Those expats who enjoy a tipple will no doubt be delighted to read the news that I am reporting this week. According to researchers, German students studying the Dutch language found that their pronunciation improved remarkably after drinking just one pint of beer each. So, I guess many readers are now wondering if a glass or two of Spanish Rioja before attempting to speak Spanish might be of help?
Sadly, I have no more information about this, but if you too find that your Spanish language skills soar following a few drinks, do please let me know and I will pass this information on to the researchers.
As far as more traditional approaches are concerned, I remember a brief period as an awkward teenager when I suddenly decided to learn Russian during the Cold War period, which I now confess was designed mainly to annoy my parents. I invested in a small pillow speaker linked to a tape recorder that was supposed to help me to learn the new vocabulary whilst I slept.
Sadly, during one restless night I became so entangled in the cables that it destroyed the connection and damaged the tape recorder; my confidence in this new approach to learning was badly shaken. It was an experiment without a satisfactory conclusion.
A more serious study has recently found that millions of insomniacs could do something useful with their time and instead of counting sheep, could practice learning a language instead. It seems that if you practice the language that you are learning at night, just before you go to sleep, you are more likely to remember it.
In this latest study, twenty participants learned in the morning and their learning was tested later the same day. An additional twenty participants learned in the evening, had a good sleep, and were then tested the following morning. Researchers discovered that sleeping between lessons led to greater long-term retention.
It is also important to mention here that a number of studies indicate that learning a language can help to prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s and other health conditions.
As well as practicing a language before you sleep, it is important to make language learning a daily habit. A focussed time to learn, and just before going to bed seems to be a good idea, because you are less likely to be interrupted.
Learning and practicing a new language can take many forms, such as the use of subtitles in another language when watching television or listening to podcasts in Spanish.
I have always thought that in order to foster cooperation, communication and harmony, it would be a good idea if the world’s three major languages: English, Spanish and Mandarin Chinese were taught in all schools, allowing effective communication across the globe and making misunderstanding and conflict less likely.
Personally, I am always keen to use technology when possible, and maybe one day I will make an effort to learn Mandarin Chinese whilst I sleep. However, this time I will be investing in a new type of pillow speaker that is connected by Bluetooth, and certainly with no more cables.
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© Barrie Mahoney