What Do You Believe? The Placebo Effect Of Language Learning

This is a transcript of one of my YouTube Videos – To keep up with my latest thoughts on language learning, subscribe to my YouTube Channel.

Hi There Steve Kaufmann here again to talk about language learning.

And I want to talk about something that I often think of and that I have been meaning to do a video on and that is what I would call the placebo effect in language learning. Placebo P L A C E B O that’s what they call the sort of; hen they test a new medicine, they typically give, say, half the people they are testing the new medicine and another half the placebo, which looks like the medicine, but in fact doesn’t have any medicinal ingredients.

And when they test people they find that if there are three groups. Let’s say; those who took the medicine, those who took the placebo, which is an imitation medicine and those who took nothing. That if the medicine is effective then the people who took the medicine will do better. The people who took the placebo will do next best and the people who did nothing, will do less well. So even those who think they have the medicine are going to do better, because our belief in the power of, say, a pill or something influences us because everything inside us is influenced by how we feel and what we think.

Whatever Works For You

And in language learning it is exactly the same way. I know that I am a better language learner today in my 70th year than I was at the age of 16 because I know I can do it and I am confident that I going to succeed. But it is not only that. I know that the method I am using is effective. I know that reading is very good for my language learning. Right now I am reading a long novel in Spanish, it is called “Dime quién soy” and it’s a very interesting spy thriller that takes place in the historical – you know – civil war in Spain and Second World War and stuff, but I know that just the fact of reading this book is going to do so much for my Spanish. Improve it. I am exposing myself to certain patterns, to words and stuff. But if I don’t believe that reading is good for my Spanish, and right now I am not really working on Spanish. It is just that I happened to come across this book and I am reading it.

Believe - Book

But it was the same when I was learning Czech. Very early on I started reading this book on Czech history and even though there were a lot of words that I didn’t know and which I didn’t look up, but I know from experience that – and because I have some sense of the history – so as I read through this thing it is not only enjoyable, but it makes me feel good because I know that it is going to improve my Czech.

Believe In The Method

So some of you may not like to read. I happen to believe that reading and then listening when you don’t have the ability to focus on just the one task, but I happen to know that that is very effective and I believe it is very effective. If you believe other things are effective. If you believe that Pimsleur is effective, if you believe that assimil is effective, if you believe that Anki is effective. Whatever it is, if you believe it that is going to help you learn. Our attitude towards the task, as I have said so many times, you know that we like the language, that we’re confident and stuff. But even to the extent that you have to believe in the method – the learning method.

And one of the difficulties we have at LingQ is to persuade people that just by doing the things that we ask them to do, just by reading and listening and saving words and reviewing these words and then eventually talking to people that that’s going to improve their language skills. If they don’t believe that: A. they won’t stick with it but B. it’s that placebo effect, just as with these tests of the effectiveness of medicine. If you believe in the medicine, if you believe in the method, you will do better. So whatever your favourite method is believe in it and stay with it and you will learn better.

Videos In Your Language

By the way, one final thing, I am happy to do some of these in other languages. Which languages would you like hear me speak in? Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, French, Russian, German, Swedish whatever. Let me know. I will try my best even if in fact if I happen to stumble while speaking in those languages.

Bye for now.

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6 comments on “What Do You Believe? The Placebo Effect Of Language Learning

Itziar

Me gustaría mucho ver videos tuyos en español. Ahora estoy estudiando Chino y Aranés (occitano) y estoy muy interesada en encontrar el método que mejor me vaya y por eso me ha gustado mucho este artículo, pero hay cosas que se me escapan porque mi inglés no es muy bueno, aunque me sirve para ir tirando y entender más o menos lo que dices, si al mismo tiempo lo veo escito.

Precisamente mencionas un tema sobre el que quería preguntarte. dices:
and even though there were a lot of words that I didn’t know and which I didn’t look up

Estoy de acuerdo contigo en que lo mejor es leer mucho y escuchar mucho. Lo que me pasa, quizás soy demasiado perfeccionista, es que me gusta ententerlo todo y busco en el diccionario o el traductor todas las palabras que no entiendo. Eso hace que leer sea lento y tedioso pero si no lo entiendo bien tampoco me quedo a gusto. ¿Crees que cuando se lee algo hace falta entenderlo todo?

Un saludo

    Tengo la intención de hacer un video en español dentro de una semana. Normalmente leo sin buscar palabras sole cuando tengo un buen nivel en el idioma. Si hay demasiado palabras que no conozco prefiero leer en el ordenador y utilizar diccionarios digitales es decir leer y estudiar a LingQ.

Name *roel gaijmans

Steve,
I am interested in a mirror situation :
How does language and learning have influence in creating the placebo effect?

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