Heavily inspired by a tweet from Jeremy (founder of Motivate Korean), I got to thinking about how I go about my language learning and how I may improve my learning approach. On an average day I start out early in the morning so that I am able to study Korean for 1-1.5 hours before heading off to work. I then listen to Korean podcasts on my 15-minute walk to and from work, and if possible, I make an effort to read a few Korean news pieces during my breaks. After coming home from work, I usually study briefly before dinner, and again for at least one hour after. However, when evaluating my “return-to-hours” over the course of one day, I particularly find that the morning sessions are especially valuable in terms of learning outcome. It seems that what I study early in the day usually sticks easier in my brain compared to the things that I study later at night. Aside from the obvious reason that my brain is well-rested and ready for learning in the morning, could there be another reason? This graphic from Jeremy prompted me to think about my learning strategies:
Obviously, after a long day at work my brain is flowing over with lots of information unrelated to my Korean studies. If I therefore proceed directly to cramming Korean without clearing my mind of this noise, it’s no wonder that I don’t feel I learn as much as I do during my morning sessions even though I put in the same amount of time.
I have now started practicing mindfulness medition for 5 to 10 minutes before my later study sessions, and this method has been extremely useful. To make the whole meditation even more about Korean learning I have even downloaded a Korean meditation app to my iphone. When I take the time to meditate before studying I become more focused, less prone to checking twitter/messages while studying, and the things I learn are stored in my brain significantly better than if I just dive right into it after work. For those of you studying more than one language I imagine this method to be particularly useful as well, as it allows you to clear your mind of one language before digging into another.
I know I often compare language learning to physical activities, but there are just so many similarities that it is hard not to. If you are going run 10K you don’t just start sprinting from the start. You make sure you’re warmed up and ready to give all you have. You start out slowly and then gradually build the pace if you can, listening to your body as you go. If you start sprinting you’ll quickly run yourself tired or even injure yourself. You should therefore consider clearing your mind before a study session as the equivalent of warming up before a big run.
Bonus info: the Korean word for “meditation” is 명상~