As you might know:
When it comes to learning a new language, I’m not a fan of conversing from the get-go.
I think it’s a waste of time, and you set yourself up to have many fossilized errors that are tough to correct later on if almost everything you say to the bewildered natives speakers is incorrect.
…and although touted as a way to motivate yourself, it may actually shatter confidence to speak in your new language before you’ve even started.
However, there’s no denying that you learn a new language to use it in real life. And that should be the main focus of your language learning methodology.
In Your Mind’s Eye
A great way to squeeze a little more out of your language study sessions, is to always imagine yourself in a social setting.
By doing so, you prepare yourself to actually use what you learn.
You don’t repeat the phrases from your audio language course just for the sake of it. You repeat them so you can later use them.
And one of the tricks to accomplish that faster, is to always imagine yourself using the thing you’re learning in real life.
Now, you don’t have to forcefully imagine yourself at a party or anything (or getting robbed at gunpoint in Central America). It’s a light form of imagination:
There’s no need to see all the gory details in your mind’s eye. Just lightly imagine yourself saying the thing in a real-life conversation.
It’s a Girl and We’ll Call Her…
Let’s give a name to this method so we know what we’re talking about.
I guess I’ll call it:
Imagine from Day One.
From Day One, because it doesn’t matter what language learning activity you’re doing.
Even when writing sentences in a text book, you can make it a less isolated — and a more effective — learning session by lightly imagining yourself actually using the stuff.
Why Does it Work?
I always use the Imagine from Day One method in my own language learning, and I’m convinced that it helps quite a bit.
Unfortunately, I haven’t found any linguistic studies that confirm this.
I can see how it’d be hard to do a study on this:
How would you know that a guy participant is imagining a relevant social setting, or that he’s thinking about his porn video collection?
I guess scientists would measures his hormone levels or something…
Anyway, I’ve always compared learning a language to professional sports. Language study activities are the training, and real-life conversations the match.
You don’t go into a match before you’ve trained significantly…and during the training you use what went wrong in the match to improve.
But that’s not the only parallel with language learning:
Professional athletes also use visualization to gain an edge. They imagine themselves successfully executing the moves they trained to increase the odds of that actually happening.
The Imagine from Day One method somewhat resembles this kind of visualization.
In your mind’s eye you see yourself using the word or sentence you’re learning in a social encounter. You do this at the very moment you’re learning or reviewing something.
This helps you not only to remember it better, but it also makes it more likely that you’ll actually use it successfully in real life.