Saturday, May 7, 2011

[Preparing yourself for success in language learning] Creating an environment conducive to learning

Last week, you learned that everyone processes new information in different ways, and that being aware about how you best learn is helpful when planning your Turkish studies.

Once you discover your personal learning style, you are halfway to the finish line. The next step is to create a learning environment that properly reflects your personal learning style. When you take the time to set up a viable learning environment, you make it easy to study. That ease can affect how you feel about learning which can lead to increased motivation and success in reaching your learning goals.
Creating a study space

Even in the smallest of living arrangements, we can usually find a place to commandeer for a special purpose. I have seen many a meditation corner or a reading corner in my friends' houses, so why not a study corner?

Create your own study corner as a direct reflection of your personal learning style. If you need a soft comfortable chair and low lighting or if you need a small desk with a hard straight-back chair -- set it up. If you need music in the background, make sure that you have music ready to go -- whether it be in the form of a stereo setup or an mp3 player on your desk. Adjust the lighting, furniture, sound/silence to offer you an optimum learning environment. If you are a morning person, try to do some studying in the morning before you get into your day; if you are a night owl, plan to get in some study time before you go to bed.

In addition to altering your physical environment, make sure that your method of studying reflects your personal learning strategies. If you are a visual learner, have text and pictures on hand to read/look at while learning; consider keeping a blank pad of paper to doodle and draw on or on which you can paste images. If you are an auditory learner, working with audio lessons or audio/visual materials will help your valuable study time to be that much more productive.

The bottom line is that the more carefully and consciously you set up your learning activities and learning environment, the faster you will reach the success you desire.
Finding the time to study

One of the biggest complaints I hear from my clients is, “I don't have the time to study.” But, if you think about it, we adults always tend to find time for the things we love to do -- even when we have “no” time.

In this busy world, many of us tend to be over extended in our work and social life. We “want” to learn Turkish, but we just “can't find the time.”

One of the first things you want to do is to make an honest self-assessment. Do you really want to learn Turkish? Many times we want the end goal (a second language, money, a skill), but when we hunker down and honestly contemplate it, we might realize that while we want the goal, we really don't want to go through the hard work of obtaining that goal. So ask yourself a question, “Do I really want to embark on this journey?”
If the answer is yes, then you have to find the time.

Sit down with yourself and think about the things you must do- no matter what. I'm sure a couple of things came up such as eating, sleeping, hydrating yourself, but if you think harder you will come up with going to work/school, paying rent, cleaning your house- the list is very personal. Now consciously add “learning Turkish” to the list and do it! Think of it as a contract that you will not breach. Make sure you study a little bit every day. Aim for a minimum of 15 minutes. You will find that some days you'll spend more time, but strive to at least meet the minimum.

If you are truly over budgeted on time, then use that 15 minutes to review information you already “know.” Practice the alphabet by spelling words you know; practice numbers and vocabulary by counting and/or naming things in your home; jot useful phrases onto blank index cards and run through them as quickly as you can- time yourself, make it a game!
Visualization technique: Putting yourself in the zone

A fun technique for getting you ready to learn is called visualization. The phrase “in the zone” is a colloquial saying that refers to when a person's entire being (intellectual, physical, emotional and spiritual) is harnessed to make possible the ultimate state of facility, confidence and joy while pursuing a desired goal. In psychology, the term flow is sometimes used to describe the efficient flow of brain energy and focus that leads to success. To get in the zone and to increase the flow for learning Turkish, consider trying the following visualization technique:

In this exercise, you will be practicing the basics of brain engagement that start with complete diaphragmatic breathing to get you in the zone for learning Turkish. The goal is for you to create a vision of your highest level of desired Turkish success while feeling a sense of relaxed, yet energized cognitive focus and an emotional state of confident contentment.

Find a comfortable seated position. Relax your body. Close your eyes. Imagine your highest level of Turkish success while breathing in deeply through your nose and smiling in a relaxed manner. Imagine letting go of obstacles to your learning while breathing out through your nose. Repeat this breathing pattern five to 10 times each day to develop the brain chemicals to get you ready to achieve your highest level of Turkish learning.

While this technique may come off to some as “new age,” rest assured that scientists have found that visualization techniques such as the one I propose here have physiological effects. That is, when you are relaxed, alert and content, your thoughts directly affect brain neurochemistry and therefore shape future thoughts and subsequent actions -- including learning.

So far, you have discovered how you learn best, how to create an environment that supports your goals and how to find the time and the motivation to proceed. Next week we will explore short and long-term goals as well as how to find, make and use various language-learning resources so that you get the most out of them.


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