In this first episode of the year, I would like to experiment with a new format.
I have some exciting interviews lined up in the coming weeks, but I’d like to kick things off with a new segment called The 3 Foundations of Mastery.
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So what are the three foundations and why do they matter?
- Foundation 1 is Mastering Your Mind, which means conquering fears and self-limiting beliefs that are blocking your path to fluency.
- Foundation 2 is Mastering Your Day, which involves building better habits and learning more efficiently.
- Foundation 3 is Mastering Your Environment, which means creating your own immersion wherever you happen to live.
One of the biggest lessons I have learned over the last 20 plus years of learning and teaching foreign languages is that you can’t master a language unless you also master your mind, your day, and your environment.
Harnessing your psychology, wrangling your schedule, and designing your learning environment can each be extremely difficult, especially in our modern world of distraction and instant gratification.
But master these three foundations you must if you want to have any chance of getting fluent in a foreign tongue.
These factors are what really make learning languages difficult. The languages themselves are learned more or less automatically if you show up and give your brain the input it needs. (And yes, get tons of active practice, too, of course.)
But YOU have to constantly decide to show up and put in the time instead of choosing easier activities that provide a more immediate hit of dopamine and serotonin (Netflix + Cherry Garcia, anyone?).
Language learning can provide these “feel-good” hormones, too, but the rewards live on the other side of much more time and effort.
So to help you win this mental battle, I will be sharing powerful principles and short, actionable tips each week that will help you develop the mindset, habits, and environment you need to learn any language, anywhere.
Ready? Let’s get started!
🧠 Master Your Mind
My tip this week for Foundation one — Master Your Mind — is to remember that you have the power to choose your actions.
So much in the world is outside of our control: the weather, the stock market, and how other people act (such as during a global pandemic 😷).
Fortunately, there are two powerful things that do lie completely within your control:
- Your thoughts
- Your actions
No matter how crazy the external world gets, you can decide what you think and what you do.
As Steven Covey said:
“I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.”
- Even when you have a stressful day and want to just veg out on the couch, you can choose to watch a foreign language film instead of watching something in English.
- You can choose to spend your precious language learning time speaking with a tutor instead of just tapping away in an app. Apps can help a bit, but they can easily become a distraction and a form of procrastination.
And on and on the choices go.
Each decision you make is a vote for the person you want to be. Each hour you spend immersed in a language puts you that much closer to your fluency goals.
🗓 Master Your Day
My tip this week for foundation two—Master Your Day—is to create language learning “book ends” in your day.
While there are many creative ways to squeeze in little slices of language learning throughout your day, busy work schedules and expanding family responsibilities can make it tough to carve out dedicated chunks of time.
One way to ensure that you get at least a little language time each and every day is to commit to spending at least 15 minutes first thing in the morning and 15 minutes right before bed.
There are many benefits to this schedule:
- It starts things off on a high note and helps set the tone for the day.
- It maximizes your chances of remembering new words and structures since we encode new memories when we sleep.
- It’s more sleep-friendly than watching TV or scrolling social media before bed. Especially if you read a paper book in your target language so the blue light from devices doesn’t inhibit melatonin production and make it harder for you to sleep.
📍 Master Your Environment
My tip this week for foundation three—Master Your Mind—is to change the display language on your devices.
Though staring at our phones right before bed may not be ideal, our digital devices can be powerful language learning aids if used correctly. One of the most useful things you can do is change the display language on your phone, tablet, computer, etc.
This single change provides numerous perks:
- It provides contextual reading practice every time you use your devices (which is hundreds of times a day for most of us).
- It provides opportunities to practice listening, such as getting turn-by-turn navigation your target language when using Apple or Google Maps.
- It provides opportunities to practice speaking, too, such as asking questions or giving commands to Siri, Alexa, or Google Assistant.
For step-by-step instructions, see FAQ: How Can I Change the Display Language on iOS, macOS, Android, Windows, Kindle, Facebook, Instagram, etc.?