How to Learn with Music Methods
To start, why music?
Learning how to play a musical instrument is a labour of love that requires a great deal of determination and can take many, many years to master.
Sounds familiar, right? It should.
You face the same dilemma and tribulations as a learner of foreign languages.
You see, I have been playing the violin for almost ten years and started playing the piano about two years before that, in around 2008. Time sure flies fast!
Having spent hours practicing both the violin and the piano for several hours every day, I started to take playing a musical instrument for granted. It wasn’t until I started teaching others how to play that I considered what effective practice truly is and why we should be mindful about what makes practice effective, rather than simply practicing for the sake of it.
I decided to share this with you because I noticed that I have been subconsciously applying these learning methods to almost everything in my life that requires me to learn or practice something, ranging from how I learn languages to even how to ride a motorcycle!
The peaks, valleys and plateaus of both learning and the motivation required to learn can be easily navigated by following the tips below that have one key point at their core: intent.
We should all be mindful of our actions and constantly think about how our mindset can keep us from staying on track. Purposefully seeking out new ideas and ways of thought not only fuels our passion, but also motivates us forward, upwards and onwards! Motivation knows no bounds-
Joking aside, no worries if you're not a musician. The tips below will help guide you through your studies, no matter what you would like to learn!
1. The 'Investigational mindset’
Your mindset is an extremely powerful tool. You might already be aware of this, but your mindset is especially important when it comes to learning languages. If you approach your daily study session without engaging with the material due to a lack of motivation, you’ll end up going through the motions without digging deeper into the content and it will seem like an arduous journey with progress simply out of sight.
We should all aim to replace the passive, “Let’s get this over with”, with one of zeal, by saying: “Let’s see what I can accomplish today!”
To do this, we must investigate what exactly needs to be done, so we set goals! But, not just any goal…
2. Specific goals
When you set specific goals, you are highlighting exactly what you need to focus on, without leaving room for ambiguity. Keep in the following constraints in mind:
*Specificity: No nebulous concepts should be found here. Define what you need to achieve your goal clearly and precisely!
*Measurability: How will you know if you have achieved your goal?
*Attainability: Is your goal realistic given the amount of time, knowledge and resources available to you?
*Relevancy: How important is it that this goal is met? How will this help you achieve future goals?
*Target date: By when do you need to complete this task? To achieve a goal, you need to know how long it should take. It is okay if this date is just an estimate for now.
By setting measurable goals whilst keeping loftier targets in mind, you will make faster progress. For example, specific goals might include: “My intonation in Mandarin isn't great. I should focus on improving how I pronounce the first tone by creating a list of vocab words. I’ll pick ten new words to practice each day for a week,” or, “I will memorize the vocabulary from chapter 10 by 8pm. First I’ll study the vocabulary list, which includes 100 words, in 15 minutes chunks with a 5-minute break in between. Then I will reading the passage from the chapter as practice ”
Every time you set a small, yet attainable goals, all of this hard work adds up and before you know it you’ll be making progress towards your long-term goals! It is also satisfying to cross each goal off, one by one.
One of the most invaluable pieces of advice my violin teacher gave me was to remember to treat myself as if I'm my own teacher.
As a violinist this means that instead of just playing, I also take note of what I'm doing and how I can apply what I am learning and how I am playing to each and every time I play. This way, I am in a constant state of growth.
As a language learner, this means that you should always focus on why and what you’re doing in addition to how what you have learnt applies to the future use of your target language.
In order to make progress and become self-aware of room for growth, you need to analyse your own strengths and weaknesses so that you can maintain or change habits as needed. If you are simply studying without perpetually analysing your study methods, you are not learning effectively.
Ask yourself: “Why am I struggling and which area in particular is posing the most difficulty?” Once you have identified that, then you can start focusing on those areas and eventually see results! Remember to address these issues while asking yourself: “What changes did I make? Was the outcome successful? If I come across the same problem in the future, can I use this as a teaching moment?” Strive to repeat this line of questioning several times over the course of a few months until it becomes second nature.
If you challenge yourself to ask specific questions about what you are doing, you might be surprised by what you learn about your own habits and how much these habits have either propelled or impeded your success.
4. Write. Down. Everything! (No matter how trivial it might seem…)
Get a journal specifically for tracking your study habits. If you are crafty, consider making your own! Having a journal gives you one, easy to find location where you can keep track of your goals and progress (or lack therein!) Daily goals? Write ‘em down and check ‘em off! Comments, queries or concerns you had while following tip #3 about self-awareness? Write ‘em down! Did you make a breakthrough, or can’t figure out why you’re struggling with something? You guessed it, write ‘em down! To be honest, this is not only helpful, but also quite a cathartic process. Let your inner thoughts spill onto the page and hold nothing back!
(To be honest, it’s also pretty nice to occasionally flip through your journal and see how far you’ve come, too!)
Documenting these ideas and bringing attention to them will help you to not only stay on track, but also with finding patterns relating to things you either do well or where you are in need of improvement. You are in complete control of this process. It does not matter how long it takes to address these issues.
5. Build a community
Whether you are part of a class, club, or group chat on Instagram, having a group of people who are readily accessible and with whom you can exchange ideas and resources is extremely beneficial.
Discussing ideas with others opens yourself up to new perspectives on what you are learning and it can also provide you endless opportunities for inspiration whilst also potentially inspiring others along the way. You might find yourself in a position where you can teach others, much like I became a music teacher myself. Who knows!
Everyone interprets things differently so viewing a piece of information from several different angles will only aid you in understanding anything to a greater depth. Having a group of people who are also passionate about learning foreign languages supplies you with not only endless sources of motivation, but also a support system if you get burned out. We all do-
Plus, who doesn’t like having a bunch of people to unabashedly geek out with? (If you have found your way here, this probably applies to you!)
If you found any of these tips useful, try to incorporate them into your study routine and consider sharing them with a friend so that you can learn more effectively together!
Let rip and feel free to treat the comments section as a community journal by connecting with fellow language learners down below-
Let us know which tip was your favourite along with any other thoughts you might have on this topic!