Your brain is an amazing machine. Just like any machine, with a little care and attention and a little understanding, you will get the most out of it. Today’s conversation in English is about listening to English, practising your listening comprehension and learning new English vocabulary. It’s also about understanding a little more about that amazing machine between your ears.
We often find that our English language students come from two completely different camps. One camp wants to understand exactly how and why learning English through listening works. They need facts and figures to help them accept that this approach really works well. And the other camp, just doesn’t care about the how or the why, they just accept that if it works for others, then it will work for them.
We like explaining the how and the why, but we also don’t want to bore the pants off our listeners! So we try to keep the podcasts light and easy to listen to while still explaining some of the key scientific principles that support our listen and learn approach to acquiring a new language.
I was reading some YouTube comments the other day, and one from Isra just made me smile.
As always, excellent material to keep learning and improving. I appreciate the exercises I was able to answered correctly all times and I don’t know why (unconsciously). It was excited to me. Thank you.
We rarely stop to think about our brain, how it’s doing so much for us without us even noticing. Your brain is an amazing machine and just like most of us, don’t think about our car engine, and have no intention of being a master car mechanic. We need to understand a few things to get the most out of our car, and our brain.
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Hi and welcome to this podcast from Adept English.
One of the things which we sometimes talk about in Adept English is how language learning is a skill. That word is spelt SKILL – and a skill means ‘a thing that you do well’. Skills are usually practical things that we learn – peeling potatoes is a skill. And a skill is something that you acquire.
That’s the verb ‘to acquire’, ACQUIRE and it’s a more formal word for ‘to get’. And you acquire a skill…...that means you’ve got it, you can do it - by practice and by practising. So if you do something over and over and over again, you get better at it. And this is of interest to us here at Adept English and to you as a language learner.
It’s a core principle of our free course, The Seven Rules of Adept English](https://7rules.adeptenglish.com/ ) that repetition, doing something over and over again, is the way that you acquire a skill. And so it’s true of language learning just as it is of many other skills.
So one of the things I mentioned in a podcast recently, was that there are such things as intensive language courses, used by the military and other similar organisations. And these courses truly are intense.
You may learn a language quickly, but you really have to put in the hours and the effort and give everything else in your life up, while you do it. It costs a lot of money too, but it’s interesting to look at the psychology at work in acquiring skills in intensive courses.
One of the things which has become more common in the UK in the last couple of years, is the intensive driving course. Learning to drive a car is of course, a skill too. And usually it takes many months to become good enough at driving a car to pass your driving test.
It’s estimated it takes around 47 hours of driving lessons on average, before the learner driver is good enough to pass their driving test. That’s quite a lot of money – it’s around £25 to £30 I think, for a driving lesson of an hour long, in the UK? And these lessons usually have to happen over many months.
Another name for these intensive driving courses though, which are aimed at saving you some money – they’re called ‘Crash Courses’ – the term we use for a fast driving course. There’s a bit of humour there in the name, in that a ‘crash’, CRASH is another term for an accident in a car, a collision between two vehicles is called ‘a crash’.
So ‘a crash course’ is….it’s really what you hope doesn’t happen, a crash! But if you sign up for one of the new intensive driving courses, then you will spend one to two weeks, full time, many hours a day learning to drive, all at once. The idea is that by giving it this intense focus, you don’t lose any time, you don’t go backwards, as sometimes happens if you’re learning a skill and you take time off from it.
The idea in part is that it takes fewer hours overall, so it’s a big upfront cost, but it costs less than taking lessons over a long period. So it’s about £1,000 for a week and about £2,000 for a two week course. But the idea is it’s still cheaper, than it would be if you did it the usual way with weekly lessons. At the end of the week or two weeks of the intensive driving course, you take your driving test – and hopefully you pass it.
The advantage of doing it this way is that you haven’t got time to forget. If you learn something more slowly, more gradually, especially if it’s weekly, then by the time it comes around to the next lesson, you’ve forgotten some elements of the previous lesson and you have to do a little bit of re-learning at the start of the new lesson, before you can make progress again.
A photograph of a lady looking at books. Today we talk about your amazing brain and how we acquire languages.
The disadvantages of the intensive driving course? Well, it’s probably quite difficult - you might get fed up doing it, nothing but driving for a whole week and it’s very, very tiring. There’s a fair amount of upfront cost….and perhaps you feel it might be wasted, if you don’t actually pass your driving test at the end of the week. That would be a big disappointment, but apparently the pass rate – the number of people that pass – it’s much higher after an intensive driving course.
If you look at the acquisition of a skill in terms of neuroscience, researchers using a super resolution, live-cell microscope have actually seen cells increase and multiply in someone’s brain in response to learning activity. Let’s do some vocabulary there?
‘Super resolution’ means ‘giving a very detailed image’, live cell – that means the researchers were looking at live cells, human cells in an actual living, thinking brain. And a microscope? That’s a device you use for seeing tiny objects, like living cells. And cells are what the human body and human brain are made up of. That’s CELLS. So let me say that first sentence again.
If you look at the acquisition of a skill in terms of the neuroscience, researchers using a super resolution, live-cell microscope have actually seen cells increase and multiply inside someone’s brain, in response to a learning activity. So learning changes the brain, it excites the number of cells in the brain and it causes the cells to multiply. It causes new connections in your brain.
So this is what’s happening, when you’re learning, when you’re listening to this podcast even and when you’re acquiring a new skill. The more learning experience you expose yourself to, the more ‘learning signals’ your brain has and the more your brain will be responding by forming new cells and new neurons.
So your brain changes in response to what you are exposed to. So that’s why if you do something like an intensive driving course or an intensive language course, or any other training course that’s intense, you’ll feel really tired by the end of the day. And you’re really tired, even though you may have been sitting down. You’re probably quite hungry too. So learning and adding extra cells in your brain is a process that uses up lots of calories, all that extra brain activity.
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You may think I’m half-joking there, but I’m not, I’m serious! The brain burns calories – that’s CALORIES. It’s a measure of the energy in our food. In the average 5-6 year old, 60% of their daily calories – their food intake, the energy from their food intake - is used by their brains! That’s because the average 5-6 year old is very busy with learning.
So if you’re learning, and especially if you’re learning intensely, your brain will be burning a lot of calories. Our brains really are the most wonderful things.
And the relevance of this for your English language learning? Well, this research suggests that if you really want to give your English language learning a boost, but you haven’t got the time, the money or the inclination to take an intensive learning course, you can still give yourself an intense experience.
You could do this perhaps by spending a weekend watching English films. Or a weekend reading English books. Or if you visit an English speaking country, that also gives your English language learning an intense boost. That one is a bit difficult at the moment, as we’re not allowed to travel, but hopefully soon.
One of the things which you could also think about – buying one of our podcast bundles! If you want to do intense brain training for your English language learning, a podcast bundle is not a bad idea. It means you’ve got lots and lots of English language listening to go at.
So if you feel like giving yourself an intensive language course, this may be a good way forward! One of the benefits of learning with Adept English is that you can ‘go at your own pace’. For some people that means quite slowly. But there’s nothing stopping you from doing it intensively as well.
Visit our website at adeptenglish.com if you do decide you might want to buy a podcast bundle. It’s a lot, lot cheaper than an intensive language course!
Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.