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Move 27 Things: Feng Shui for Stuck Language Learners

stuck language learningFollowers of feng shui use this trick with some results: move 27 things to get any room or space “unstuck.” How about getting stuck in a language learning process – would this trick help as well? Here’s a good few questions and ideas to give the polyglots a push out of the groove.

1. “It’s hard to stray away from the groove just a little bit.”

A friend of mine said this ages ago, and I remember this every now and then. In every situation, two things seem easy. One is to keep doing exactly what you’ve been doing. The other is to give in to pressure that’s become too overwhelming, and to start a complete overhaul.
This is cool in many cases – but language learning is rarely a process of fits and starts, and works well with regular intervals and maintained habits. Of course, this makes it hard to do one thing: change things ever so slightly.

2. Stuck vs flow – back to basics

Take a look at the diagram I used for my discussion of flow in language learning. Let’s assume for a while that “stuck” would be the opposite of “flow” – and that the things we need to deal with are the challenge and skill problems.
A good foreign language teacher would quickly detect the problems you’re facing, and help you sort them out eventually. But a busy tutor – or a teacher-less environment of real-life, total immersion – will not really have the time to make sure your progress is all it could be. Once again, you’re the only one responsible for your learning in such situations, and without the pedagogy, the task of getting “unstuck” can be daunting.

3. Small changes, big questions – how to tweak your polyglot performance

You don’t need to be a qualified language teacher to see if you can improve. Sometimes, all it takes is a small change and a few well-aimed questions (see this article for the one that’s perhaps the most important of them all).
By making one small change after another – and reflecting on how the change felt for you – the process of learning your chosen language can be gradually modified, without big revolutions that could cost money, time and nerves. It’s something you can do in most situations, and almost all language learners could benefit from a fresh perspective every now and then.

4. Move 27 things: an example checklist for stuck language learners

I. Write things down more often…
II. …or try making fewer notes.
III. Carry a dictionary with you…
IV. …or choose to leave it at home just once.
V. Try out the online translating tools…
VI. …or decide to do one homework assignment without them.
VII. Change where you sit in class.
VIII. Change the way you greet foreigners.
IX. Read a new article in the language you’re learning.
X. Listen to a new song in your language.
XI. Learn a new idiom, proverb or slang phrase.
XII. Adopt a word for 24 hours – you earn a treat if you manage to use it in the right context that day.
XIII. Swap notebooks with your classmate.
XIV. Decide to ask more questions for 1 day…
XV. …or choose to listen instead of yapping all the time.
XVI. Go through a lesson / article / audio clip that’s much too easy for you…
XVII. …or tackle something that’s way out of your depth and much too hard.
XVIII. Try doing one thing in a foreign language that scares you…
XIX. …or look at one familiar thing as if you’d done it for the first time ever.
XX. Sing in your language for 3 minutes.
XXI. Draw a picture and label it using the language you’re learning.
XXII. Read a blog, think about it and leave a comment.
XXIII. Throw away one newspaper and magazine that’s in your mothertongue. Replace with foreign language equivalent.
XXIV. Find strangers. Interact on a simple level…
XXV. …or get in touch with an old friend / former classmate and see if you can practice again.
XXVI. Switch your gadgets’ interfaces to the language you’re learning.
XXVII. Learn 10 words in a completely new and unrelated language.

I hope you’ll enjoy trying these things out – I know I’ve got some unstucking to handle myself. What would be on your list? Let us know in the comments!

(Photo credit: @pysproblem81 / eltpics, some rights reserved)

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One Responseso far.

  1. Jared says:

    Great article Wiktor, and the checklist of 27 activities to shake up your language learning is fabulous.