Do Language Learners Have a Higher EQ?

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Measuring a person’s IQ (Intelligence Quotient) has been common practice for decades. But in recent years, researchers have directed their attention to the study of a person’s Emotional Intelligence—their EQ.

You likely already know about the primary benefits of language learning, but did you know that learning a second language could boost your EQ? Here’s a closer look at how learning a language teaches students empathy.

What is empathy?  

Emotional intelligence can best be understood through empathy, which is the ability to understand other people and feel compassion for them. It is argued as being the most defining human quality because it sets us apart from other beings, like robots and animals.

Without empathy, we would not be able to work as a functioning society because we need empathy in schools, workspaces, and other areas that bind society together. Empathy involves a sensitivity to others’ emotions, understanding where their emotions came from, and responding to them in the right manner.

Where does empathy come from?

Babies do not have empathy, so where does it come from? Most children develop empathy naturally, while other children may react in inappropriate ways towards others’ emotions.

Children who have difficulties with empathy have no problems identifying emotional reactions, but they do have difficulties understanding the purpose of these emotions. It has been studied and proven that poor development of empathy in childhood leads to poor social skills in adulthood.

Why is language important?

Language is the soul of each culture. The ability to understand a language is crucial for historians and those who study international affairs.

Both of these people focus on learning their project’s language because they know that without it, they can’t have an understanding of the cultures of these groups. In general, different societies have different languages, cultural practices, and ways of communicating. To understand a new culture, we must first understand their language.

How is language linked with empathy?

Bilingual speakers are better thinkers, they’re more creative, and they’re better at understanding people. All of the superior social skills of bilinguals are components of empathy. Bilingualism improves creativity, which grants people new ways of seeing the world from a  different point of view. Understanding a new point of view has a direct correlation with empathy because it involves understanding other people’s emotions that aren’t your own from a new perspective.

Many colleges, programs, and employers place a high value on people who are bilingual. Particularly, multilingual workers in the healthcare and service industry not only benefit from improved communication but also from heightened levels of understanding—empathy. Even in the virtual world of telemedicine, virtual rehab, and online doctor’s visits, knowing a second language is a distinct advantage.

The Bottom Line

Not only does learning the second language teach you to be more compassionate, but simply being exposed to another language can have the same effect. To understand a speaker’s intention, you must take the speaker’s perspective.

Multilingual exposure enhances perspective-taking. Overall, the brain is a muscle. And the effect of learning another language strengthens the brain—just as running strengthens the heart. The superior social skills of bilinguals prove that learning a second language teaches individuals to be more compassionate, empathetic, and emotionally intelligent.

10 Simple Ways to Immediately Improve Your Listening Skills for Language Learning

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One of the best ways to learn languages is to engage in conversations in your target language, but the majority of the time, we aren’t really listening or paying attention. We may be too focused on what we want to say next or be distracted by external factors like our mobile phones, other people talking, and internal factors like our own thoughts and feelings.

We may think that we’re listening to the other person, but in fact, we are not really giving them our full focus and attention. Active listening has many benefits when applied to language learning such as helping to develop our pronunciation of foreign words, improved recall, and memory that will help build vocabulary and better cultural understanding.

When you deeply listen to what another person is trying to say it makes them feel special and valued. When you clear your mind and provide full and complete attention to the speaker it is called active listening. Active listening builds rapport, understanding, and trust. It’s a proven psychological technique normally used in therapy sessions.

Active listening is classed as a soft skill that involves fully concentrating on what is being said rather than being overly passive. It’s not just about remembering the content and context of what someone is sharing with you but actively seeking to understand the complete message in depth.

People often are very selective about what they hear and often in conversations it’s what they ‘want’ to hear rather than what has been said. People tend to focus on just a few keywords of a conversation and then add their own meaning to it based on personal biases, opinions, and values. So much valuable time and energy is wasted in preparing to respond rather than giving full, undivided attention to the speaker.

Want to become a better language learner? You need to become a better listener first.  

1. Minimise internal and external distractions.

Meet in a library or if chatting online do what you can to minimise external distractions. Before having a conversation in your target language write down any worries and clear your head. Simple mindfulness techniques can be really useful. Really focus on what the other person is saying. Watch the movements of their mouth. This will really help with your own pronunciation of words. Don’t allow other thoughts or sounds to sway your concentration if they do try to bring yourself back to this current moment and current conversation.

2. Focus on the content and context of the conversation.

Focus on any specific words the other person is saying. Each phrase and word choice is something interesting that you should be taking note of and if you don’t understand then make sure you say so. What is being discussed? Are there any common themes? Watch body language to put the conversation into context.  there is a big advantage to face-to-face conversations as even if you don’t fully understand what is being said you could gain clues from body language.

3. Focus on tone.

Vocal tones can tell us if someone is joking, being serious or just annoyingly sarcastic. Depending on the language think about how vocal tones can imply one’s feelings. Although Chinese is a tonal language so be aware how tones come across on a cultural level.

4. Focus on emotions.

The more that you follow and amplify the person’s emotions, the more likely they are to feel understood and the deeper the conversation will be, which is great and it may take you out of your comfort zone and really encourage the building of more advanced vocabulary.

5. Focus on body language and eye contact.

A lot of our communication is non-verbal, but as previously mentioned this is excellent as it can help you read between the lines of a conversation. They will be able to see if you are struggling to understand at any point and vs verser.

6. Learn simple ‘filling words’ and accept silences.

Learning some simple ‘filling’ words can really pad out conversations and confirms to the speaker that you are really listening to them. Even small things like, “yes,” “si,” “oui” “D’accord”. Don’t be afraid of natural silences occurring. We often feel the need to fill them due to our own discomfort. However, some moments of silence can actually build rapport and encourage reflection on the conversation, which will help your brain to better process the information.

7. Ask open-ended questions to encourage deeper conversation.

When learning a language it may be tempting to answer questions that could get a yes or no response. Get out of your comfort zone and ask open-ended questions that will encourage deeper conversation and mean you will really be putting your active listening skills to the test.

8. Ask closed-ended questions to slow down the conversation.

Starting to feel a little overwhelmed with the depth of the conversation or then you may need to slow down the pace with simple yes or no questions. Close-ended questions may also be great for clarifying points that you might not have fully understood.

9. Offer compliments.

When you are learning a language ensure that you learn how to compliment others. Compliments can really encourage and motivate people with their language learning. Instead of saying, “you are doing well,” focus on the other person and tell them “You should be really proud of the progress you are making.”

10. Listen more than you talk!

Learning a language also means you need to understand what is being said. So by listening more, you are improving your ability to understand.

Bonus Tip: Don’t worry about making mistakes. People are more likely to remember the way you make them feel rather than what was said during the conversation. Mistakes can actually help build greater rapport and lead to some potentially hilarious moments.

Start applying these simple, yet very effective listening techniques to your next conversation to help you become more fluent in your target language.

Let me know in the comments section below how you get on…

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‘How to Amplify your Language Learning’ now available on Skillshare 🚀 


24 Soft Skills Required for Language Learning

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Have you ever looked at a polyglot and thought “How did they manage to learn all those languages?” Is the success in languages really for a select few? Perhaps you look upon polyglots with jealousy or even admiration? It’s understandable. But as you’ll soon see, you to can to be an efficient language learner. This can be achieved by using  ‘Soft Skills’. These are the skills that you are not necessarily taught (but should be) in schools!

What are Soft Skills?

The term ‘soft skills’ basically refers to ‘people skills‘. So it is those personal attributes that give an indication of high emotional intelligence. Soft Skills are something that is much needed in today’s society, but sadly is clearly lacking!  An example of these skills is how you choose to communicate with others.  Schools typically fail to develop our soft skills. They are more interested in students memorising facts for tests. Especially in subjects that many students will never actually use in real life!

So Why are Soft Skills so Important?

Soft skills can have a huge impact on your life. Skills such as being a good listener and having a positive mindset are all signs of soft skills. To be successful in language learning and life, in general, you need to be proficient in soft skills. The good news is you don’t have to be born with these skills. You can learn them and with practice excel in this area. The most successful people tend to have a vast majority if not all of the skills listed below.

24 Soft Skills Ideal for Language Learners

1. Listening Skills.  We have 2 ears and 1 mouth for a reason! Through listening, you can improve your language learning skills. You may also gain more friends as a majority of people just love to talk about themselves or their lives. When learning a new language ensure you are listening more than you speak it. That way you will be exposed to the correct pronunciation of words and it will vastly improve your understanding.

2.Accept Feedback. Whether good or bad, feedback is absolutely vital for success. For example, you can not progress if you are unaware of what you are doing wrong. So welcome criticism, it is actually your friend not your enemy and it will enable you to make positive changes in language learning.

3. Focus.  In today’s technological advanced world the average attention span has actually dropped to an all time line. If you can improve your focus of attention this will give you a great advantage in life. Focus on just one thing for about 10 – 20 minutes, take a short break and then can back to the task for another 10 – 20 minutes. It is easy to get distracted so turn off your mobile phone, close all the tabs you have on the computer and get cracking. It will also help to set goals. For example to learn 5 new words/sentences or characters. Check out 10 Tips for Mindful Language Learning to help you improve your focus.

4. Be Flexible. Flexibility is not taught in schools! However, it is required in all aspects of life. If you are part of a study group online adjust your plans to meet study requirements. It is not always easy and family does come first. If you want to achieve your goals you need to be bendy rather that rigid!

5. Courteous and Well-Mannered. In my personal experience, many people seem to be unaware of how they actually treat others. For example, they may appear arrogant and rather aloof when in reality they may actually be a bit shy or lacking confidence. To be courteous and good-mannered will attract the right support and you may find people want to help you more. Different cultures have different mannerisms and courteous behaviours, which are worth researching. For example, I am currently learning Mandarin – Chinese and I have spent the last week or so learning key vocab in this area and researching cultural beliefs.

6. Team Work. Surround yourself with positive like-minded people.  Language learning is a social skill. So do not shut yourself away with a grammar book to learn a language. Remember you are not an island! If you are a language teacher or have an online language blog, you must also know how to motivate and inspire your students or subscribers.

7. Be competitive. In schools, they teach that everyone is a winner, just for taking part. However, being competitive is essential to success in the real world. Don’t just compete with others. For me, I always try to get a high score on memories as well as beat the previous week school. I find this helps to motivate me and increases my vocab too!

8. Confidence. Successful people always seem to have so much confidence! You’ll need to do the same if you want to be successful. Plant some small goal seeds, nourish these seeds (revising, studying, practising and also ensuring some time out), then watch your confidence grow and flower out. Confidence, not feeling it. Then fake it till you make it. By being confident you will eventually become more confident.

9. Trust. Trust in others and yourself!  If you keep saying others or you will let yourself down this may become a self-fulling prophecy really. Eventually, you may even start to believe this and then just give up. Tell yourself “You got this“. Being more trustful will help you to gain the confidence of others, and soon you will develop a reputation for being honest and reliable.

10. Continuous Improvement. Continuous development is important and I always try to be a better person than I was the day before. I allocate time each week for self-development. The very fact that you are learning a new language shows that you believe in self-development too.

11. Recharge. Have you noticed how successful people are really energetic? They are lively, vivacious and highly charismatic. If your energy levels are low, you’re unlikely to be attracting success. Try boosting your energy through practising these soft skills, eating healthy, drinking enough water, least 30 minutes exercise, at least 3 times a week and meditation.

12. Interpersonal  Skills. Happy people know how to communicate with others. They are comfortable communicating with people from all different backgrounds. They also know how to have constructive and inspiring conversations. Reflect on your correct interpersonal skills what do you feel you need to change in this area?

13. Be Friendly. Trolling language learning forums isn’t a likely way to make friends or discover exciting opportunities and get support. Smile, even when you are just typing away on the keyboard.

14. Develop a Positive Mindset. “You can’t have a positive life with a negative mindset” Negativity especially when applied to language learning will get you nowhere. If anything those in a negative mindset are more likely to quit! Life,  and pardon my English at times will be shit and if you choose to focus on the ‘shit’, you’ll quickly lose sight of what you are truly capable of. Positive people constantly seek out new opportunities without the fear of if they will be successful or not. Yes, you do have to be realistic, but do so with a positive mindset.

15. Organisational Skills. Are you organised? I have a journal for my language learning. It also has all my Skype tutorials and study group meetups listed. I would be lost without my language learning journal. Being highly-organized is a very desirable soft skill. It is also essential for success! Check out 10 Ways to use a Bullet Journal to Improve Language Learning

16. Body Language. We may be learning a language, but most our face-to-face communication actually via body language! Although slight deviations across cultures, body language can be universal to an extent. Learn body language and this makes chatting to a native speaker of your target language much easier. Also remember it’s a very useful skill to have, as sometimes body language contradicts what someone is saying with words.

17. Set Goals. You want to be a successful language learning and achieve, then you must have specific goals. Check out my eBook that looks at being a positively productive and motivated language learner via a more holistic approach using positive thinking and goal setting strategies. Alternately download my FREE 28DayLanguagePlanner to help you plan ahead.

18. Problem Solving Skills. Struggling with language learning? Have you hit that language learning wall. Rather than dwell on the problems faced. Focus on the solutions required. If a method isn’t working for you. Change it. Simple. You will always get the same results if you always do the same thing. Want different results. Try something new!

19. Laughter. Humour is important, especially in language learning. Don’t take yourself too seriously. You will make mistakes. We all do and that is okay. We can learn from them. I once kept telling my tutor “I like to be a dog at home” another time I mispronounced a word and swore at a tutor, Now I could have logged off and never went back or we could have a laugh about it, build some rapport and it’s a story to tell my own students and subscribers.

20. Respect Others.  This, unfortunately, is a soft skill that isn’t used as much as it should be. There are some really self-centered people out there who put their desires above the needs of others. Make sure you value and respect all those who support you in the language learning communities you below too. Interestingly, by respecting others, you’ll earn their respect in return.

21.  Time Management.  Tutor sets a time and you skype 10 minutes late. This happens on a regular basis? Time management skills are really important and if you can better manage your time it will make your language learning more efficient. Try to get ready for a skype tutorial at least 10 minutes before you go live. Focus on words you struggle with first rather than what you know well.

22. Helping Others With Troubleshooting. If someone is struggling work with them and offer some suggestions on how they could improve their language learning.

23. Smile More and Stretch! Smiling realises feel-good hormones that also help motivation and confidence levels. Stretching also helps to release those feel-good endorphins.

24.  Patience.   Things will not always go to plan and that’s okay. Some days you will make progress and other days you will not.  Try not to get angry or frustrated. Be patience with language learning. Rome wasn’t built in a day. By practising poise and calmness you will feel less stressed.  If your tutor cancels on you use this time to reflect on language learning rather than moan you have been let down.

As you can see, soft skills are an essential part of successful language learning. Develop the skills you already have, and adopt the ones that you are missing. If you can do this then you will be priming yourself for success in whatever language you are learning.

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