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1.7 When To Learn


This blog briefly exposes two intertwined challenges: where to find the time to learn and how to make the most of that time.


When we are actively engaged in a professional career and/or in family life, it is often the case that free time is in short supply and hence appears next to impossible to find.


To ensure we progress speedily, there are twelve simple and related issues we need to consider. For example: time needs, avoiding conflicts with priorities, relevance of activities and efforts, optimum training technology, momentum building, life-style, language trainer choice, etc. All contribute to bringing fluency in your desired language closer.


 In this blog, I’ll briefly touch upon the four challenges highlighted in bold above.


 Time needs


To get a serious grip on a language requires being able to use on autopilot, words, structures and phrases in the real world as quickly as possible.


A fluent speaker understands vocabulary and expressions naturally and can use them in context, at will. To acquire such a register with speed calls for a particular focus on the last two key steps of memory building: storing in the mind skillfully selected information and retrieving it.  Most of our efforts and actions must therefore centre on integrating fully such words whilst… counter-intuitively restricting the intake of new ones. 


To progress well, we only need a few timely opportunities to engage with relevant material.  Several minutes a day, here and there, are sufficient to build an initial good base. Once such habits become second nature, reaching for the highest levels may take place as a matter of course. Understanding what activities best match these few minutes a day is a prerequiste for speedy progress.  


Avoiding time conflict with priorities


Contrary to belief, the first potentially big time hurdle standing in the way of linguistic progress is not long standing existing priorities. It is the fact that we may choose to initially ignore them, encroach upon their territory and steal time away from them. This state of affairs, which you may have already experienced in previous attempts, and which I have witnessed time and time again as a trainer, invariably leads to the same disappointments. The initial drive into deeply entrenched habits and well-oiled routines soon faces resistance. Before long, a push-back mechanism is triggered.  When this occurs, the learning resolutions predictably face a seemingly insurmountable challenge:  either curtailing old routines which proved successful in the past and by doing so taking the risk of losing their contribution, or scaling down the language dream. More often than not, option two takes care of itself.


Hence, an uptream set of techniques to deal with this highly predictable obstacle is crucial for success.


Optimum training technology


To recognise the sounds of a foreign language and speak it reasonably quickly, you must be exposed to it virtually daily. A lack of opportunity leads to a potential quadrupling of learning time and, in most instances, prevents any substantial progress.


As examined at length in the book, using the right technology is crucial to generate and support favorable learning conditions. To this end, you need to purchase a small portable sound recorder/player. As its first advantage, the device supplies a sound environment which replicates that of the target language.


Beyond its immediate and more obvious impact, two recent key technological breakthroughs are now contributing spectacularly to progress by matching perfectly eardrum requirements and enhancing hearing abilities. A smart grasp of these tools and how to use them will ease your way to fluency faster.


Language trainer choice      


When you venture into a new field, you may be tempted to go it alone. However, reinventing and recreating the wheel is a costly activity especially in terms of time. In the case of language learning, discovering and crossing hindering mind barriers on your own is likely to take a few years at best. At worst, in the face of arduous, painful resistances and seemingly insurmountable obstacles, you may simply experience a change of heart and mind and decide to stop.


Using the service of professional trainers will not only help you through the roadblocks as they arise but also keep you focused on the task at hand and maintain the momentum.


In broad terms, there are two types of trainers: those who master process and input and those who only grasp the content. As an example, the first ones understand learning pitfalls, fast lanes, progress curves, memory etc, as well as the nuts and bolts of a language. The latter only perceive vocabulary and grammar as essential. 


Whilst the first breed is much rarer, to optimise time you need both types. The expertise of the first ones unlock competences and fine-tune learning material whilst the second ones provide a larger diversity of inputs such as a different voice and tone or another range of interest and resulting vocabulary.  



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