Category Archives: metacognitive

Contest Winners – Most Unusual Technique

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The second category is the “Most Unusual Technique.” If you read about his technique, I think you’ll agree that it’s pretty unusual!

Hi Clarissa,

I decided to submit one tip for practising English that comes very handy on situations when foreign English speakers have difficulties with speaking English due to so called ‘mind-chatter’.

It’s a feeling in one’s mind as if hundreds of thoughts are repeating themselves over and over again and preventing from having a clear and fluent English speech.

I know for a fact that plenty of foreign English speakers experience this issue every now and then and I’ve described my technique of dealing with it in my blog post here:

I still get this ‘mind-chatter’ every once in a while myself and the way of dealing with it as described in my blog post helps me every time.

I’d be glad if you accepted this as an entry for the contest!

The winning technique above was submitted by @englishharmony (non-Twitter users were welcome to enter, but only Twitter users entered).

Well, driving yourself crazy with English can definitely get in the way of speaking fluently–especially if you’re focusing too much on trying to remember rules and difficult vocabulary words. So maybe taking a break is a good idea sometimes.

Dare to Fail

Elizabeth Bear, an excellent writer whom I’ve gotten to know online, posted this line in her blog today: To double your success rate, quintuple your failure rate. (That means “To have twice as many successes, you should try failing five times as much.”)

She was talking about writing fiction, but this is also true for learning languages. Researchers have looked at this. They found out something interesting: Students who are brave enough to take more chances DO make more mistakes, but they ALSO learn faster and better. If you only say or write things that you know are correct, it’s nearly impossible for you to raise your level.

I know it’s scary, but it’s also necessary.

Now, I don’t particularly like Nike, and I don’t like TV ads in general. However, I think Michael Jordan does a good job in this video. He reminds us that making mistakes and failing is part of getting better and winning:

When you hesitate to speak or write, think of what Michael Jordan and Elizabeth Bear said. Then take that chance!

Daily Yomiuri Online English Special

There’s an interesting set of articles about English currently online at website for the Daily Yomiuri, a Japanese newspaper. I agree with many, though not all, of the ideas expressed in the articles. Here are two I particularly liked:

“Forging Paths toward Fluency” by Brian Chapman: “A key element in learning a foreign language well is having the desire and a passion for learning it. The same holds true for teachers, and a passionate teacher will strive to produce what is best for the student to learn–and, more importantly, to communicate.” The writer interviewed a teacher, Stephen Soresi, who uses a special method to get students to talk more. I don’t know how good his method is, but I agree with him that even native speakers don’t speak with perfect grammar–so why pressure students to be perfect? It’s better to help them say anything than to scare them into saying nothing. I also agree with him that the main reason many Japanese people can’t communicate in English even after studying for years has nothing to do with being Japanese. Instead, it’s because of “the way schools, all the way up to the university level, treat English education and entrance examinations.”

In “Business English Fun?”, another teacher has a similar point. Michael Jones tells students “Have the confidence to fail in English!” Research supports this idea: if you don’t experiment with language, it’s hard to progress. Jones also tells teachers “If [students are] communicating, don’t interrupt. If they’re actually speaking, that’s half the struggle–and let them finish.” I totally agree. If you’re looking for a teacher, observe their classes. See if they usually wait long enough for students to complete their thoughts. You don’t want a teacher who is impatient or who interrupts.

Take a look at the other articles, which are all listed on the Language Connection section.

Learning to learn

In my MA program, we talk about “metacognitive strategies.” These strategies are ways you consciously think about how to learn, use, and remember information or skills. One way to think about it is “learning how to learn better.” This article, Hacking Knowledge, lists 77 different ways to learn better. I don’t agree with all of them, but take a look. (You might want to scroll down to where the numbered list begins.)

Setting goals is one technique they mention. (I really need to do this myself!) Write down a list of your language-learning goals. Be specific: don’t write “become fluent,” but things like “have a long conversation with a stranger.” Discuss the goals with someone else to be sure the goals are reasonable. Then put the goals somewhere you’ll see them often, such as stored in your cell phone, in an open document on your computer, or pinned to your wall. Various studies have shown that having specific goals can lead to more accomplishments.

Have you ever tried this or any of the other 77 ways to learn? Did it help you? (Or do you have a suggestion that’s not on their list?)