Learning methods

Last year, just out of simple curiosity, I took a MOOC on edX called “The Science of Everyday Thinking”. The module that really attracted my attention was “Learning to Learn”, which was about the best and the worst learning strategies. The course was so exciting, that I completed it all, and even earned an Honor Code certificate. One year later, I came back to the course curriculum and reviewed those strategies again. Instead of just reading it, entertaining myself and forgetting those strategies for good, I decided to sit down and analyze how I already apply them in my everyday life and what could be done better.

In the same course, I learned about Malcolm Gladwell’s 10000 hours rule (it takes 10000 of practice to become an expert). This number is, of course, a gross approximation, but the idea is that mastery comes after practicing a specific task consistently and for a long time. However, Josh Kaufman assures us in his TED talk, that all we need for a rapid skill acquisition is 20 hours. Those 20 hours of deliberate practice are supposed to be enough to turn a complete newbie into a decent performer. I kind of doubt that, and according to the most rated review of this book on Amazon, the whole content of the book can be summarized in these uncomplicated steps:

  1. Choose a lovable project.
  2. Focus your energy on one skill at a time.
  3. Define your target performance level.
  4. Deconstruct the skill into subskills
  5. Obtain critical tools.
  6. Eliminate barriers to practice.
  7. Make dedicated time for practice.
  8. Create fast feedback loops.
  9. Practice by the clock in short bursts
  10. Emphasize quantity and speed

Following the Pareto principle (which is, again, inaccurate, but sounds true as a general idea), 20% of your efforts will lead to 80% of your desired outcome. Applied in language learning, 1200-2000 words is the range of the most common words I will need to know in order to be conversationally fluent in Portuguese. I found that using a list of nouns purely as a reference may be helpful (however, I wouldn’t learn those nouns from the list one by one – I can forget everything the very next day).

I have also subscribed to an online learning studio, which helped me at least in some way with remembering the basic vocabulary and verb conjugations. I can see that this service can help me learn many more verb forms, while I continue picking up the vocabulary in podcasts and books.

I also have books called Passaporte para Português 1 and Gramática Ativa 1, which I used in my intensive summer course and will continue using. I really enjoyed the first book, especially the sections “Português em ação”, which portray everyday situations quite accurately and are very handy.

Other than that, I try my best to speak Portuguese as much as I can with random people that I meet in the gym, stores or restaurants. I tend to choose older people as my “victims”, since they are usually friendly and have lots of patience for me, my slow speech and my accent! Of course, I also prefer to embarrass myself in front of people that I don’t know, rather than people that I face every day!

Soon I am going to provide some more methods that I found, but the mentioned ones will be my starting point. I will really focus on them for now. Probably a bit later I will hire someone from italki. Até logo!


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