Read everything you can get your hands on

Classic literature, paperbacks, newspapers, websites, emails, your social media feed, cereal boxes: if it’s in English, read it. Why? Well, this content will be full of juicy new vocabulary, as well as a fair amount you already know. This helps you improve quickly, as re-exposure to learned vocabulary gives you new examples in context, therefore reinforcing those words in your mind. On the other hand, learning new words and expressions is essential to building your vocabulary arsenal, particularly in a language like English with so many words! However, don’t just read and move on – next, you’ve got to…

Actively take note of new vocabulary

This tip is a classic one for good reason: it works! When learning, we often enjoy a new word of phrase so much that forgetting it seems impossible. But trust us, not everything sticks the first time. To fight this, get into the habit of carrying around a funky notebook or using a tool like Evernote. Whenever you hear or read a new word or expression, write it down in context: that is, in a sentence and with its meaning noted. This saves you time as you won’t return to that word and ask yourself: “What did that word/expression mean again?”

Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.

― Malcolm X

Language learning is a very important field of research for scientists. That is because the ability to learn complex (complicated) language is something that makes humans different from other animals.

Science knows how the human brain works (mostly). Science knows how we learn and speak.

There have been many, many scientific studies that focus on how people learn languages. Some research is used to try and understand how and why we learn languages, and some is done to figure out the benefits of learning new languages. Some studies focus on babies, who are excellent natural language learners, and others just focus on adults.

That is a lot of information! So what can you do with all this research?

By understanding how and why we learn languages the way we do, we can make our language learning journeys faster and easier.

Here are our top tips on how to learn English quickly:

1. Read everything you can get your hands on

Classic literature, paperbacks, newspapers, websites, emails, your social media feed, cereal boxes: if it’s in English, read it. Why? Well, this content will be full of juicy new vocabulary, as well as a fair amount you already know. This helps you improve quickly, as re-exposure to learned vocabulary gives you new examples in context, therefore reinforcing those words in your mind. On the other hand, learning new words and expressions is essential to building your vocabulary arsenal, particularly in a language like English with so many words! However, don’t just read and move on – next, you’ve got to…

2. Actively take note of new vocabulary

This tip is a classic one for good reason: it works! When learning, we often enjoy a new word of phrase so much that forgetting it seems impossible. But trust us, not everything sticks the first time. To fight this, get into the habit of carrying around a funky notebook or using a tool like Evernote. Whenever you hear or read a new word or expression, write it down in context: that is, in a sentence and with its meaning noted. This saves you time as you won’t return to that word and ask yourself: “What did that word/expression mean again?”

3. Talk with real live humans

What is a language for if not to communicate? Sure, we humans have become experts at communicating without opening our mouths – thanks Whatsapp! – but when push comes to shove, it’s true that speaking a language helps it stick in your head far better than only reading or writing it. Just think of how many times you’ve heard people say that they “understand, but can’t speak English.” A lot of would-be English speakers have turned talking into a huge insurmountable barrier that only serves to psyche them out. Don’t be like that. Seek out native speakers for an informal language exchange, enroll in a course, or take classes online.

4. Subscribe to podcasts or Youtube channels (in English)

Like humor? Politics? Blogging? Cooking? With topics covering every interest imaginable, there’s an English-speaking podcast or Youtube channel out there for you. Subscribe to a few and listen while driving or watch during the commute to school or work. At first, you might find the native accents difficult, but stick with it and you’ll soon start to understand what you hear (as well as learning lots of new vocab from a native speaker!)

5. Go abroad

If there’s a better way to learn English than being immersed in it while living and studying in an English-speaking country, we’d love to know! It’s no secret that English is the most widely-spoken language in the world, and with a long list of countries to choose between, you can select your ideal learning environment based on hemisphere, weather, or favorite city. Think AustraliaNew Zealandthe UKthe USCanada, and South Africa to name a few!

6. Use your friends

Have friends who post online in English? Don’t gloss over them in your newsfeed: scan the items they share and commit to exploring one or two each day. They might be news or magazine articles, videos, talks, blog posts, songs, or anything else: if it’s in English and the topic interests you, it’s going to be helpful!

How to Learn English Faster with 7 Scientific Tips

1. Listen to a lot of English

What the science says:

Scientists who study languages have a special term for one of the ways we learn languages: unconscious or implicit language learning. This kind of learning happens when we are not even trying.

It does not happen by sitting at a desk and studying rules over and over. Instead, it happens when we listen to lots of English and when we are not paying a lot of attention. The sound of English is in the background, and your brain automatically absorbs the sounds, accents, words and grammar, even though you are not listening well, speaking or taking notes.

The crazy thing is that we learn from listening even if we do not understand what the words mean. Study after study shows that it is possible for people to learn any language by listening this way—we can even learn fake languages (ones that scientists invent for their research) just by listening to people speak them.

That is because when we listen to the language we hear the patterns. It is a more natural way to learn—kids do it all the time. Think about it! When babies are very, very young, they cannot speak. They can only listen. They spend tons of time listening before they can fully understand what is being said, and before they can use the language by themselves.

What you can do:

Listen to as much English as you can. Listen constantly! Whenever you can, make sure that you have something in English playing in your room, in your office or in your headphones.

Watch English TVlisten to English music and listen to audiobooks in English. Go to places where you can hear native English speakers talk to each other. Listen to as much spoken English as you can. You do not have to listen closely—while you are listening you can just walk around, enjoy the sights, do the dishes, read a book, work out at the gym, do your homework, write an essay or do your daily job.

No matter what, as long as the sounds of English are entering your ears and your brain, you will learn more English than you realize!

2. Learn the similarities

What the science says:

One of the hardest things about learning a new language is learning all the new sounds. The English language might even have some sounds that your native language never uses!

There is good news, though—according to this study, we are all born with an understanding of which sounds make sense and which do not. Even though languages can be very different, they all share some similarities.

For example, even though some English words begin with the letters “BL” (like “blink”), you will probably never hear a word begin with the letters “LB.” Try to make that sound. It is weird! Some sounds just do not make sense, even to babies who do not know any words at all.

What you can do:

Keep this fact in mind when you are learning English.

If you hear a word or a sound that seems impossible, there is a chance that it is impossible! If you know that some sounds are very unlikely to happen in the English language, you can learn to spell more easily.

For example, if you are trying to write the word “ghost” and you are not sure if the h comes before or after the g, try saying it out loud.

If you try to say “hgost,” the sound “HG” seems impossible to pronounce, doesn’t it? But the sound “GH” in “ghost” is possible. Use that!

3. Learn new sounds separately

What the science says:

Learning English changes the way your brain works. Amazingly, learning a new language actually makes your brain growOne study discovered that, as we learn a language, parts of our brain grow bigger. The bigger the growth, the easier the new language will be for you to learn.

An even more interesting part of the experiment in this study, though, showed that our brains react differently to different sounds.

For example, the letters L and R can be difficult for language learners to hear, especially if their native language only has one letter for both sounds (like Japanese). The experiment showed that when English speakers heard the letters L and R, two different parts of their brains reacted to the sounds. Japanese speakers only had one area react.

What you can do:

Before you can speak and understand English like a native, learn English soundsThis is a great post full of information about different English sounds and how to pronounce them.

Find the sounds that are the hardest for you to understand or pronounce and study them extra hard.

Some experiments show that listening to slowed down sounds can help learn them in as little as an hour. Now that is fast!

You don’t need any special software to slow down sounds—YouTube can do that for you! Find some videos of native speakers using the sound (or sounds) you need help with. Here is a great one with different words that use the letters R and L.

To change the speed, click on the settings icon on the bottom right of the video player (it looks like a little gear or wheel). Then click on “speed,” and choose a speed that is less than 1.

Try listening at 0.25 of the speed for 10 minutes, then 0.5 for another 10. Then play the video at normal speed. Do this a few times with different sounds and you will notice that it is getting easier and easier to hear the difference between difficult sounds—that is your brain growing!

4. Use word associations

What the science says:

When you use word associations you are connecting words with other words, sounds, movements, ideas or pictures. When you hear the sound “woof,” you associate it—connect it—with a dog. When you see a picture of a sun, you immediately think of the words “sun,” “warm” and “hot.” You do not have to spend any time thinking of this, these words come to your mind automatically.

Learning words through associations is not only fun, it is a very useful way to speed up your English learning. Scientists used this study to look at sign language, a language that deaf people to communicate and which uses the hands and fingers instead of sounds to make words.

An experiment showed that it is much easier to remember signs that look like the word they stand for. This means that it is easier to remember the sign language word for “eat” because it looks like a person eating. It is harder to learn words when the motion of your hands is not connected to the idea as strongly.

What you can do:

When you are learning new words, try to learn them in groups. Combine a word with an image, a movement or another word. When you have this strong connection in your mind, you will have an easier time remembering it.

Try using your hands and body to show the meaning of the words you are learning, at least until you remember it on its own. You could also try to draw some pictures instead of writing the definitions.

For a fun activity, try turning the words into what they mean. You can find some ideas by using Google Images search. Doing this will not only help you remember the meaning, but also the spelling!

5. Remember patterns, not rules

What the science says:

Watch the first minute of this video.

Can you repeat the pattern? How well you can remember and repeat patterns might mean a lot for how easily you can learn a new language.

In this study, students were shown a group of shapes one after the other. The students who were the best at finding the patterns in the shapes were also the best at learning Hebrew. Languages are made up of patterns, and the easier it is for you to find these patterns, the easier it will be for you to learn the language.

What you can do:

You might have spent some time already learning the rules of grammar and spelling in English. Instead of thinking of them as rules, try to remember the patterns.

Look at the regular past tense, for example. The rule says “to change a regular verb into its past tense form, add -ED to the end of the verb.” If you can remember that from just reading the sentence, great! For most of us, though, it is hard to understand the rule unless we see it being used.

To learn the rule as a pattern instead, just look at a group of regular verbs and their past tense versions:

Rain — Rained
Want — Wanted
Learn — Learned

Do you see the pattern? Let’s take it another step. There is a difference between this next group of verbs and the previous group.

Plan — Planned
Rot — Rotted
Stop — Stopped

Notice the difference here? What is the pattern? The rule these last three verbs are following says that “when a verb ends in Consonant – Vowel – Consonant, the last letter is written twice before -ED is added.”

So the next time you have trouble memorizing rules, look at the patterns instead.

6. Learn phrases, not words

What the science says:

Some words have one meaning on their own, but a completely different meaning when they are put together with other words. As we listen to or read a sentence in English, we look for these groups.

In the sentence “I ran around,” you are saying that you ran without a goal. If you add just two words, it turns into “I ran around the park,” which has a completely different meaning. You learn more and more information about the sentence and the words in it as you listen.

This might not seem so surprising, but until recently linguists (people who study languages) thought that we listen to a whole sentence and then break it down into parts. One study explains that the order of the words might be more important than the whole sentence.

Think about it this way: “Bread and butter” and “butter and bread” have the same meaning, but only one has the right order of words (bread and butter).

What you can do:

Learning words on their own can be difficult since many words have more than one meaning. Just knowing a word does not mean you will be able to actually use it. So when you learn new words, learn how they are used in phrases, sentences and conversation.

The word “retrospect,” for example, means to look back on something. You will probably never hear it used without the word “in” before it: “In retrospect, I shouldn’t have eaten the whole cake.” Learn how words are grouped and you will sound more natural when you speak.

7. Learn with music

What the science says:

Do you remember the cute songs you learned when you were very young? I bet you can still sing the songs your mother or your teachers taught you. But you learned those songs a very long time ago! How can you still remember them so well?

When you are a child, music is very important for language learning. That is why children have songs that help them remember numbers and letters, learn how vowels work and learn new words. Songs repetition and music to help kids remember important parts of language.

Adults learn easier with music, too. Language skills are usually seen as very important and music is not as important. But according to one study, the ways we learn both music and language are very similar, and both are very important! We learn that “ba” and “da” sound different, in the same way that we learn that a trumpet and a piano sound different.

What you can do:

Language is almost a kind of music of its own. Learning language skills by using music makes learning easier and faster. There are many songs for learning English, many of which you can find on YouTube or right here on FluentU. Listen to songs and sing along to them, and you will be speaking like a native soon!

There are no real shortcuts for learning English quickly, but science has proven that some tips work better and faster than others.

According to scientific studies and experiments, the tips above will help you learn English better and faster.

And as you learn and grow, so will your brain!

How to improve knowledge skills

CAREER DEVELOPMENT

9 Ways to Improve Your Personal Development Skills

July 16, 2020

Personal development can contribute to your maturity, success and satisfaction. Many people build personal development skills throughout their lives to better themselves and reach their goals. They can do this through education, advice from a mentor, self-help and more. In this article, we will describe some of the most important personal development skills.

What are personal development skills?

Personal development skills are qualities and abilities that help you grow both personally and professionally. Understanding and improving these skills can help you maximize your potential. This process is also known as self-development or personal growth. 

You can use personal development skills to:

  • Reach goals
  • Advance in your career
  • Improve your strengths and talents
  • Better yourself
  • Find fulfillment

Examples of personal development skills

Personal development skills can be traits or qualities you already have or ones you can gain through education and training. People will value different personal development skills depending on their goals, but here are some examples of skills people commonly aim to develop:

  • Communication
  • Interpersonal
  • Organization
  • Problem-solving
  • Self-confidence
  • Adaptability
  • Integrity
  • Work ethic
  • Leadership

Communication

Communication includes your ability to speak, write and listen. With these skills, you can understand what others are saying and feeling and also convey your own ideas and feelings. Good communicators can speak clearly and confidently, using a tone that is positive and appropriate for the situation. 

Interpersonal

Also called people skills or social skills, interpersonal skills are the verbal and nonverbal behaviors and reactions to interactions with other people. They affect your ability to build relationships and make impressions on others in social situations.

Organization

Organization skills include the tidiness of your physical and digital spaces as well as your ability to plan, schedule and prioritize. Good organization can help save time, prevent miscommunications and improve efficiency.

Problem-solving

Problem-solving is your ability to handle challenging or surprising situations. Good problem-solvers can stay calm when they encounter obstacles and assess all their options to find the best solution.

Self-confidence

Self-confidence is the belief in your abilities, actions and decisions. If you have confidence in yourself, you might be more likely to pursue ambitious goals, try new things and believe you can succeed.

Adaptability

Adaptability is your ability to adjust quickly and easily to new things. People who handle change well often get along with a variety of personalities and thrive in any environment. They can remain calm in surprising situations.

Integrity

People tend to trust those who are honest and stand by their values. Integrity means doing what is right and telling the truth, even if it is not what they want to hear. Having integrity can lead to a good reputation and opportunities for advancement.

Work ethic

Work ethic includes not only hard work but also reliability, responsibility, quality, determination and discipline. People with good work ethic tend to be productive and have a positive attitude.

Leadership

Leadership is the ability to guide people. Good leaders can motivate others and help them reach a shared goal. They build confidence and improve morale.

How to improve your personal development skills

You can enhance your personal development skills by taking classes, learning from the people around you, gaining new talents and improving upon existing ones. Follow these guidelines to develop yourself personally:

  1. Overcome your fears. Fear can prevent you from growing and progressing. If you are afraid of public speaking, for instance, take a class or join a group that helps people become better public speakers. If you are afraid of taking risks, find a mentor who can help you make good decisions and build your confidence. Grow and learn by trying things you might not be comfortable doing. If you are shy, try starting a conversation or introducing yourself to new people at a reception or workshop.
  2. Read. Reading expands our knowledge and vocabulary and keeps us informed. It stimulates our minds and can improve our critical thinking skills. Try setting a goal to read at least one educational or motivational article a day, or one book a month.
  3. Learn something new. Learn a new skill or topic, whether you do it yourself or sign up for a class. You might, for instance, take courses to learn another language, a new software program or how to write creatively. Consider watching a webinar on professional development topics such as entrepreneurship or social media marketing.
  4. Ask for feedback. Approach a family member, friend, colleague or manager, and ask them to give you feedback on a recent project or accomplishment. Use their positive comments as well as their constructive criticism to find ways to improve. Sometimes you need an outside, unbiased opinion to get a different perspective.
  5. Observe others. Watch and learn from the people who inspire you. This could be someone you know, such as a supervisor, family member or public figure. Identify the qualities you admire in them, and try to replicate those in yourself.
  6. Network. By interacting with many types of people, you can learn new ideas and understand how to communicate and work with different personality types. You can also meet people and develop relationships that might help you in the future. Network through industry organizations and shared interest groups, or attend conferences and events on topics that interest you.
  7. Keep a journal. Writing in a journal every day or week can help you gain self-awareness and reflect on recent events, decisions and conversations. You might keep a hand-written, private journal, or you might choose to share your thoughts and experiences by blogging. Use it to set and assess goals and progress.
  8. Meditate. Many people meditate to gain clarity and awareness and to reduce stress and anxiety. Meditation can help you focus on your self-development and goals in a healthy, positive and calm way. Even scheduling a break from work or quiet time to yourself can help you relax and focus.
  9. Get a mentor. If you need help identifying ways to build your self-development skills, talk to a mentor. This individual could be a manager, professor, someone you admire or a professional personal growth mentor.

Related: How to Develop Your Skill Set to Advance Your Career

Personal development skills in the workplace

While personal development skills can benefit all parts of your life, these may be useful in the workplace and help you advance your career:

  • Be an active listener. Part of being a good communicator is paying attention to what other people say. Concentrate on understanding what your coworkers and clients are saying so you can remember that information and respond well. Use effective and professional listening and communication skills in everything from phone conversations to job interviews.
  • Work well with others. Good people skills make you a valued team member. You should be able to collaborate with and motivate others. Have the social skills to build relationships with colleagues, clients, customers and acquaintances of all types and backgrounds. 
  • Organize your time, work and materials. Plan out tasks so you can complete them quickly and easily. Know what projects to prioritize if you are handling more than one. If you are well-organized, you may be better able to meet your deadlines.
  • Work through challenging situations. When dealing with a problem, assess your options and determine the best solution. Know when to ask for advice or research different scenarios. People who can think critically and work through complex problems are more likely to make good decisions both in life and work.
  • Believe in yourself. If you have confidence in your decisions, others may be more likely to believe in you as well. This positive energy can help motivate and instill confidence in those around you. You are better able to handle challenges and reach goals if you approach them with confidence rather than doubt.
  • Adapt to change. Be flexible so you can deal with changes in work and life easily. Adaptable people can work well both alone and on a team, manage multiple projects, work under a variety of conditions, accept new ideas and more. Being able to respond well to change can also make these situations less stressful for everyone involved.
  • Be truthful. Honesty is the foundation of a positive relationship with colleagues and supervisors. Practice good ethics and stand by your values. Integrity can bring you respect, satisfaction and a good reputation at work.
  • Be committed to and passionate about your job. People with good work ethic tend to be productive, reliable and determined to do quality work. This dedication can help you complete tasks on time and motivate your peers.
  • Guide those around you. Being a good leader requires confidence, vision and communication. People with these natural leadership skills can help their team progress and be productive without being controlling.

How to highlight personal development skills

List your personal development skills on your resume and when interviewing for a job to show employers you can succeed in that position.

1. Highlight personal development skills in your resume

Create a section in your resume titled “Skills” that includes both hard and soft skills. List only the personal development skills that apply to that job. If you have many skill types, you might group them by category within your resume’s skills section.

Example:

Relevant Skills

  • Time management: Consistently handled upward of six projects at a time and met 100% of deadlines
  • Organization: Created an efficient online filing system for a large group of clients using color-coded folders and documents as well as tags
  • Adaptability: Adjusted workflow to accommodate additional responsibilities, including refined task scheduling and time tracking

2. Highlight personal development skills in your cover letter

Choose a couple of personal development skills that you feel are strong and most relevant to the job. Within the body of your cover letter, describe briefly how you would apply each one to that job’s responsibilities, or give an example of how that skill has benefited you in the past.

Example: As an effective problem-solver, I helped customers quickly troubleshoot their programming issues. The clients I worked with reported a 92% success rate at resolving computer problems under my guidance.

3. Highlight personal development skills during your job interview

List your strongest personal development skills when answering interview questions, such as “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” or “What are your goals?” Describe your top skills, your plan for further development and where you have room for improvement. You can also use examples to show off your personal development skills. 

Example:  “_During a period of tension in the workplace, my interpersonal skills and ability to form relationships helped unify our department. We became a far more cohesive and productive team.” 

These are just a few of the personal development skills that can benefit your life and your work. Self-development is a lifelong process upon which you can continue to improve. Focus on developing the skills that will best help you reach your goals.

The positive power of education

The human race has made significant progress in the past 7 million years. From being cave dwelling Neanderthals to now being jet-setting futurists, we have come a long way.  Today, as we gear up to become a planet of 9 billion people, are we better off than we were millenniums ago? Of course access to the bare necessities of life has never been easier. Shelter electricity, food, and hygiene have considerably improved the quality of our lives. But the one essential element that separates us from the dumb, that helps create better societies, develop virtues and gives us a sense of freedom—is Education and many around the world are still deprived of it.

The classic definition of education is ”the process of receiving or giving systematic instruction, especially at a school or university”. But education is much more than that. It is a process of continuous learning which can be acquired anywhere at any time and any age. It is the fundamental right of every citizen because it promotes empowerment and ensures development benefits. Education can be used for the upliftment of society since it helps elevate the social and economic conditions in the marginalized sections of society.

Education makes us better citizens by teaching us how to conduct ourselves through life by following rules and regulations and giving us a sense of conscience. It make us more confident to go out there and achieve things. Many governments across the world have recognized the importance of education as a tool to enhance progress and make the world a better place. Let us see how it achieves that:

1. Education spreads awareness

Blind faith and superstitions are what bog down society. People misled by false beliefs do more harm than good to society. Education helps us question, gives us an analytical mind and helps us reject superstitions. An educated mind asks for logic and scientific reasoning behind all actions.

2. It helps us stand up against wrong and for the right

Education helps lower crime rate. That’s because the educated can differentiate between what’s right and what’s wrong. Research has shown that increasing the high school completion rate by just 1 percent for all men ages 20-60 would save the U.S. up to $1.4 billion per year in reduced costs from crime. This is true for other regions as well.

3. It helps progress

Better education opens up a host of opportunities and this is especially relevant in the times we live in where technology and education ensure that opportunities are not bound by geography.

4. It gives us a healthier lifestyle

Better educated people tend to live longer and have better lifestyles. For example research conducted in central European OECD countries have shown that a 30-year-old tertiary-educated man can expect to live eight years longer than a 30-year-old man who has not completed upper secondary education. While a tertiary-educated woman can expect to live four years longer than a woman without an upper secondary education.

5. Helps us to be more productive

It is a fact well known that the more degrees you have, better would be your economic performance. There is a deep connection between education and productivity and in this age where there is competition at every turn, education is what will help an industry and subsequently a nation, to flourish.

6. It helps us connect across borders

Digital education has helped achieve this. Education has given students from across borders opportunities to connect and communicate and work towards building a better future and a better world. For example, a professor in America can help inspire a student in Afghanistan to study and travel the world, help herself and a whole generation after her, to lead a better life.

7. It gives empowerment

Education helps turn weakness into strength. Education gives us the confidence to stand for ourselves. It improves our decision making capabilities, makes us mobile and gives us access to social networks. Many researches have proven that in countries where women are subjected to gender bias, education helped them stand up against marital violence, improved their decision making capabilities and helped them take charge of their own lives.

To quote Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai, “books and our pens, they are the most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world. Education is the only solution. Education first.”

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