It’s common knowledge that we can train our muscles to be stronger and better by exercising. What you might not know is that we can train our brains in a similar way. Obviously, you don’t need to go to the gym to exercise your brain though. We can train it by giving it certain mental exercises to do and with this training we can learn any language at a much faster pace. Whatever language you are trying to learn, these techniques will help you to learn it faster.
Some languages are much easier than others. Languages which have similar origins, for example in Europe there are similarities between French, English, German, Dutch etc. Due to these similarities they can be easier to remember because some words may sound similar or have a word in your native tongue which can be associated with that word. However, there are some languages which are so different to any other language that you speak that it makes these kinds of associations impossible.
There is a process involved in creating a memory which everyone’s brain goes through. The first part is known as encoding: this is where you have noticed a piece of information and your brain is perceiving all of the information surrounding it such as sound, sight, smell, emotions. Linking a sensory input to the piece of information helps our brain to encode that knowledge and makes it easier for you to recall.
“Every piece of information you have come across is stored within your brain. When we practise recalling this information or building upon our information, we form stronger, longer-lasting connections to that piece of information,” shares Lloyd Jones, author at Draftbeyond and Writinity. Similarly, to how you build up your muscles through exercise, exercising our brain builds up the strength of our connection to the stored information. Repeatedly recalling information is one way on how to strengthen these connections. This is why flashcards and other such revision techniques help us to remember what we have learnt.
The Tried and Tested Memory Palace
You may have heard of a technique before known as the memory palace. In case you haven’t, a memory place is a mnemonic device that has been practised since ancient Roman times. Creating a memory palace is as simple as selecting a location that you’re familiar with such as your home, school or favourite café. How it works is you virtually place representations of your memories within a place you already have a strong connection to.
How to use a Memory Palace to learn a language
1. Imagine yourself standing in your memory palace
2. Mentally make your way through the place, notice any objects or features which you could use as your memory stores. This can be anything as long as it is easy to remember, for example your desk might be one memory store, your business cards another and your lamp another. It’s important to remember these objects so that they become imprinted on your mind.
3. The next step is to replace those memory stores with what you need to remember. For example, if the word you are trying to remember is train, maybe the business cards on your desk are all replaced with train tickets, or if you’re trying to remember the word for plant maybe the lamp on your desk has transformed into a plant.
It can be easiest to write these down first and read through them then implement them into your Memory Palace, one room at a time, which will help break it down into bite sized chunks. Practise going through each room by making a story of it that’s easy to remember and soon you’ll know the words off by heart.
Create a consistent routine that works for you
A Memory Palace is just one way to learn the words you need to remember. Other techniques include flashcards, rhyming mnemonics and word association. Even if the association isn’t exact you can make up outrageous ones that might only make sense to you! “Whichever technique or combination of techniques you use it’s important to keep it consistent. Turn it into a routine. The routine itself will also help to build up your memory,” says Terry Kay, foreign language specialist and writer at Last Minute Writing and Researchpapersuk.
Eat well, sleep well, learn well
Aside from the actual exercises, just like muscle training, our brains need other things. We need a good night’s sleep. When we sleep our brain processes the information from the day and helps to strengthen the connections we have been forging. Plus, if you’re tired it makes it much more difficult to concentrate. Your diet can also affect your memory. Brain function and development relies upon a lot of nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, selenium, folic acid, Vitamin E and anthocyanin. You can also make your diet a part of your language learning? Learn the words to the food’s which contain these vital nutrients, learn recipes which contain them and practise them every day.
Practise makes perfect. Every time we practise, we strengthen the connections in our brain to the information we’re recalling. If you make a routine of doing those exercises every single day it will help you to learn your new language at a much faster pace.