Learning a language is one of the most fascinating endeavours you can undertake, enabling you to delve into the intricacies of human communication and allowing you to interact with far-off peoples and cultures. However, let’s face it, this can also be a most frustrating and overwhelming experience when you comprehend the shear breadth of what you still have to learn. Here are my three language learning hacks:

Foster a Positive Outlook

Prepare yourself to get things wrong. In order to store new vocabulary in your long term memory, you generally have to learn and then forget words up to seven times. Therefore, be persistent and accept that you are unlikely to be fluent after a couple of hours of practice. Language learning is all about delayed gratification where, with a good dose of perseverance, you will eventually find yourself communicating in this new language which is a feeling of achievement like no other. If you can accept this challenge, you will have a better outlook towards learning languages.

Create Stronger Neural Networks

Take advantage of your brain’s natural psychological processes to embed language in your memory. This means, when you come across a new word or idea, try and link it to ANY word or idea you already know – the more ridiculous or rude, the more you will remember it. For example, Arabic for university is jaame3, sandwiches at university are ‘jammier’. I know it seems silly at first and when I initially came across the idea of making associations to aid memory, I rejected it as cluttering the mind with too much unnecessary information. However, later on, I realised the real value of using previous learning to strengthen new neural connections. Rather than confusing the brain, associations do the opposite. Do you remember learning all kinds of mnemonics at school? This is the same premise. Another example might be house – bayt – where I keep my fishing ‘bait’. Try it out yourself!

Make Language Learning into a Habit

Everyone knows that little and often wins the language learning race. However, instilling this in practice is a lot harder than it seems, despite all the best intentions in the world. The solution is to form this into a habit. Habits are easiest to keep if you do them at the same time every day. Maybe you could always do five minutes of Arabic while you eat your breakfast, or why not learn Arabic during your commute to university or work rather than listen to music? Then, it will become second nature that when you are commuting, you are also learning Arabic and so on. Identify concrete goals such as I will do one Arabic Online task every weekday as this is much more achievable than the open-ended ‘I will study more’. Another key way to encourage yourself to keep this habit is to make it convenient – keep your mobile phone handy to access the free resources on ArabicOnline while you wait for the kettle to boil. If you are struggling to form this habit because of distractions, consider removing the obstacles. If you are tempted to listen to music on your commute instead, perhaps you should uninstall your music app on your phone.

I hope you find these hacks as useful as I have to cultivate long-lasting effective language learning habits.

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