Blog of Sara Jakša

Learning Tactics - Self-Explanation

Self-explanation, as a learning techniques is exactly that. The learner explains to himself the process of achieving results.

The techniques can be used for the variety of things. From studying mathematical processes to music theory to any information written in text.

The biggest danger with self-explaining is paraphrasing. If the learner had seen the whole process, there is a danger, that he is only going to paraphrase. The strength in this method is for the learner to make the explanations himself.

So for example, I am going to use the proof of a mathematical formula. The formula is: if a-b=even number and b-c=even number then a-c=even number.

I start by writing all three equations in order.

a-b=2x

b-c=2y

a-c=z

Now to prove, that z is an even number. To do that, I first combien the first two equations to get rid of the variable b.

a-2x=2y+c

Then I put the third equation in, to get rid of variable a as well.

z+c-2x=2y+c

I can subtract c from the both sides.

z-2x=2y

Now I have to see, what variable z means.

z=2y+2x

Since both of the variables on the right sides have to, I can put them together.

z=2(x+y)

Since the variable z is 2 multiplies with something and 2 multiplies with something is always even, that means that variable z is always even.

So no you can try it. Pick a process or a method, that you want to learn. Explain all the steps in the process.

It doesn’t matter, if the process goes in the wrong direction. Simply thinking out loud can have an impact to the brain’s ability to remember information.

Just try it once, to see if it suits your learning style. Have a lot of fun with explaining, like I had.

Learning Tactics - Simplify

There is a quote from Einstein that I really like. "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler."

Things that are simpler, are always easier to understand. That is why, we use models to explain the workings of nature and society.

For example, using supply and demand model to explain the price of products.

Or Darwins theory to explain evolution of living things (like why we are not monkeys anymore).

So, in order to understand something better, we have to make it simpler. I usually tried to explained, as if I would explain it to 7 year old person (because I know their level), but I know that sometimes idea is hard to explain in these terms.

It is a goal, not a requirement. Just thinking how to explain idea to a primary schooler usually crystallizes an idea.

For example, to explain the supply and demand to them, I would say:

Somebody have to clean the blackboard in school. How many people would have done it for free? Probably a part. But how many of them would have done for 1 of their favorite sweats? For two? The bigger the price, the more people want to do it. But the teacher doesn't want to give sweets to make people clean the blackboard. Most teacher want to give 0 sweets. But some of them are willing to offer one. Even less of them, are willing to offer more. But the teacher only needs one student to do it. If one student is willing to do it for free, than it will be done for free. If not, and the teacher is willing to give sweets, than the child doing it will get sweets."

Now try and explain the idea to yourself, as if you would explained to child.

Or, alternately, you could go talk with a child. It really helps to clarify the concepts.

You could also try to mix it with self-explaning, to achieve even better result.

Pros and Cons of Group Language Learning

Trying to learn the new language? Most common way for people to do that, is to find a group in college or language schools and enroll in the group learning.

But learning a language in the group have the positive and the negative sides as well. It is not suitable for everyone, but for some people, the pros will far outweigh the cons. But for the others, the cons will be the ones that prevail.

The strongest positive effect of the group learning, in my opinion, is the motivation. Since it is a whole group learning together, they can encourage each other. Or I see that student, that is better than me, and start competing with him (but never telling him). Also, it gives me accountability. If I miss the lesson, the next time somebody was going to ask me, where I was. Also, others will have covered parts of the languages, that I will have no clue about.

The second positive effect is creating habits. In order to get better in language, language has to become a habit. This is one way, how to achieve that. By being the part of the group, I have to use the language, when I show up. It doesn't require any additional investments, but time.

The third positive effect is the breath of the language used. If I am learning in the group, then at least all the basic structures of the language will be covered by the teacher. In comparison of learning alone, where I might miss some.

The fourth positive effect is only for us, introverted ones. It is the easiest way, to find somebody to practice speaking with. Otherwise, even normal energy expanding activity as talking to a person becomes harder, when doing it in a non-fluent language.

But learning in the groups also have some negative effect.

The first one is, that the groups goals might not be the same as that of the individual learner. Maybe I want to learn, how to read that book in the original language, but most of the members want to learn small talk in the foreign language. Or the teacher thinks, that the grammar is the most important part of the language. In that case, the language will most improve in the areas, that are of lesser importance to me.

The second one is the irrelevance of the material. I have experienced, in school and out of school material, that it usually didn't suit my needs. The articles about the environmental change or the conversation about the weather are just not interesting to me (or relevant).

The third one is the pace. The group usually moves as quick as the slowest member. That can mean, that the group will still be repeating stuff, that I had already mastered. Or, if the group does not comply to this dynamics, than the slower members will get frustrated with the speed and give up.

There are a lot of reasons to study in the group settings and to not. To summarise, I would suggest the people, that need guidance or motivation, to study in groups, and independent people, to study on their own.

Why Motivation Is Needed For Language Learning

Just like mastering anything, to become fluent in the language, it takes time. Getting used to the language takes time. Getting rid of mistakes takes time. Being able to read that book takes time. Being able to understand television takes time. Making small talk in the language takes time.

I hope I made my point.

In order to learn the language, especially the first foreign language, it takes time. That is why, the reason for learning have to be strong.

Motivation is the force fueling the language learning process. But it needs the strong source, the reason for existence.

Language learning also have to be fairly consistent. In accordance with the forgetting curve, the more time it passes since the last time the language is used, the more of the language is forgotten. There is also the rule, that the more somebody knows the language, the slower it leaves him or her. But if a person in the process of language learning, than the knowledge could not have been so big.

Language is also a really wide thing. To know the language, a person have to first develop the 4 main skills - reading, writing, listening and speaking. But it is not the end of the road. The person then enquired the cultural knowledge, the word phrases, the rithm, the grammar and all the other things, that makes languages hard, but so beautiful.

But as I mentioned, to finish the journey, there needs to be a lot of motivation. There is always going to be people, trying to accommodate you by speaking english. There are going to always be interesting series on the television. Interesting book to read. You are going to be tired after a long day. The job will be stressful. Then there is that party, you promised to help with. Or doing a favor to your family member.

But if these reasons are big enough, to stop you from practicing the language for at least 15 minutes a day, than you reason for learning language is not strong. The will power alone can not get you from point A to point B on this journey. Reason and motivation are the most important part, since the journey is so long.

There are also some positive habits (like consistency), that can help you with language learning. Or maybe you are more suited for group learning, since it helps with motivation.

Not Getting The Food I Want

After moving to Germany, I might have overestimated the impact on some of the aspects of my lifestyle, but underestimated in the others.

One part, where I underestimated my impact was food.

The first thing I noticed was, that there are a lot more shops in Leipzig, than I have even imagined. It can probably compare the the Ljubljana's shop center BTC. Later I did realize, that this is a shopping center as well, but overall the number of shops in Leipzig is still bigger than in Ljubljana.

Linking food, that was one of the first things, that I checked out. Going to multiply shops, just to see, what they have.

I was surprised at some of the different thing that they got.

For example tea. I was in a dream land. I could never imagine some many different types of tea on the same place. There were at least three meter of aile reserved for tee. They had almost all of my favorite teas (except one, but then Ljubljana doesn't have it either).

I was also surprised by the aisles of prepared food. There must have been packages of foot, that can be made in minutes. Especially potato food. I had never seen a premade potato puree before.

But there were some thing, that I was not so pleasant about.

The first one is the quality of fruit. No matter in which store did I go, the quality of food is lower than I am used to. I tried bananas, apples, grapefruit, oranges and lemons. While the prices are higher. And while every store have a fruit and vegetables, not every store have in stock some of what I would consider basic (like garlic).

The second was flour. In Slovenia, I regularly used at least 5 types of different flour, sometimes mixing in others as well. But here, the only two types that I could find were normal white flour and non-gluten flour (with gumi).

Most of the spices were there, but some of my favorite I am still looking for (like cayenne pepper).

But, I am not familiar with the city yet, and there might be stores with bigger assortment of goods somewhere. I was just used to having it in front of my nose, and it was one thing, I underestimated.

The lesson leraned: Never forget about the food.

Using Number Flash Cards in Kindergarden

Flash cards are a learning method, useful for kids and adults. They use the repetition, which has been proven, according to an article in The Journal of Experimental Child Psychology entitled "The Effect of Spacing Repetitions on the Recognition Memory of Young Children and Adults." There they proved that even children in kindergarten and in the first couple of grades in school can take advantage of the positive effects of spacing repetitions on learning. This s what flash cards are all about.

Number flash cards are used to make children more adapt in numbers, so it becomes integrated in their knowledge. There are number of exercises that can be used for that.

This exercise is a circle pass exercise. It is the most basic of the exercises used and it is meant to introduce numbers to children. They sit in the circle and a teacher passes a number flash card and says the number for all children to hear. For example, if the card is 8, he or she says: “This is an eight” or simply “Eight”.

The use of this system helps a child to recognize the image on the card and associate it with the word. A teacher or parent mixes the number flash cards and the children have to say out loud what number is being shown to them. The cards should be mixed in between different repetitions so the children can learn the numbers and not the sequence.

A similar use is the finger showing method. The teacher or parent using this method shows the number on the card, and the children show the number of fingers that make that number, taking the teacher's lead..

There is also a hiding game. The teacher removes one card from the stack and shows the mixed remaining stack to the children. They have to figure it out what card is missing.

The cards could also be used for a searching game. The teacher or parent makes a list of items that are in the room or in the outside playground. Then he or she shows a card. The children have to bring the items on the list in the right quantities. If there is not enough items, then they have to say the number of items they found.

The next learning method works with mostly big groups. The person shows a number. The children’s job is to make groups that are as big as the number on the card. It's a fin exercise with kindergarten children.

In the next two exercises, the stack of flash cards is given to children.

The person supervising the children divides them in pairs. Each pair gets a stack of number flash cards. One of the pair shows a number. The second one has to name an item that is in the right quantity in the room.

In the next exercise, each children gets one of the number flash cards.The person makes sure that there are repetitions. Then he or she makes them find every person with the same flash card, but they are not allowed to show the card to anybody.

If a teacher or a parent has also a stack of cards with pictures of things in different quantities, the children can play memo. They have to find the picture with the right number of things and the number together.

The teachers have to keep two things in his mind. In order to make children interested, they have to change the games or exercises after a while. But in order to get the most learning done, the activity would need to repeat in the future. So change it and then at later time, return to them.

Flash cards are a powerful teaching tool and the only limitation is the teachers' or parents' imagination.

Positive Habits for Language Learning

I am learning my fourth language right now (German), so in order to make the road as painless as possible, I would like to remind myself, what are some positive habits, that helps with language learning.

The most important habit, at least in my opinion, is to try new things. In the environment of the language learning that means, that the learner, in this case me, is not afraid to try activities in a foreign language. Be it reading that book, that was supposed to be too hard, or watching that TV show, that that actor was just so cool. Or talking to somebody and hoping, to be understood. Or writing a new best seller in a new language (I know that one is unrealistic, but it is a cool goal).

The other important positive habits is contrary of the previous one. Is consistency. Doing something in the language every day. Even if just reading that text, that was read a hundreds times before, at least it was something.

It is even better, if a learner can stick to some activities, that will further his knowledge, and do them every day. Like listening to the postcast everyday, or reading 5 new pages of that book.

It is even better, if a learner combines the two positive habits together. Everyday, thing something new in the language.

The next important habits is everyday listening or reading. Preferably both. Even in conversation, you have to first understand the person in front of you, before you can answer. The difference between our passive and active vocabulary is huge, but it has to be that way. A person in front of you can use words among all of them, but a learner doesn’t need to produce all this variations, just one. Plus, I had never meet a person with bigger active than passive vocabulary.

It is even better, if there is everyday speaking or writing involved. Like writing a diary in the notebook, or simply trying to talk to somebody on skype about the weather.

The next one is not being perfectionist. Learning a language is like mastering any other discipline. No piano player was great the first time he seated behind it, also no speaker is perfect the first time. It just takes deliberate practice over time.

And not being afraid. That is the most important one (as stated in the first reason and the one right before that).

My Story About Social Anxiety

I used to be really afraid of people. Not in a way, that I was afraid of rejections. It was fear of being near to much people. The fear wasn’t big enough to stop me from going to school (just to stay in class during free time), but I couldn't be in any crowd whatsoever.

For example, when the bus has become so crowded, that there were people standing, it become bad. I usually got a mild panic attack. As in getting stomachache, headache, my breath quickened and I could feel my pulse inside my body and it was quicker than usual. Much quicker. Sometimes, it got dark in front of my eyes and I started to lose balance.

The only way to make them less intensive, was to sit down. Even then, the symptoms didn’t stop. So every time, I run away from the bus and took a deep breath, happy to get away from there.

Also, any kind of shopping activity during the weekend was impossible. All these people running around and shopping, made me feel the same symptoms, but usually in milder form.

Since I was afraid of people or more specifically, groups of people, even when talked to, I wasn’t a good conversationalist. I was so nervous of the mass of people, that I was normally just be able to answer questions. And other kind of talk was hard.

I also didn’t go out much. Most of my free time was spent in the libraries or inside my room, reading. The side effect of that was, that the circle of my friends was becoming smaller and smaller, until there was no one left.

A classmate of mine once mentioned to me, that other people in the class are to afraid to talk to me.

I needed a couple of more years, but these words came to haunt me. In a way, I was afraid of the same people, that were afraid of me.

Also, getting into the personal development material, I was starting to understand the reasons, why thing where like that.

I started to change. The change had ups and downs, but I can call myself now ‘A healed fearer’.

But still, I don’t regret my years of the solitude. I actually still prefer solitude to the crowds, but I don’t have that fear stopping me from going to where crowds are.

You can also read my story of how I got over my fear.

How Did I Get Rid Of My Social Anxiety

I used to be afraid of people. Not just normal fear of rejections, that a lot of people experience. But give a group of people together, and I will run away.

As I was ready to get over that fear, there were a couple of things, that helped me in the way.

First was understanding where the fear had come from. For me, the first influences that started to grow my fear came at the age of 6 (particularly in school). The time frame that really shaped my fear was when I was about 10-11 years old. That is also the time, that fear started to show outside. But it only fully manifested by the age of 14 years old.

So think about why are you afraid of crowds/people? Was there any specific accident or situation? Or is was because of the whole atmosphere of people around you in a specified time frame?

Simply knowing the reason give me more power to face my fears.

There were two exercises, that I used.

The first exercise came to me, when I was hiking in the hills. The people here say hello to every single person they came across. I usually looked away and went my way. But this changed.

So I started to say hello back. To one person. and the next and so one.

Then I started to do this in the city as well. I went to the park. I wanted the place that was not so crowded for the beginning. Just some people, that were walking around. Saying hello to everybody that came across me. I didn’t require myself to do anything else.

So after getting a little more used to people, I tried an exercise for a little more crowded places.

The exercise came from the psychology's concept called mirroring. The people are likely to subconsciously mirror other people. That is why people become nervous, when meeting somebody nervous. Or angry, when somebody is angry on them.

So I tried to look at the somebody of the people and smile at him. At first, people didn’t even notice me, but then I started smiling at the people, that were looking at me. And they smiled back.

That was so I could realize, that people are not so bad. They are just ordinary people, like me. So I was be able to start increasing the density of the crowds. Baby step by baby step.

Now, I am over my fear. But every person if different. Sometimes thing helps to some and no to others. But the important thing is that we are ready to change. Since every journey begins with that first step.

And considering where I started, I found it a great improvement.

How I Started Meeting New People

I used to be afraid of people. But even after overcoming my fear, I had been left with nonexistent social contacts.

That posed a problem. I had finally went over my fear, but nothing changed on the outside. I could feel the change, but I couldn't show it.

So, I have read quite a lot on the subject. They were ideas, like talking to people on the bus. Meeting people through the internet, using existing social contact to expand it and so on.

I tried meeting people on the bus. Maybe a pleasant talk, but normally the bus drive was too short to develop any interesting conversations.

I tried meeting the people through the internet, but my personality changes when on internet chats than on person. I am a lot more horrible person there, so this was a dead end as well.

I managed to save one friendship from the grave, but his existing contacts spended their free time smoking marihuana, watching movies and playing drinking games (or just plainly got drunk as quick as possible.).

But what I tried, that it worked was meeting groups.

So, in order to meet new people, I have joined different groups, and I have went to different meeting. Or just go on any social gathering, that seemed interesting.

First, I have joined the karate club. It was a small group and it was a good start, but I made a mistake. My sister joined with me.

What I learned was, that if I want to have a better chance in meeting people, I shouldn't bring anybody that I know with me.

If you still have fear of people, than disregard the upper advice. But in this case, the goal would be to get rid of fear. It will really help with meeting new people later. But meeting new people in between is not forbidden. I think you would benefit a lot from it. It is just not the main goal.

If you only have the fear of rejections, stick to my upper advice. You will be thankful on the long run.

So I joined Toastmasters club, this time alone. The welcome was more than just warm. It was great. And I had great conversations already after the first meeting (polysynaptic sleep, if I remember correctly). Everybody was nice and even if I was awkward, then didn’t mind it.

Since then, I joined writing club and a gamer club. I was going through group study of Coursera beginning program lessons. Went to technology presentations and meet people there afterwards. Or simply went to any meetup that catched my eyes.

It have become easier. Now I don't have a problem striking a conversation in situations like that. It is fun.

And even people on the streets and buses sometimes came and talk to me. But I wonder, why are most of them, if man, want to have sex with me or marry me?