As Greg McKeown puts it in “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less”: “The best asset we have for making a contribution to the world is ourselves. If we underinvest in ourselves, and by that I mean our minds, our bodies, and our spirits, we damage the very tool we need to make our highest contribution. One of the most common ways people―especially ambitious, successful people―damage this asset is through a lack of sleep.” That was certainly true for me in my 20s and 30s, when I regularly burned the candle at both ends in a foolish quest for productivity. I now know that my chronic sleep deprivation (and all the coffee and alcohol I used to self-medicate) significantly impaired my studies and work. May it be acquiring foreign languages, writing books, or launching businesses, more sleep would have made me more productive, more effective, and more efficient. So what is an optimal amount of sleep? And what kinds of sleep do we need to optimally consolidate, encode, and recall new words, phrases, and structures? Read on to find out.
I know lots of people who spend hours a week working through sudoku squares, crossword puzzles, and brain training apps like Lumosity. Some folks no doubt genuinely enjoy these activities, doing them for leisure’s sake with little to no thought of their supposed “brain benefits”. I suspect, however, that the vast majority of people are forcing themselves through these puzzles because they want to keep their brain young, stave off neurodegenerative diseases, and improve cognitive firepower. The research does indeed seem to support the notion that doing difficult mental tasks can help change how one’s brain is wired and increase “neurogenesis” (a.k.a. “brain plasticity”), but as a biased language addict, I feel compelled to ask the obvious question: Given all the time and energy one spends trying to solve such puzzles, why not just learn a language instead?
In this guest post by Jennifer Birch, she busts the all-too-common myth that “only children can learn a foreign language well”, along with four other frequent offenders that are likely holding you back from mastering a foreign tongue.
Language ability obviously starts in the brain, so we should do everything we can to maximize this organ’s blood flow, plasticity, and functionality. Fortunately, there are three guaranteed ways to do just that…
With 11 languages under his belt, Steve Kaufmann is an extremely accomplished language learner. His extensive language learning wisdom in shared in his book titled The Way of the Linguist: A Language Learning Odyssey and his online language learning system called LingQ. In the interview, we discuss what Steve believes to be the 7 most common misconceptions about language learning, how to learn Mandarin effectively, and the role of a good teacher.