‘Tell me, I forget. Show me, I remember. Involve me, I understand.’ Chinese proverb
How many times have you heard someone say ‘Oh, I can remember that day as if it were yesterday’. Why do they remember it rather than last Monday’s business meeting? The answer of course is because they enjoyed it. Memory is linked to emotions. ‘I always did well in History – the teacher was a right laugh!’ ‘I’ll never forget my first day a school’. ‘He knows all the players, goals, results of every Premier League match, but he can’t do his times table!’ Link memory to an emotion and you are onto a winner.
The middle area of the brain, the Limbic System controls emotions and is closely linked with memory. If you can link what you need to remember to a funny, sad or happy event then you are far more likely to remember it. At the base of the brain is the part known as the Reptilian Brain, the earliest version of our brain and the basis of our evolution over 2 million years. This controls the most basic human needs such as hunger, thirst, discomfort and flight or fight. It can take over the whole brain, shut it down and leave us feeling or acting with basic animal responses, if we are frightened or stressed. It is vital when you learn that you clear this part of the brain to allow for ‘higher level’ activity; it is common sense but something that busy people often ignore. Before you work on your language learning, make sure you are comfortable, relaxed, destressed and ‘in the right frame of mind’ and not dashing between meetings or sitting up late at night with a black coffee. Give yourself some ‘me time’ when you are learning and break up the study into 20 – 25 minute chunks so you maximise your concentration levels.
Tips for Learning
- Find a comfortable and quiet room
- Make sure you have some snacks and a drink with you
- Try playing your favourite music while you learn, it relaxes the mind
- Start with an easy task to get yourself into it
- Challenge yourself with something new or demanding in every study session
- Finish by summarising what you’ve learnt or by testing yourself
- Set yourself a little revision test for the beginning of the next session
- Give yourself a reward when you have finished (a walk, TV programme, piece of cake…anything!)
So you are now emotionally ready for learning but how are you going to link emotion to vocabulary, verbs, conjunctions and all that complex structure of a new language? There are some very simple techniques which I will explore in my next article: Memory Techniques – How to Improve your Language Learning –Part 2