I have always been fascinated with the process of learning & effective teaching & training. Whether for my own Japanese language study, teaching co-workers how to use English or Japanese effectively, learning the guitar or practicing sports and martial arts I am very interested in how we learn. In Japan people often clap three times before beginning practice, especially in sport or competitions – someone explained it as committing yourself 100% in Body, Mind & Soul. Even in language study all three, including the body, are important. We make sound with our bodies – breathing & pushing air out & shaping our mouth and vocal cords to make sounds, and use posture and gesture in different ways. I have had students say I am good at making them understand new vocabulary or question topics and I often show them how I am using my voice, my face, the way I stand & how I use my hands to support the language communication process. Use everything you have.
It is very important to always think about how we are studying or teaching – Is it effective? Are different styles better for different individuals or people from different cultures, or for different language needs (eg studying for qualifications or just for basic conversation)? By understanding people’s needs, goals, backgrounds and cultures we can use different methods to make learning more effective. Some students learn better in a loud, fun class, while others learn better in more formal approaches.
One thing is very important though, hard work. “Oh no!” you say, “I thought we were going to have fun!” Hard work & fun can go together. If you enjoy your study you will be focused and learn more but the student who works harder, does more, every day, even in a fun environment, will definitely learn faster and get to a higher level.
It’s also important to listen to the stories of people learning from all walks of life. I heard an interview with an scientist once. He said that most of the other scientists he was working with were more intelligent and more qualified than him. But he said he woke up earlier and went to bed later and just worked harder than all the others so he could stay on their level. English Life is definitely about having fun while you learn – because I like to laugh AND because it will help your motivation & memory. But there is no reward without effort – there is no substitute for hard work.