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Monday, March 12, 2012

How to Teach Yourself a Language [part 3]

The Generalized Others StageAs your Significant Other is the one who means a lot to you and is the closest, emotionally, Generalized Others are just the opposite, and are the basis on which you figure out how things work and what you need to do in certain spots and under certain circumstances based on previous interactions. Since this happens in a natural way, it doesn't often go noticed as you grow up and build your inner and outer circles, but when it comes time to interact with a new kind of culture, it comes time to start refining your conception of Generalized Others and allowing for multiple types of personalities, foibles and other little things that make people who they are.

If you were, say, planning a trip to London, the knowledge you built on how people act in wherever you're from becomes the basis on how you judge the way people in London act, which is what leads to that oh -so-common state of surprise and wonderment known as 'Culture Shock', e.g. 'Oh no, they're driving on the wrong side of the road!'. This decreases as you build up your knowledge of the ways locals do it, what their basic history is and get more familiar of the pace of life they set, which leads to a more solid foundation and lets you dip into the more probing questions revealing the depth it has to offer, including why Soccer violence is linked to the sport and how its fans carry themselves.

Got all that? Excellent. Now, with how you develop your learning established, it's time to get into some of the good stuff, particularly the 6 things you'll want to take with you as you work on your learning approach, starting with Motivation.
Getting Stimulated into being Motivated

The key to sticking to something is stimulation, and when the brain isn't stimulated, it's more susceptible to drifting off to things damn near completely unrelated to what you're learning, like when you get bored of learning how to play guitar and look up how to make the perfect French Fry, instead (the secret, by the way, is boiling the cut potatoes in a 1 quart (4 cups of) water for every 1 tablespoon vinegar mix, frying once for a minute in 350 degree oil, allowing a ½ hour for cooling and freezing over night before you cook it for consumption in 400 degree oil. Check it out, if you don't believe me)

As for how you can motivate yourself, the key lies in concrete goals that are hard enough that we have to put in some work, but easy enough for us to reach in a reasonable time frame. For example, say you want to learn a language and decide to set the goal of fluency and pour your energy into achieving it, only to find you haven't come close to this in the months of study, practice and gaining experience that ensued. If you keep on this way of doing it, you might achieve it, but it could be months or even years before you see this come to fruition, so instead of trying and failing to make the one big leap, why not break that up into several hops(known in psychological circles as Scaffolding or Shaping)? Low hanging fruit gives you the fuel to go the high hanging stuff, so unless you like repeatedly plummeting, I no see no reason not to.

Keep the big goal as the end goal, but alongside that, set little goals along the way that you can work towards achieving in fairly rapid succession, like learning a certain amount of words, then how to put them together in a sentence, then learning one sentence structure, then another, then another and so on until you can string 'em together to create a solid paragraph of coherent thought. Not only does this make the rewards more immediate, but also instills the needed foundation for going for the big leaps you'll need to make in your goal to the big end goal, like using all that stuff in a live, no reference conversation with someone you're meeting for the first time.

If you're looking to add some fun to this, try making a game of it. There are lots of Japanese language games out there, such as Shiritori(where you try to make a word from last Mora of the previously mentioned word), crosswords, tongue twisters and others, even if you make it up yourself(e.g. A Japanese-language game of HORSE, where you use Shiritori's rules to create an entire sentence from the word, and failing 5 times equals a loss). Why would a game motivate you?

Well when you're on the edge of losing, your brain enters clutch time and leads you think of the best, quickest way to get out of your current fix and get to the end reward, which will prep you for the real world test these skills will be put to and get you used to thinking on the fly (an actual reward for achieving victory increasing the quality of your brain's clutch time and making you that much better); that, paired with the natural incentive when you find something you like that uses what you want to learn, will make you willing and ready to endure the grind learning something new comes with, which leads to the next part of better learning: repetition

Something to chew on while you wait: What's one of your big goals you want to work towards?

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