Many people claim that polyglots are natural born language learners. Others may claim that they’re secret government agents, meant to spy on the general public with their sneaky language skills.  And a select few will probably take a more rational and objective approach, identifying that polyglots make language learning a priority. 

More than that, they tend to create an environment that enhances their ability to soak up a language and spit it back out in impressive fashion.  The environment in which you learn plays a crucial role in how effectively and quickly you can acquire new language skills. A well-organized learning environment can significantly impact your language learning journey, making it more enjoyable and productive. 

Today’s article will guide you on how to transform your learning space to optimize your language skills, manage your learning environment effectively, and maintain an organized environment conducive to language acquisition. To do so, we’re going to break down today’s topic into two crucial segments: study sessions and learning on the go

Study Sessions

For the sake of keeping things simple, we’re going to define study sessions as the deliberate and purposeful practice of your target language at home. 

Make Your Learning Materials Visible

Chances are that when something is out of sight, then it’s often out of mind, especially when it comes to language learning. Keeping your learning materials visible helps keep your mind focused on your goals and reminds you to use them frequently. For instance, if you're learning Spanish, keep your flashcards, textbooks, and apps easily accessible on your desk or a dedicated shelf.

You don’t have to do anything fancy, but make sure you have a space dedicated to learning your target language. A simple and effective way to improve your learning environment is to use a whiteboard or cork board where you can pin vocabulary lists, grammar rules, and inspirational quotes. This constant visual reminder can enhance your memory retention and keep you motivated. Having your learning tools within arm's reach reduces the effort needed to get started, making it easier to dive into your study sessions.

Or, if you’re more like me, you can just have your materials laid out on your desk in a neat and orderly fashion.  

Have a Notebook to Take with You for New Ideas

Handwriting has been shown to improve memory and cognitive function more effectively than typing. When you write things down by hand, you engage different parts of your brain, which aids in memory retention. Carrying a notebook with you allows you to jot down new words, phrases, and ideas as they come to you, whether you're at home, at work, or on the go.

Depth vs. speed is an essential consideration here. While typing may be faster, the depth of processing that comes with handwriting can lead to better long-term retention of the material. Use your notebook to write summaries of lessons, practice sentence construction, or even doodle related images. This practice will make the information stick better than simply typing it into a digital device.

If that’s not enough for you, here are three more reasons why the hand is mightier than the keyboard:

1. Enhanced Cognitive Processing

Handwriting notes engages more cognitive processes than typing, involving fine motor skills and tactile feedback that activate different brain areas associated with learning and memory. This deeper cognitive engagement helps process and internalize information more effectively, improving retention.

2. Improved Understanding and Synthesis

Writing by hand often requires summarizing and paraphrasing, which aids comprehension and concept synthesis. This process fosters a deeper understanding of the material, while typing can encourage verbatim note-taking with less mental effort, resulting in lower retention.

3. Better Focus and Reduced Distractions

Handwriting notes reduces distractions compared to using digital devices, which can tempt you to switch between applications or browse the internet. By limiting these distractions, writing by hand allows for better concentration on the material, enhancing retention.

Make Digital and Physical Learning Frictionless

To optimize your learning environment, it’s crucial to make both digital and physical learning as seamless as possible. Ensure that you have quick access to your learning materials, whether they are physical books or digital resources. 

For example, at this time, I am combining Easy Turkish with my SMART Learning with Podcasts technique (one of the trademark techniques taught in my Overcoming the Intermediate Plateau course).  To ensure this process is frictionless, I have all of my Easy Turkish files opened on a tab or I keep them downloaded within a folder on my desktop.  This simplicity (one resource and one method) minimizes the steps needed to start learning, reducing friction and keeping motivation high.
Focus on one resource at a time to avoid overwhelming yourself. Multitasking can dilute your learning experience and make it harder to retain information. Instead, dedicate specific times and places for different types of learning materials. Know what resources you're using, when you're using them, and how you're going to use them. This structured approach can significantly enhance your learning efficiency and help you maintain an organized environment.

Now that you know the tricks to the trade of enhancing your home environment, what about learning “on the go”?

Learning On The Go

Unlike study sessions, learning on the go refers to more passive and natural learning, absorbing the language while going about your regular, everyday life. 

Associations: Indoors and Outdoors

Creating associations between languages and different environments can boost your learning process. Associating specific languages with particular spaces in your home or daily routine can make learning more natural and ingrained in your everyday life.

Indoors: Create Associations for Languages with Various Spaces in Your Home

If you’re studying multiple languages, assign different languages to different rooms or activities within your home. For example, I have a specific location linked to each one of my languages. 

When I’m in the kitchen and preparing a meal, it’s usually Russian or French.  Then, Polish gets to bless my ears during a workout and the post-workout shower.  When it comes to a number 1 or a number 2, it is German that I turn to.  Finally, I am a voracious reader so I enjoy reading in English or Italian before going to bed. This process ties language learning to habitual actions, making it a regular part of your daily routine.

Outdoors: Use This Time to Listen to Your Target Language

When you're outside, take advantage of the time to immerse yourself in your target language. During your commute to work, listen to your favorite language-learning podcast. While waiting in line, tune in to audio lessons or practice listening with native speakers.For instance, when I’m waiting in line for the bus or the train, I am typically listening to Greek, Polish, or Russian podcasts. This habit not only utilizes time that might otherwise be wasted but also exposes me to native speech patterns and new vocabulary. 

Language exchanges (affiliate) or regular meetups with people who speak your target language are another great way to bolster your language skills.  When doing this try to avoid using English, because it’s often the default language for many groups. 

For an especially sweet treat, try walking through your city with a native speaker and using your target language to describe it.  This wonderful activity will give you a brand new appreciation (and perspective) for your hometown.  I’ve had the pleasure of doing this in Rome multiple times and it always surprises me how I choose to describe certain locations in Polish or Serbian as opposed to Italian or Spanish. 

Getting Fluent Means Staying Focused Wherever You Are 

Learning a language is no easy task, but you can speed up your progress and make things quite a bit more pain-free by transforming your learning environments. 

By focusing on making your learning materials visible, using a notebook for new ideas, and creating seamless access to your resources, you can create an optimal learning environment. Additionally, integrating language learning into your daily routines, both indoors and outdoors, ensures consistent practice and exposure.

Remember, the key to success lies in a well-managed, organized environment. As the famous quote by William Butler Yeats goes, "Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire." Ignite your passion for language learning by transforming your learning space today. By implementing these strategies, you can skyrocket your language skills and achieve your goals faster and more efficiently. 

Happy language learning!

Written by Luca Lampariello

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