10 Holistic ways to make language learning stick and grow fluency

When I was learning languages at school the traditional based methods were not working for me, but then I discovered another way. I started to approach learning from a more holistic viewpoint focusing on what my brain and body need for them to work more efficiently and make language learning stick!

In this article, we are going to explore a few ways that information can fall from our brains!

There are several reasons why we may not be able to process new information and get foreign vocabulary to stick.

Five of the most fundamental reasons that can impact learning

  1. You are dehydrated.
  2. You are hungry.
  3. You are too hot or too cold.
  4. You are too stressed and anxious.
  5. You are focusing on too many things!

Let’s briefly look at what the holistic learning approach is?

The holistic approach to learning languages independently is to recognize you that yourself as a whole person, the sum of all of your parts, not just a precious few.

Therefore, the holistic approach to learning is developing your awareness of the body, mind, and spirit and how if one of these things out of balance it could impact on your ability to process new information. It is equally important to pay close attention to physical, personal, social and emotional well being as it is to focus on the cognitive aspects of learning.

Points to improve your learning experience

Point 1 & 2 – It is crucial for your body to have enough fuel and hydration to operate efficiently. If your brain has to focus on finding food and water. As a result, your mind is not on the task in hand! A car couldn’t run on empty!

Point 3 – Classroom studies have shown the optimum temperature for learning is 22 Degree Celsius. Anything too cold or too hot can impair our focus and make it difficult to concentrate.

Using the holistic approach

Point 4 – Stress is the body’s natural reaction to an increased demand that is placed on it. Anxiety is when one has the urge to fight or flight (or even freeze). Both exist for a reason – for a person to take action!   When students and independent learners get into an emotional state of stress or feel very anxious, they are not responsive to processing and storing new information. New neuroimaging studies of the amygdala, hippocampus regions of the brain, the limbic system, along with measurement of dopamine levels and other brain chemical transmitters during the learning process, reveal that comfort level of the learner has a critical impact on information transmission and storage within the brain. These factors have been found to affect self- remembering and thinking processes!

Point 5 – In this busy digital world, we have so many things going on that it can be challenging to focus on one thing at a time. When multi-tasking your brain is filtering between tasks. It will run the risk of missing or even losing key information in the process. To be genuinely productive it is essential to focus on just one thing at a time and engaging with as many senses as possible.

Ten things you can try to make language learning stick for you.

  1. Drink plenty of water. Now, how much depends on room temperature and how active you are, age and even body mass. However, the guidelines in the UK are about eight glasses a day.
  2. Fuel up before a study session. Bananas are the ultimate study food giving you slow release energy. Don’t study hungry as attention will be drawn to finding fuel for the brain!
  3. Ensure you have optimized your study area for learning, means checking the room temperature. Remember 22 degrees Celsius is optimal for learning. Check out lightning and comfort and turn off any distractions and even silence notifications on your phone. Just have the study materials that you need ready for the study sessions.
  4. The Pomodoro Technique (https://francescocirillo.com/products/the-pomodoro-technique-for-individuals) This is a very mindful technique where an individual will focus on a topic for 20 minutes, then take a short break of about 5-10 minutes and then do another 20 minutes. My recommendations for this method is to focus on just one thing for 20 minutes then take a break and during the break take some deep breaths. It gives the brain time to digest what is being learned without bombarding it with more stimulus. Then when you return to the study session spend at least 5 minutes reviewing what you have just learned.
  5. Get enough sleep. While you sleep, your brain is carrying out essential works. During this time it is also filing and trying to make sense of the day. Sleep requirements vary depending on health, age and even how active you are. Average guidelines suggest about 8 hours of sleep, but it is important to note that quality of sleep is important. So you could sleep 8 hours, but have disruptions that mean you are not getting full sleep cycles.
  6. Study with friends and native speakers to help motivate and improve learning.
  7. If you are feeling stressed or anxious before a study session try some relaxation techniques or essential mindfulness practice. Your brain will not be able to efficiently process new information if it is set to red alert.
  8. Another tip is to have a hot drink or bath. A change in body temperature can act like a rebooting switch
  9. Consistency in studying is vital to ensure you set up a regular study pattern that works for you! While studying engage your senses. We tend to focus on our preferred learning styles, but using all your five basic senses during the learning process is like super glue for our brains!
  10. If you have any concerns over mental well being or memory problems, seek professional medical support. It does not always mean having to take bills; there are lots of options available to people.

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