5-minute English Listening Practice: What Your Brain Needs to Learn Effectively (AUDIO & transcript)
Recommended practice approach:
1. Listen to the audio by itself.
2. Listen to the audio again and answer the questions.
3. Listen to the audio and read the transcript at the same time.
4. Listen and pause the audio to repeat new and useful phrases and sentences.
The answers are at the bottom of the page.
What does the human brain need in order to learn something?
What are two examples of skills or desired habits that are mentioned in the recording?
Complete the sentence: "We know that in order to get better at something, we need to _____ it."
Which instrument is mentioned in the recording?
What is one present perfect example that is mentioned in the recording?
Complete the sentence: "Your brain needs fresh and interesting _____."
What will happen to your brain if you just study the same sentences day after day and don't study anything new?
What activity does the recording use as an example of doing more challenging exercises and improving your skills over time?
What is one of the questions that Alex wants you to ask yourself?
What is the most important thing you can do for yourself if you're trying to learn a new language?
Welcome and thank you for studying English with Alex. This is a 5-minute listening practice exercise. To get the maximum benefit from this exercise, I suggest following the four steps at the top of this page. Okay, we only have five minutes, so let's go.
What's the best way to learn something new? More specifically, what does your brain need in order to learn and to stay motivated while learning? Well, according to research, the human brain needs two things in order to learn something well:
One is repetition. Another is novelty.
This applies to learning any skill or desired habit. Whether you're trying to develop a new exercise routine, learn an instrument, or learn a language, these two things are necessary. Let's talk about them one at a time.
Now, the first thing I mentioned, repetition, shouldn't be surprising to anyone. We know that in order to get better at something, we need to practice it. More specifically, we need to practice correct forms again and again. Anyone who has ever tried learning the guitar can tell you that--depending on the difficulty level--it can take weeks or in some cases, months, to master one song.
In the case of English language learning, this means repeating set phrases and structures. This is why if you're learning the present perfect tense, for example, it's a good idea to use a common phrase like "I've never" and follow it with as many examples as you can. For instance, "I've never smoked," "I've never been to Australia," "I've never met someone like you before," and so on.
What about the second thing? What was it again? Oh, right. Novelty. This might be news to some of you, and if it is, that's great! The truth is, your brain needs fresh and interesting input on a regular basis to stay motivated. Yes, it's good to repeat present simple sentences like "I wake up at 7 o'clock every day," but if you just study the same sentences day after day, you--and more specifically, your brain!--will get bored and will lose interest in learning.
That's because you need to feel like you're progressing and moving forward. And you can't do that if you just keep playing with the same language again and again. At least with language learning, you can extend how much you practice a particular point by practicing it through all four language skills: listening, reading, writing, and speaking.
Another way to think of novelty is to think of it as giving your brain something more challenging to do. Typically, for your skills to develop, your brain needs something that feels possible, but which also pushes it at the same time. Think of it this way:
Imagine that you have just started doing yoga on a daily basis. And imagine you've never ever done yoga before. Naturally, the first few days will probably feel tough if this is your first time really pushing your muscles to stretch in some brand new ways. Maybe you won't be able to bend down very far, or you won't be able to do deep forward lunges. However, if you stick with it, you will notice that your muscles will start getting stronger, and you'll be able to bend and stretch further and further. After you master a basic routine and you start feeling comfortable with your progress, you will start adding new positions, and you will probably start exercising for longer periods of time, too.
This is the same thing with language learning. By repeating correct forms while exposing yourself to new forms on a consistent basis, you won't feel stuck at one level, and more importantly, you won't get bored. Repetition and novelty are the keys.
To finish off, I want you to ask yourself two questions:
1. Am I practicing correct forms on a regular basis?
2. Am I getting enough NEW English language input?
As a FINAL final tip, having regular exposure to your target language is the most important thing you can do for yourself to learn a new language. What does this mean for studying English? Listen to English every day. Read English every day. Speak English every day even if it's just to yourself. And finally, to practice writing in English, leave a comment at the bottom of this page. What do you think of the information I have shared in this listening, and how many questions did you answer correctly?
The human brain needs repetition and novelty to learn something.
Developing a new exercise routine, learning an instrument, and learning a new language are mentioned in the recording.
We know that in order to get better at something, we need to practice it.
The guitar is the instrument that is mentioned in the recording.
"I've never smoked," "I've never been to Australia," and "I've never met someone like you before" are present perfect examples that are mentioned in the recording.
You brain needs fresh and interesting input.
Your brain will get bored and lose interest in learning.
Yoga is used as an example of doing more challenging exercises and improving your skills over time
One of the questions Alex wants you to ask yourself is: "Am I practicing correct forms on a regular basis?" / "Am I getting enough new English language input?"
Having regular exposure to your target language is the most important thing you can do for yourself to learn a new language.
Did you enjoy this resource? To support my work and to continue improving your English, consider buying one of my books. They are available in PDF, eBook, and paperback formats. Thank you for studying English with me, and good luck with your continued practice!