or religion, wisdom is what we continuously work to acquire and is what we try to transmit to the next generation as the biggest value we have.

Thoughts from antiquity

  • Strong minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, weak minds discuss people. (Socrate)
    We should teach our children that actions speak louder than our words and what we do is what defines us.
  • Without training, they lacked knowledge. Without knowledge, they lacked confidence. Without confidence, they lacked victory. (Julius Caesar)
    Among the thinkers of the ancient times, I especially admire Caesar, as he was not just a thinker but also a doer, he knew how to apply his knowledge into practice. This is a quality we need to cultivate in our learners, as knowledge is nothing without the ability to use it outside the classroom.
  • The man who moves the mountain begins by carrying away small stones. (Confucius)
    Children dream big, instead of doubting their dream’s likeliness we should encourage them to take their first small steps into that direction and let their potential flourish.
  • Enjoy the work. Results are inevitable. (Budha)
    Teaching children to do what they like means to teach them how to never work in their life and this for sure will help them to become successful in the future.
  • You must be the change you want to see in the world. (Mahatma Gandhi)
    True that the change starts inside of us and teaching children changing the world through them will actually change the world in the future.

Thoughts from modernity

  • A team is not a group of people that work together. A team is a group of people that trust each other. (Simon Sinek)
    We should teach them that great relationships are built on trust, to relate successfully with others we need to be reliable and to choose around us people on which we can rely. Teamwork and fair play are what future will ask from them.
  • The respect you give to others is a dramatic reflection of the respect you give yourself. (Robin Sharma)
    Children need to learn to respect themselves and at the same time others. These two are interrelated and give shape to all human interactions.
  • When you compete with a person, you only have to be as good or better than the person to win. If you compete with yourself, there is no limitation to how good you can be. (Chin-Ning Chu)
    When you understand that the only person you compete with is you of yesterday you become limitless. Any learner should be appreciated according to his own evolution and not through comparison.
  • You should learn from your competitor but never copy. Copy and you die. (Jack Ma)
    We need to encourage children to play with ideas and to create new concepts starting from what it is known, being unique and creative is what makes people different than machines and this is what will help them in the future.
  • The only way to do great work is to love what you do. (Steve Jobs)
    We should teach children to be passionate about what they do because passion makes the difference between very good and exceptional.

As an ending thought valid for both teachers and learners, we cannot be good at everything but we can be THE BEST at something and always remember what Albert Einstein said: “If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

Take care of you and your learners – teachers with superpowers.

Where is the finish?

We live in a world in which not being native is no longer an acceptable excuse for not speaking English. At the moment in the world, are 1500 million people that speak English and only 375 million are native speakers.

English gained its status of Lingua Franca in the second half of the 20th century. In our days, people communicate, trade, establish new connections, study and build almost everything using English. English is everywhere from science and business to entertainment and common daily usage. The truth is that the position of English as spoken language evolved a lot in the past decades; if 20 years ago the fact that you were speaking English could assure you a good job position, in our days it is a must-have ability among all the other skills you possess. In any company, speaking English will not make you stand from the crowd but the way you speak it might do it.

There are several extremely valuable benefits of Speaking English Fluently.

Maybe you never thought of this but speaking English correctly saves time. Any language is a tool, including English, possessing it rightly helps you to do the needed faster and better. Imagine you need to give some instructions or to explain at which stage is the project you are working for, or to request some directions, with a limited vocabulary you will need more time to explain the same meaning, it will be more stressful and less effective.

Speaking English at a high level will lower the chance of a misunderstanding in the communication process and this is economically efficient. Misunderstandings cost time and money, there were situations in which a single comma cost companies billions, now, let’s be honest why should we take this risk?

Speaking English fluently works for a better image, don’t limit yourself to the vocabulary that is needed for your daily tasks at work, it will come a moment in which you will need to attend a conference, an important meeting or a formal dinner, being able to treat freely various topics will help you to shine and who knows maybe it will help you to obtain a lifetime deal.

Speaking freely English is emotionally rewarding. Our personal life is not less important, imagine you meet the partner of your dreams and you are not able to communicate your feelings appropriately just because you don’t speak English good enough? How frustrating would this be? Any further explanations are useless.

Please take a moment and recall a situation in which you needed to speak English and you couldn’t.  The moment in which you want to speak and you don’t have enough words is extremely frustrating, I am sure we all have had this kind of experiences, to go back in time and change them is impossible, but it is possible to gather all these emotions and to start to improve our English level so we would never experience this frustration ever again.

Learning a language is a very long process, often students feel tempted to quit going on this apparently endless route. Don’t! Take a break but never quit! No matter what method you choose to improve your language level, the most important thing is to always keep practising, this is the only constant in Language Learning, this is the only reliable path that in time will inevitably take us to priceless rewards.

The Spiritual Birth

 

Next Monday, it happens to be the anniversary of 10 years since I’ve graduated university. My colleagues and I decided to organise a reunion and to meet our teachers at the Faculty. We thought that it would be nice to make a gift for the university as a symbol of gratitude.  All good until we had to decide what should this be. The faculty is not a person, actually, the faculty is just a building without our teachers, so the gift had to be for the people that represent the faculty. All our teachers are so different, they all manifest various interests and visions. What could fit for all of them at the same time?

The solution was in finding what is common between them. Thinking a little bit, I realise that their role in our personality definition process is what unites them. Our teachers had one of the biggest impacts on our formation before we became those of today. Indeed I thought, our personality is shown by the way we behave, feel, and think and our teachers changed us in all of these aspects.

In fact, personality is the result of knowledge acquirement and this is a continuous process, a process that never ends for each of us. In some periods of our life this process is more intense and in some periods of our life this process might seem almost static, what seems clear is that as personalities we are born from knowledge. This means that we reborn each time we acquire enough experience that changes our behavioural pattern, our way of thinking or the way we feel about people and things from our lives, as spirits, we born continuously.

Our teachers gave us their knowledge and experience in a limited period of time, this is why in our memory they are so connected to the idea of the personal formation process.
I thought that if I could transpose this idea into something material this would be the perfect gift for our teachers.
And I tried to do my best. String art is one of my hobbies, I thought that at least I could try to do something.
And this is the result, I called this work: ”The spiritual birth from the knowledge”

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I really hope that it was a successful attempt of an idea materialization if not, it is sure that it was made with a lot of good energy, from all my heart for all my dear teachers.

What started as a conundrum led me to another amazing discovery regarding human mind construction, a field which is so mysterious and difficult but fascinating at the same time. I felt like I had a revelation and I had to share it with you, my dear reader and I hope you like it.

Regards,

Victoria

The secret …

We are social human beings and to obtain something in the modern world we need to communicate with others. Our communicational skills directly influence our social status, career evolution, personal relationships etc. And usually, we communicate through conversations. To go further I think it is impetuous to explain what a conversation is, the most of the people would say that a conversation is a talk, and they are right, in a simplistic way a conversation is a talk.

According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, a conversation is:

(A) talk between two or more people in which thoughts, feelings, and ideas are expressed, questions are asked and answered, or news and information are exchanged.

So, it is a process in which Part A  is transmitting or exchanging information with Part B.

I think you will agree that holding a conversation itself is a pleasant activity. People enjoy to give and to get information, and the topics could vary from how is the weather to the philosophical approach of the happiness. People talk to make someone feel good or to make someone feel bad, and of course to amuse themselves. Conversation is everywhere; it is part of our daily routine. However, with all its importance, sometimes the process is not working.

What Part B receives is not equal to what Part A is transmitting and the communication doesn’t take place. This is frustrating as the target is not achieved.

What happens?

Generally, to receive information, we listen or read; to transmit, we speak or write. Each of these abilities has a different responsible zone in our brain. This means that even if you are very good at understanding when you read, you might face huge problems of understanding what people say, or you might be able to write very well and fail at speaking and vice-versa. To hold a successful conversation in any language you need to train your listening and speaking skills.

So… How to do that?

You might be surprised but you need only one thing to succeed in this attempt. Yes, only one thing, and this has nothing to do with your natural ability to learn languages. Many people reach a certain point in learning a language and they stop, they cannot advance further and they keep changing methods, schools, teachers etc., and all without a significant result, this discourage them and they start looking for all kind of explanations that would justify their situation. I’ve observed this dozen of times at my students’ behaviour and there is only one treatment in this case. The only solution is PATIENCE.  Yes, patience, if you take out the bread before the time from the oven, would you be pleased with the result? I imagine that not really. When you are in a hurry nothing comes out properly, you might be so absorbed of the idea to manage to learn faster that even in those short moments you find to allocate for studying you will not focus enough, in the end, this would only make the process longer and harder.

I am aware that we live in the century in which almost everything could be instant, asking patience from some, sounds like a mission impossible. But let’s do not forget that conversation itself requires us to be patient and willing to listen to the other person. With patience nothing is too hard, nothing is impossible, nothing is too far from us. With patience everything is achievable, everything is reachable and everything is possible.
Maybe patience is a virtue that worth to be developed not only for learning another language but also as a must-have skill in this super fast passing life.

Without patience you cannot give life, you cannot learn, you cannot evolve, you cannot do almost anything, this is why the secret is simple and hard at the same time – this is PATIENCE.
Developing your patience is difficult and it requires patience. How much of it do you think you have?

Do you remember your first teacher?

Do you remember your first teacher?

This is one of the questions I like to address to my students when I test their English level, answering it, they need to talk about a third person, they need to to use adjectives and they need to place the action in past, this gives me the opportunity to observe several parameters at the same time.  Last week a student asked back, what about you, do you remember your first teacher?  I smiled, in front of me appeared my mother’s face. A simple question opened the wideness of my mind’s perception. How could I miss this by now?! My mom was my first teacher. She taught me how to smile, to articulate my first word, to sing the first song, the make the first step, she taught me so many things and above all, she taught me to don’t stop at her world but to look for how to widen mine.

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She taught me to question everything as some things are not what they seem and she created an environment in which I could learn, explore and discover life in a safe way.

The first step, and one more step; step again and I am a mother too, the cycle started over.  I started to understand you at a whole new level, Mom, life is too short to show you enough gratitude for all you have done for me, I love you.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the first teachers in the world.

The Power of Comparison

People that know me will confirm that I rarely experience a hesitation before giving an answer or comment, in any situation when it comes to things I am passionate, I just cannot stay quiet.

Last week in the last minute of a lesson my student asked me:

Teacher, how am I evolving?  

I answered: You are making correct statements, negations and questions in 3 tenses present, past and future. You can ask help, directions and talk about you, your family and possessions and all this from zero in only 11 lessons, I would say that this is a good result.

No, teacher. How am I evolving compared to the other students you are teaching?

I had a long hesitation moment.  My brain pulled out another 5 questions – Why does he want me to compare him with others? And if others are learning faster, will he learn harder or will he stop learning because this might be interpreted as he would not be gifted… and if others learn slower will this make him feel somehow special or this will make him push himself less as he already acquires the information faster than other people.

From my point of view, the biggest advantage of private classes is that people can learn when they want and how much they want, they benefit of a personal learning plan adapted to their level and they advance in their rhythm.  So, why to compare us with others, in this case, as far as I see the person should focus only on himself and on his personal growth.

All day I thought why people compare themselves to others. I realised that I also do it; all people do it, but why? I made a research and it seems that this is a normal human behaviour.  People have a tendency to compare themselves to others and it is as automatic as any other human emotion. In daily life, we constantly judge ourselves and others about everything from intellectual merit to athletic prowess. A multitude of psychology studies have shown that comparisons with other people can be used as an effective means for self-evaluation, and conversely, people base judgments of other people on knowledge of their own traits. In the same time, the negative effects of comparisons keep us from our growth and embracing our greatest abilities.

The author Marco Wittmann, a doctoral student in cognitive neuroscience at the University of Oxford says: “We found that although people estimated their abilities on the basis of their own performance in a rational manner, their estimates of themselves were partly merged with the performance of others.” Another important conclusion was that interacting with high performers makes people feel more capable in cooperative team settings but less competent in competitive situations. “The findings potentially have implications for social interactions in the workplace as well as clinical disorders such as depression.”

According to a study published in Neuron, comparisons are often unfair, biased and almost always puts our focus in a place outside of ourselves. Ratings of our own abilities are strongly influenced by the performance of others.

Logically I wonder if comparing students and their performance is appropriate in a classroom.

Since I’ve started to work as a teacher I am continuously looking for methods that would raise the efficiency of the learning process to offer a maximum of knowledge in a minimum amount of time, I accept that some people might manifest a better performance if challenged, and some need competition to feel challenged and at the same time some people might block if confronted with others in a competition. The best way would be to understand your own way and follow it if today you know more than yesterday it means you’ve evolved and you are at least with one step closer to achieving your goal. Focus on the fact that not your speed but your persistence will make the difference for your growth in all fields. There may be times when competition is appropriate but to do not forget that the most appreciated manifestations of the humans such as love, gratitude, humility, empathy and generosity cannot be compared and on our life path exactly these are those that make the difference.

With best wishes for all my readers,

Victoria