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Ta-Nehisi Coates on learning French

11 Oct

I like to highlight individual learning projects on this blog. Ta-Nehisi Coates has written a number of times about his efforts to learn French:

I am emphasizing how I “feel” because, when studying, it is as important as any objective reality. Hopelessness feeds the fatigue that leads the student to quit. It is not the study of language that is hard, so much as the “feeling” that your present level is who you are and who you will always be. I remember returning from France at the end of the summer of 2013, and being convinced that I had some kind of brain injury which prevented me from hearing French vowel sounds. But the real enemy was not any injury so much as the “feeling” of despair. That is why I ignore all the research about children and their language advantage. I don’t want to hear it. I just don’t care. As Carolyn Forché would say—”I’m going to have it.”

The Year Without English

3 May

There is an amazing community of language learners and polyglots and the internet. Here is a video about a year spend learning four languages:

What Mike Boyd learned in a year

4 Jan

Boing-Boing alerted me to Mike Boyd’s Youtube channel. He describes his mission this way:

My name is Mike Boyd and a while ago I made a video documenting my process of learning a new skill in a really short amount of time. That idea seemed to resonate with people, so I decided to learn a bunch of other skills. Every month I pick a new challenge and try to conquer it as quickly as possible. Hopefully this content inspires you to learn something new too. Leave a comment telling me what you think and let me know if you have a suggestion for a new challenge. Enjoy the videos! 🙂

All very much in line with what I preach here at Peakmemory.me. In this video Mike demonstrates the skills he learned in 2016:

I had never heard of the brain bike (and I am supposed to keep track of these things). While I don’t know if it really helps your brain, it does look like it would be an interesting challenge.

How many products come with a disclaimer like this?:

YOU CANNOT RIDE THIS BIKE. Seriously, you’re purchasing an unridable bicycle (at least initially). Part of the fun is figuring out how long it will take you to learn how to ride it. When I only did it for 5 minutes a day it took 8 months. I’ve seen people do nothing but the bike be able to ride it in an hour or so. There seems to be some sort of correlation with sticking with it and “powering through” the hard part. If you decide to give it a shot, I would LOVE to know your age and how long it took you so I can add your data to the mix. Smarter Every Day LLC and Barney are not responsible for any injuries sustained from trying to ride this bike. If you DO decide to attempt it at your own risk, wear a helmet.

Micro-expertise

2 Dec

There has been a lot of attention to the idea of developing expertise. We would like to know what are the most effective techniques for becoming an expert in any domain. Perhaps, we should take a more atomic view and study expertise in very small domains, such as this:

Niall Brady writes “It took me just under a year to get a spoon into a mug while filming it all on snapchat. One attempt a day. This is a compilation of the clips I remembered to save.”

Ann Patty on learning Latin

15 Jul

A fascinating Lexicon Valley podcast where linguist  John McWhorter interviews Ann Patty about her efforts to learn Latin. Patty documents her learning project in her book Living with a Dead Language: My Romance with Latin

As I have said many times, learning a language is an ideal exercise for your brain. Don’t waste you time with expensive and, probably, ineffective brain training software. Learn a language instead.

The most interesting thing I learned in last Sunday’s New York Times

13 Jul

It turns out that you can buy silicone substitutes for pizza dough to practice dough tossing. You can purchase this product at throwdough.com.

 

 

 

Chess: victory to the young

27 Jun

A wonderful piece by Tom Vanderbilt in Nautilus about learning chess with his four year old daughter:

“It wasn’t long before it struck me that chess seemed to be a game for the young. When my daughter began doing scholastic tournaments, I would chat up other parents and ask whether they played—usually the reply was an apologetic shrug and a smile. I would explain that I too was learning to play, and the resulting tone was cheerily patronizing: Good luck with that! Reading about an international tournament, I was struck by a suggestion that a grandmaster had passed his peak. He was in his 30s. We are used to athletes being talked about in this way. But a mind game like chess?”

Read the whole piece, it’s a good reflection on how our brains change with age. I particularly like this sentence:

“As we get older, there is one thing at which we get worse: Being a novice.”

I always found it depressing that my phone, even set to the lowest level, can beat me at chess.

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