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Newsletter Cher lecteur: motivation, memory and practice

Cher lecteur: motivation, memory and practice

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Hello Cher lecteur,


Hi Fabien;

Before saying anything, Fabien, I want just to apologize to you for my bad English, but really I try to improve my level in this language and be better and better, of course thanks for your help.

I follow all your advice, Fabein, to improve my level in English for example: I enrolled in a private school to learn English, listening to music, watching movies and series also like FRIENDS... but I have two problems, and please Fab advise me:
The first one is: I learn English but just for a short period of time and after that I stop and I give up, "I don't know why!".
The second one is: I forget what I learn because I don't practice it (I am Algerian so our second language is French, not English, means we speak just French and not English).

I have a small story about the English language, I want to share with you:
This story is almost one year old; I was at the supermarket and there I saw a Korean who speaks English and is trying to convey his message to the store clerk but the two did not understand each other. I approached them and I asked the Korean: Can I help you? he looked at me and he said yes please, so I translated what he wanted to say and he was very happy(me too because I felt as a super woman, helping others), after that he gave me his business card and he said that in his company they are looking for somebody who speaks English to work with them. So I have been working with this Korean until today...

Mouna from Algeria, Alger;
Talk to you soon dear Fabien.


Hello Mouna,

Thanks for sharing! Nice story. Here are a couple of tips concerning your issues:


Now keeping your motivation may be trickier than it seems. It can be simple but you need to keep in mind what you like to do and how you feel about what you do. Motivation is a fine balance between being challenged by what you do and feeling you can do it. You need to be challenged because it creates an incentive to actually do it, so you know and can feel you have learned something you can be proud of it. You want to feel you have achieved something new. It also needs to be within reach because if it is too hard to do you will feel bad about it, you will think you are not good enough or something similar nonsense. It is silly but this is how us people work! So keep in mind those questions... Is this enough of a challenge? Is this something you know you can do? It is also one of the reasons why not everyone learns the same way or can benefit from the same material because, regardless of personal preferences, we are all at different levels in English.

So feel confident about what you do while still trying to do things you have never done before!

Besides this "challenge" factor, you also need to have fun doing what you do over long periods of time. Challenges create stress and stress is actually a GOOD thing to help us learn, grow and expand. However, you cannot be actively focused like that all of the time, as it is a tiring process. So, when you want to relax but STILL feel like practicing your English, pick something easy and enjoyable. The easiest thing to do in that regard, if you have the skills for it already, is quite simply to watch a sitcom. If it is hard for you, simply watch little of it and you can move to bigger and bigger chunks as time goes.


Let us talk about memory only for a second. Memory is a bodily activity like any other. Eat well, rest well and exercise. A body in great shape has an easier time memorizing things. Sleep is all particularly important as it is a time when your body processes all it has learned and "stores" it in brain cells so as to build longer-term memory. Food is also important: omega-3 fatty acids are a must for our health, our bodies cannot produce them so it has to find those in the food we eat -- they help build brain tissue. You find them in great quantity in oily fish (e.g.: salmon), walnut and colza oil. Exercising is good to help oxygenate your body, it is good for our brains and also helps us focus more easily. (For a great read on all those topics, I recommend, in French: "Bien manger pour être au top", by Dr. Jacques Fricker.)

Now, memory is also an emotional thing. We really do remember what we want to remember (and forget what we want to forget). This is one more reason (out of so many!) why we need to practice our English on things we like. If something very strong emotionally was to happen to you, you would remember it for the rest of your life.

Finding time to practice is your responsibility however. I wrote my book to help in that regard. We all need to practice our English but school does not teach us how. TV, Internet chat, bulletin boards, audio books... There are so many ways. You need to make time for those. To make things easier: always have things readily accessible for you to practice. You want to set things up in such a way that you will be able to practice English a few times every day. It does not mean you need to put a lot of effort into it each time (it should not be a pain) but it does mean that it should be simple and natural for you to access. For example, perform all of your web searches in English (more and better content anyway) or set your cellphone language to English.

English is the easiest language in the world to access (sooooo many content are in English!). Of course, make sure what you do is entertaining so you come back to it, think about it often and feel good doing all of those things.

Last but not least, there are ways (tricks) to help your memorize things. I will give an example to remember people's names because it is easier to explain that way. It also works, actually, for any word or expression.

Do you have a hard time remembering people's names? Here is a technique that helps a lot. Thanks to it, you might be able to remember people's names 3 years later even if you have not seen them in the meantime. When you meet someone for the first time and they introduce themselves to you, look at them in the eye and pause for a second as they tell you their name. As you kiss them hello or shake their hand, remember their face (visual), the pronunciation of their name (sound) and their name (written), all at the same time. It may seem like it's a lot to do but as you start using it it becomes obvious and automatic. Their face, then the pronunciation of their name, then how they write their name. All in the blink of an eye (really fast). Later on as you talk with them, force yourself to remember all three informations at the same time again. If it is hard to remember for some reason (odd name or a lot of new people there), do it more often. You can still chat with people at the same time, it is no trouble. Simply, once in a while during the beginning of the conversation, force yourself to remember those informations. Now keep chatting with people and like 10 minutes later, try to remember those information again when you see the other person. Do the same thing again like 20 minutes later. By then, it should stick more easily in your memory. Do the same thing even faster (it is easier now) during the rest of the event. Do the same when you say goodbye. Do it again on your way back home when you have nothing to do and, if you are talking about the meeting with friends, name the people who were there by their name, even if your friends do not know them. The next day, you will naturally think about the people you met the day before and remember their name. Now for the rest of your life (or for the next few weeks/months!) do an effort to remember the person's name and face if you come to talk about them.

How does it help with words and foreign languages? If you discover a new word (in a conversation, in a TV show, whatever the setting) use the same technique. How it is pronounced (the most important part here), what it means (a visual) and how it is written (useful). Apply it in the same way: remember all three components later a few times in the next minutes and again as you keep doing what you do. Do so in your spare time (e.g.: transportation) or as you think about that activity again. (This is also why it is great to learn English with English songs, as when you hear the song again you will think of those words and refresh your memory in a very vivid way thanks to that technique.)

Well, it's a much longer mail than I intended to write! I hope you have fun working on your English and I will talk to you again soon.

Your friend,