For those who are conditioned to think that learning only happens in a classroom, the world of self-learning can be a little daunting. How do we best take advantage these new opportunities.
Make no mistake. Your interest in the subject is the essential driver of success. You can’t learn what you do not want to learn. Emotion is an important part of the learning process. If you are even moderately interested in a subject, give yourself a chance. The key is to get started. If you can create some pleasurable routines, you may find that the subject grows on you. “L’appetit vient en mangeant” (the appetite comes with eating) as they say in French.
Don’t expect to understand things, much less remember them, the first time you study them. Trust that things will get clearer as your brain comes to grips with new information. It is like a jig-saw puzzle or a cross-word puzzle. As you start to put the pieces together, or string the words together, the full picture becomes clearer. The brain learns all the time, but on its own schedule. Learning does not take place according to a schedule laid down by a curriculum or teacher. Some things are easier to learn than others. Some things just take longer to click in. Keep at it, and you will gradually find that things that seem difficult at first, will become second nature with time.
Your brain is struggling to form patterns to cope with new input from your learning activities. Sometimes, no matter how long you focus on one subject, your brain is not going to pick it up. If you are stuck, move on. Then cover the same general information from a different source, a different book, or a podcast, or an online lecture or a video. Try to become a grazing learner, roaming the countryside, rather than a feedlot learner, just standing there in one spot, munching on the same bale of hay. The broader your base, the easier it is to learn. Just as the “rich get richer”, the more you know, the more you can learn.
Take full advantage of the Internet, iTunes, and various mobile devices, not to mention good old-fashioned books and magazines. Learn during “dead time”. Listen in your car, on the train, or while jogging. Have your learning with you while waiting in the doctor’s office, or listen while checking out at the supermarket. Anytime is learning time. Remember, you are learning through exposure, not by nailing things down. It is more like moisture accumulation in a cloud, rather than building a brick wall.
The more varied your learning content, and the more varied the ways in which you learn, the clearer the puzzle will become. Different learning activities suit different people, at different times of the day. Vary your activities in order to keep your interest level up. Even if listening and reading work best for you, treat yourself to the odd video lecture, or get-together with other learners. This will renew your batteries.
The “loneliness of the distance learner” is a thing of the past. Join a learning community on the web, where members share their knowledge and experience. Search for the communities that suit your interests and learning style. You will find encouragement, advice and stimulus from fellow learners, as well as from tutors, teachers and coaches. In these communities, you can measure your progress against your own goals, or compare your experience with that of other learners. You can even teach and help others, which is a great way to learn.
Never has it been easier nor more exciting to be a learner. Let constant learning be a major part of your life-style. The rewards will be constant, personally, socially, and professionally.
Want to know what other students do to stay on track and succeed in their language learning? Read the below article for some ideas and tips from an actual LRDG learner who studied French. Please note that some details have been removed in order to protect the learner’s identity. If you want to share your story with other learners, make sure to send us a quick email with your language journey!
Tip of the week:Need to make a grocery list? Write it in French! J’ai besoin d’œufs, du lait, du beurre, des pommes de terre, etc.