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3 Unusual Ways To Accelerate Learning A Language-January 2020

2020-Off to a roaring start!

It’s a new year, bursting with exciting opportunity! In addition to promoting our upcoming courses, we will talk about three innovative and proven methods for learning languages and explore a link between eating hot dogs and fluid intelligence. Are you sitting comfortably? Great! Then let’s begin!

3 Unusual Ways To Accelerate Learning A Language.

We are thrilled to share with you some unusual research based ways to accelerate learning a new language. These suggestions first appeared in the BPS Research Digest of July of 2019.

Although this article focuses on using these techniques to learn languages, the principles can certainly be applied in the classroom. 1) Passive Listening Learning a new language involves hearing distinct speech sounds that may be totally different than what you are accustomed to in your native tongue. Of course, to actually learn new vocabulary you must know the meaning of each new word you learn. Still, it is very important for your brain to be regularly exposed to, even submerged, in the sounds of the target language. This will accelerate the brain’s auditory and motor cortex to separate and duplicate the sounds of the target language. So, having your students passively listening for 5-10 minutes to the vocabulary you will be teaching them, will contribute to their being able to use the language more rapidly. This segment of your classes can be done at the beginning of your lesson to prime their minds for the new vocabulary, or at the end of the lesson to reinforce what they learned. Check out this case study: [Passive Exposure to Speech Sounds Modifies Change Detection Brain Responses In Adults]

2) The “spaced effect” Research indicates that taking breaks, even long breaks, between learning something and revising study is the optimal way to implant and retrieve new things into your long-term memory. Typically, a 10 percent rule is used. The article, “5 unusual, evidence-based ways to get better at a new language,”* explains the rule this way.” You should space your revision periods at intervals of roughly 10% of the total time you’d really like to retain those memories. If you’ve got a test coming up in a month, say, then you should revise what you learn today in about two or three days’ time. But if you want to remember something over the longer term, so that your performance peaks in a year’s time, then it’s sensible to revisit that information once a month.” Converting this idea to a language class means you would schedule your regular revision sessions according to the length of your course. For example, a three month course comprised of 3 one hour sessions a week would mean that you would dedicate one hour for revision every 3 or 4 hours of instruction. Can’t argue with the facts. See this study: [Improving Students’ Long-Term Knowledge Retention Through Personalized Review]

3) Have a drink?

As innovative and dynamic our TESOL program is, we haven’t devised any methods that incorporate booze into a teaching method. That said, a 2017 study by Fritz Renner and colleagues found that moderate consumption of alcohol may prove to be beneficial to the learning a new language. Their subjects who drank enough vodka to generate a moderate blood alcohol concentration of about 0.04 percent actually preformed better in the test scenario than did the ones who drank water. One possible reason is that, “some people feel nervous when speaking in a foreign language. It may be that the anxiety-reducing effects of a relatively small amount of alcohol improved their performance.” How can you use the results of this empirical research in your classrooms?….. Well, we will leave that up to you!

Keep Your Students Moving!

Enthusiastically using the methods and principles we teach in our TESOL course certainly will contribute to accelerating your students’ progress. A common theme of our course stresses the critical role that movement or exercise plays during the teaching sessions. In his book “Brain Rules.” neuroscientist John Medina sets out twelve ways to optimize the brain’s potential. Rule number one is: “Exercise Boosts Brain Power.”

Medina’s decades of research show that fluid intelligence, the type that requires improvisatory problem-solving skills, is weakened by a sedentary lifestyle. “Improvisatory problem-solving skill” is exactly the type of intelligence that language learners, particularly beginners, need access to every time they enter your classroom or the unpredictable arena of real-time exposure to the new language. What does Joey Chestnut, the 2019 hot dog eating champion (71 hot dogs in 12 minutes) have intrinsically in common with every typical eater on the planet? A lifesaving dependence on oxygen to combat free radicals. Our students probably (hopefully) eat a diet far different that Joey’s during this competition but regardless of what any of us eat, the foodstuffs are turned into glucose by our marvellously designed stomach, then this is absorbed into the bloodstream where it is deposited into millions of cells. There, chemicals rip apart the molecules to extract its sugar energy. This process results in very dangerous waste products called free radicals. Left on their own, they can cause great long-term harm to the body and slow down fluid intelligence. As Medina says, “The reason you don’t die of electron overdose is that the atmosphere is full of breathable oxygen. The main function of oxygen is to act like an efficient electron-absorbing sponge. At the same time the blood is delivering foodstuffs to your tissues, it is also carrying these oxygen sponges. Any excess electrons are absorbed by the oxygen and, after a bit of molecular alchemy, are transformed into equally hazardous—but now fully transportable— carbon dioxide.” Now, what part of the body needs to have large amounts of glucose (energy) and therefore is potentially exposed to large amounts of free radicals? You guessed right! The brain! In fact, studies show that while “the brain represents only about 2 percent of most people’s body weight, it accounts for about 20 percent of the body’s total energy usage.” Since learning a language requires so much concentration, you can imagine the mental energy your students require to learn new vocabulary and the grammar of the language you are teaching.

What role does exercise, and movement play in the classroom? Medina concludes, “Exercise does not provide the oxygen and the food. It provides your body greater access to the oxygen and the food. When you exercise, you increase blood flow across the tissues of your body. This is because exercise stimulates the blood vessels to create a powerful, flow-regulating molecule called nitric oxide. As the flow improves, the body makes new blood vessels, which penetrate deeper and deeper into the tissues of the body. This allows more access to the bloodstream’s goods and services, which include food distribution and waste disposal. The more you exercise, the more tissues you can feed and the more toxic waste you can remove.” So, fellow teachers, keep your students moving and energetic during your classes! Keep those “hot dog radicals” away from their minds by avoiding long study sessions that involve passive sitting. The methods we teach and practise during our seminar promote exercise and movement which will keep your students engaged, mentally alert and their fluid intelligence sharp.

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