It's this time of the year where we tend to slow down and reflect about the year which will soon be a memory. This is why I thought it would be a good exercise to find out what blog post you, the public, liked the most.


In 5th place is"Benefits Of A Second Language On Your Decisions"


Bilingual people have always been at the centre of scientists thoughts when analysing the emotional effect of languages on people.

A group of scientists ( Boaz Keysar, Sayri Hayakawa and Sun Gyu an) of Chicago's University, wanted to know if bilinguals would be more analytical and less emotional when making decisions in a foreign language. [ I would think that it does not make any difference at all ].

They achieved a series of experiments on more than 300 people from the USA and Korea.

Experiment I

They picked 121 American students who learned Japanese. They were introduced to a hypothetical scenario: to fight a disease that would kill 600.000 people,Doctors could :

(1) either develop a medicine that saved 200.000 lives or

(2) a medicine with 33.3% chance of saving 600.000 lives ( that means 66% chance of saving no lives ).

80% of students chose the safe option (1).

When the problem was framed in terms of losing rather than saving lives, the safe option number dropped to47%.

When they were asked the same question in Japanese, the safe option number was 40% regardless of how choices were framed. The role of instinct was significantly reduced.

When a decision is verbally framed as involving a gain, people prefer a sure outcome over a probability outcome.

When the situation is framed as involving losses, people sometimes prefer to gamble.

This is called the framing effect and it was originally investigated by Daniel Kahneman and team.

So, the framing effect was present in the native language and absent in the second language.

I would have thought that the stress of using a foreign language could have diminished the reasoning process in the students and pushed them to make emotional decisions, but the findings were different. They accepted the positive bet (2) more often when using their second language.

Experiment II

The researchers tried to see how language affects personal decision making. They took a group of Korean students who were given a series of hypothetical low-loss and high-gain bets. When the bets were offered in Korean 57% took them. When offered in English(foreign language) 67% took them.

Again, it shows that deliberation is higher in the foreign language.

EXPLANATION

Keysar explains the results they obtained by saying:

" They make more bets in a foreign language because they expect to gain in the long run and are less affected by the typically exaggerated aversion to losses".

This confirms one more time that people tend to reason in a more logical way when using a foreign language, hence promoting analytical thoughts and reducing their emotional reactions, thus leading to better decision making.


In 4th place is "Advantages of Learning To Learn A Language"


Learning a language in a traditional classroom situation is not always available to those wishing to learn. This is when distance teaching comes in place. There are three modalities for this category:- - distance teaching (mimicking the face to face teaching)

- teach yourself

- and the learning software.

In distance teaching and in using the learning software, the student does not have much say in the learning process. What they should study has been chosen for them, and all they do is follow a pre-established program. On the other hand, when students decide to teach themselves, all the learning decisions fall upon them. Most of the time, they are unsure of where to start, which learning materials to choose, and in these cases, learning how to learn a language could be extremely useful.

A language is learnt not for the sake of knowledge but to be able to use it, and this is communicative competence. Learners who decide to teach themselves should be able to choose and learn what is relevant to them and fulfil their communicative needs. They must be taught to take these kinds of decisions based on their objectives by giving them the tools allowing them to analyse such needs and expectations, and how to describe them. They should be able to self-organise their learning based on their intuition of what linguistic competence and language learning entail.

Linguistic competence is the knowledge of what a language is: Vocabulary (a word, the meaning of a word, collation) grammar etc

How language is used (correct text, appropriate text, communicative acts etc)

What understanding, expressions, and translations are etc

They should know what learning behaviour is, the process of language acquisition, which learning technique can be used to learn a specific thing.

Students should be taught to discover their own learning style, so that they can choose appropriate learning materials and the time and duration of each learning session.

Learners should be trained at becoming experienced decision makers through practice.

They should be able to analyse their language needs and discover the ways to satisfy them.

They should define their learning objectives considering the skills they already have and certain learning hurdles like the time availability.

They should learn to experiment with the diverse methods available and manage their learning program adequately.

This training can be given before the student even starts learning a language. It should then be open and easily re-usable by learners because it is independent from a specific language study. They are not even obliged to decide which language they wish to study at this point.

The only disadvantage is that learners might perceive the training course as a useless activity and a waste of time. They should be made aware of the advantages of such a practice so that they can see a course in learning to learn as a long-term investment as it is applicable every time they decide to learn a new language.


In 3rd place is"Goal-Setting Mistakes In Language And How to Avoid Them"

Have you ever made a list of resolutions for the New Year and by March forget all about it? You’re not alone. Only 8% of people achieve their goals, and you might wonder why is the number so low. The same happens in language learning and I’m going to highlight one by one the mistakes leading to unfulfilled goals.



1- Unrealistic goals

It is good to be ambitious, but when you’re establishing your goals, you must be certain that they are achievable.

Imagine you decided to learn Japanese and your aim is to be able to master the writing system and be fully able to write and understand hiragana, katakana and kanji in 6 months. Despite your best efforts you will not succeed because it’s simply not achievable. Even though it’s exhilarating to aim high, you should always be sure that your goal is not too ambitious.

2- Underestimate completion time

If we take again the same example, you established a six months deadline because you didn’t realise the work involved in learning from scratch logographic syllabic writings. But if you give yourself more time, you might be able to fulfil your goal.

Let’s see another example. You are planning to emigrate to a foreign country. You start studying the language three months before the move. You never learned the language before and you need to reach a good level for your work. It is most likely that you will fail because it will be difficult to reach a near native proficiency in such a short period even if you studied six hours daily.

Analyse your goal and your availability, and mostly make sure that your deadline is realistic.

3- Setting negative goals

It has been scientifically proven that our brain responds according to the way we think. If you say: “I don’t want to put on weight”, your subconscious only registers “put on weight” and your behaviour towards food and exercise won’t change much. You will lack the internal drive and motivation to succeed. But, if you rephrase your statement to a positive one like “I want to be healthy”, you’re more likely to get results.

The same applies to language learning. Focus on the positive outcomes you want to obtain. For example: “I want to learn ten new words a day” or “by the end of the month, I must be able to have a ten-minute conversation with a native speaker”.

4- Not reviewing your progress

You should have ways to assess the progress you’re making in your study, and a self-evaluating process in place. For example: “I want to be able to order food at a restaurant in my target language” or “by July I want to hold a conversation via Skype with a native speaker without hesitations”, or “I want to watch a film in my target language without subtitles by the end of the month”. The list is endless.

In doing so, you’re keeping yourself motivated by seeing the results of your efforts. These small wins will allow you to carry on.

It is important to see where you are, assess the need for changes, and constantly re-evaluate your goals to keep them relevant to your needs.

5- Not appreciating failure

If you fail, learn from it. Reassess the validity of your goal, re-examine what did not work, make changes, pick yourself up, dust yourself down and try again. Second time around, the odds of you succeeding will be much higher.

If we come back to the Japanese example, now set a more reasonable time-frame to accomplish your goal.


6- Setting too many goals

When you have too many goals to take car off, without doubt one or all of them will suffer. You only have a limited time and energy to dedicate to them. You should think more about quality over quantity. If setting too many goals is the case, it might be necessary to establish your priorities one more time and stick to the ones that are truly relevant and ditch the non-essential goals.

7- Setting “other people’s goals”

When you decide to learn a language, it should always be because you want to, and it will enhance your life. Never commit to do it just to please your parents or spouse.

I am passionate about languages (DUH!), both my children aren’t. I have failed to instil the same passion in them. It would be a recipe for disaster if I forced them to study more languages than the Spanish and French each of them struggles with at school. If I did, I would be certain that this goal would never be accomplished.

These are a few reasons why only 8% of goals are achieved, and the best way to prevent a negative outcome to your language goals is to avoid them.

  • Always set realistic goals
  • Make sure your deadlines fit the task ahead
  • Always set positive goals
  • Review your progress and pivot if necessary
  • Learn from failure
  • Choose fewer goals wisely
  • Say NO to other people’s goals

If you follow these advice you will fulfil your goals, not only in language learning, but in everything you do.


In 2nd place is "Why Is Vocabulary So Important In Language Learning"


When we make the decision to learn a language, we all know that we'll have to learn new words and grammar to be able to use this new acquired tongue. We rarely apprehend in its fullness what it entails and the effort necessary to learn this new vocabulary.

First let's make clear that although it involves words, vocabulary is also about understanding these words.

Vocabulary is then defined as " The words of a language, single items and phrases and chunks, including of several words which convey a particular meaning."[ Tesol.org]

What does this mean?

Let's take these Spanish words: Buenos = good( plural), and días = days. We can learn them separately as individual words, and put together as chunks: Buenos días which means Good morning.

Why is vocabulary so important?

You will be able to make yourself understood even ignoring grammatical structures, but you will never be able to do the same if you ignore the words and phrases yo need to do so.

The more you advance in your studies of the second language,the more significant it becomes for you to learn more productive vocabulary to help you acquire fluency.

In a book published by TESOL.ORG , it describes features of vocabulary knowledge where three important aspects can be seen:

* Form

* Meaning

* Use

Form involves:

- Speaking form ( Pronunciation)

- Written form (Spelling)

- Word parts ( Prefix, Root, and Suffix )

Knowing the root of a word can help you understand other words with similar roots using deduction ( by guessing).

What is the best way to learn vocabulary?

There isn't a unique "golden" way to learn because acquiring vocabulary knowledge is a personal activity. What is best for you might not be adequate for others. So you have to find your unique style although the following advice might be helpful.

It has been shown by multiple researchers that chunking is the best method to assure not only that you learn the vocabulary but also to help you recall them when necessary.

How often have you spent time memorising single words with flashcards or with the help of memory Apps, to find out that you can't use them simply because you don't remember them. I almost can see you nodding if you are true to yourself. You blame your poor memory and promise to work harder during next session. There is a scientific reason for your forgetfulness. Your brain is not wired to remember isolated words but to recall short patterns of maximum four items at a time. Hence the importance of fitting the words you are learning into groups your brain can easily remember.

It is recommended that you group these words and learn them as a unit; and this is called chunking.

Chunking said in a simple way is learning phrases.

In any language activity you do, keep a vocabulary notebook handy. Write down the new words you find preferably as a chunk.

Let me give you an example.

Let's analyse this Spanish sentence:

Traté de sacarle alguna información sobre la fiesta sorpresa, pero no me dijo nada.

I tried to extract some information from her about the surprise party, but she didn´t tell me anything.

If you want to memorise these words, chunking is the way to go.

Traté de sacarle = I tried to extract

alguna información = some information

Sobre la fiesta sorpresa = about the surprise party

No me dijo nada = He/she didn't tell me anything

You will be able to reuse these chunks in other contexts if you learn them this way.

Example: ? Tienes alguna información sobre el paciente?

Do you have any information about the patient?

Chunking might not be easy at first, but in everything practice makes perfect.


And in First place, by popular demand is "How To Measure Your Language Learning Progress"


Language learning takes time and consistency. It is important to know if we are going in the right direction, and how far we are from our objective.

Why would you want to monitor your progress?

1- it helps when you reach a plateau

Sometimes when things get difficult, you might have the feeling that you're not learning at all , or at best very little. In these cases measuring your progress regularly will show you that your perception is not accurate. It is like a breath of fresh air and it renews your motivation to carry on.

2- You realise how much you've invested

The time you've dedicated to your language learning becomes more apparent, and giving up at the stage you are, becomes a discarded option.

3- It allows you to evaluate your method.

You can modify your learning materials or the way you learn altogether if you register that there is no consistent progress after a while.


4- It will increase the chance of success

You measure, you see positive results, it keeps you motivated and you stay the course. The probability to reach fluency in your target language is highly enhanced.

How do you measure your progress?

1- Track the time

You're accountable for your study when tracking the time spent learning your new language and we've already mentioned the motivation boost tracking offers.

2- The use of spaced-repetition software

It measures your progress in learning vocabulary. It allows you to see the amount of words you know; but lately The Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) has switched the focus from counting how many words you know about a language. The CEFR evaluates what you can actually do with the language.

I think that this shift of mindset is highly positive. What is the point of knowing five hundred new words if you're unable to use them in real-time conversations.

The CEFR recommends for learners to monitor their use of the language in real-life situations as a parameter of progress.

3- Create "can-do" goals

"can-do" goals are based on real-life scenarios. Their objective is to help you decide to study what' is relevant to your actual needs. For example instead of learning isolated words, you can learn how to make a phone call to book a hotel room.

Think of real life tasks that are hard for you to execute. Work out the missing vocabulary, expression and grammar structures unknown to you and learn them before you practice the exercise.

practice the scenarios as many time as required.

4- Start speaking as soon as possible.

In the early stages of your learning process, the speaking exercises will help you get a grip to real life conversations from the get go. Don't be concerned that you won't understand, you'll see that you'll do for three reasons:

a) people will adapt their speech to your level.

b) Most conversations are about every day things.

c) You will be able to ask them to repeat at any time.

Tracking your progress is a powerful tool in language learning for all the above. When done consistently, it prevents you from reaching the famous plateau most language learners hit at some point.

These were your five favourite reading for the year, if you didn't download the freebies for each article, you can still do it by clicking on the links.

Here's for a successful 2019!