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Flash Cards!

A great way to bulk up your foreign vocabulary is to create and carry flash cards of the words you’re learning.

While you’re sitting at the bistro, sipping wine, waiting for your date, you can shuffle through your flash cards, starting with the foreign terms, and then, as that gets too easy, turning the cards over and working your way through them in English. Discard cards as you master them, and add new ones as your vocabulary expands.

I keep a pile of blank cards at hand as I study, and from time to time I even dip into the dictionary, adding terms that I’ve been needing or that simply sound nice. Some of the words I added to my French flash stack this morning:

encourageant (encouraging)

rigolo (funny)

un portable (cell phone)

dedans (inside)

un mot de passe (password)

plaisanter (to joke)

une bise (kiss)

plusiers (several)

un paysage (landscape)

en cachette (on the sly)

hereux, heureuse (happy)

Start with Pimsleur

When I’m starting to learn a new language, my course de choice is Pimsleur. It’s simple, clear, and easy to follow. Listen. Imitate. Repeat. So easy that it’s almost unconscious. Mr. Pimsleur designed it that way; he took great pains so that you don’t have to.

Sneaky great pains, in fact. Let me share a little secret with you: Mr. P designed the cadence of his courses to ensure that you’ll remember what he teaches you. He did this by asking you to repeat words and phrases at greater and greater time intervals, until voila! a French interjection that was initially only a figment of your short-term memory suddenly takes up residence in the long-term suite. Pretty clever, no?

So make it easy on yourself: Start with Pimsleur.

Pimsleur courses are available in Albanian, Arabic, Armenian, Chinese, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, French, German, Greek, Haitian Creole, Hebrew, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Lithuanian, Norwegian, Ojibwe, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Swedish, Twi, Ukrainian, and Vietnamese.

And, this week only, you can get a free Foreign Service Institute download of the level one course in the same language when you order a Pimsleur course from Multilingual Books. Click here for details.

In the Flow

So what do you do when, after the initial flush of excitement over a new endeavor–whether it be learning a foreign language or mastering quantum physics–the fizz fizzles? How do you keep yourself motivated to follow through and achieve your goal?

I have a bit of advice for you, from my favorite positive psychologist and happiness tutor, Mihály Csíkszentmihályi. You see, he’s got a theory that people are happiest when when they’re completely absorbed by an activity. In the flow. And the secret to being in the flow is to strike a balance between challenge and skill. If a task is too hard, you’ll get frustrated; if it’s too easy, you’ll get bored.

It takes some trial and error, but you can find your way into that flow. If you tend to take on too much and get overwhelmed, take a slower and gentler approach starting today. If you aren’t making much progress, amp it up. Practice creating a balance between honing your skills and taking on new but manageable challenges, and you’ll find yourself flowing toward mastery of your goals.