The 7 Habits of Highly Successful Language Learners

Most of you are probably familiar with Stephen R. Covey’s best-selling book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change”. I’ve listened to the audiobook a number of times and return to it whenever I am feeling overwhelmed, adrift, or caught up in “the thick of thin things”. Many of the 7 habits actually apply quite well to language learning (especially when it comes to prioritizing and making time for study), but I’d like to tweak them a bit to make them more specific to what it takes to become a highly successful language learner.

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Master Japanese 8.0 is Here!

After 6 months of sleep deprivation, coffee IV drips, and a few “why-do-I-keep-doing-this-to-myself” existential crises, I have finally finished a massive update of my comprehensive Japanese learning guide, Master Japanese: The Beginner’s Step-by-Step Guide to Learning Nihongo the Fun Way.

As with previous updates, I started off with the simple intent of fixing a few typos and adding some new online resources. But as I got underway, my inner perfectionist stole the reins. The result? A completely redesigned guide that is better organized, better designed, and packed full of new tips and resources.

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Interview with Ellen Jovin of Words & Worlds of New York

Ellen Jovin is variously described as a “linguaphile”, a “language-crazed writer”, a “grammar freak”, a “former freelance writer”, and a professional trainer specializing in communication skills. On the first of July in 2009, Ellen began a impressive language and culture project called “Words & Worlds of New York” with the goal exploring the myriad languages spoken in The Big Apple.

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Forget Sudoku, Crosswords & Luminosity; Learn a Language Instead!

I know lots of people who spend hours a week working through sudoku (数独・すうどく) squares, crossword puzzles, and brain training apps like Luminosity. 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?

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Spaced Repetition: What is It? Why & How Should You Use It?

Spaced Repetition Systems (or “SRS” for short) are flashcard programs designed to help you systematically learn new information—and retain old information—through intelligent review scheduling. Instead of wasting precious study time on information you already know, SRS apps like Anki allow you to focus most on new words, phrases, kanji, etc., or previously studied information that you have yet to commit to long-term memory. Read on to see how spaced repetition apps work and which SRS tools I recommend.

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Skritter Public Beta for Android & Free 3-Week Trial

If you are learning Japanese and/or Mandarin Chinese and have an Android device, I highly recommend checking out Skritter’s new public beta app. As I mention in my review of Skritter, they offer one of the best tools for learning Chinese characters. Instead of traditional flashcards that just test passive recognition, the Skritter site and apps require that you actually write out the characters on the screen or using your mouse/trackpad. This “active recall” approach is far more effective than the self-gradings used in other spaced repetition apps. And best of all, in cases when you have no idea how to write a character, Skritter provides nifty stroke by stroke hints to help you along. If you haven’t tried Skritter yet, now would be a good time as you can get a 3-week trial instead of the 1 week they usually offer. The offer is valid for new accounts activated before August 31, 2014.

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