handedness and language learning

It’s been a while since I did a language-related post, and if I’m being honest this may be one of my last! I’ll be finished my degree in May, which means no more languages pour moi (no pun intended). I can’t say I’m upset…

For my final year dissertation, I did research on the link between handedness and language learning. I effectively forced people to be (somewhat) ambidextrous for two weeks, and then explored whether or not this had an impact on their ability to require new, foreign vocabulary.

Thus far, the link between handedness and language learning hasn’t been broadly researched; this is a bit of a double-edged sword as it meant that I had a unique topic to investigate, but that finding previous studies upon which I could base my research was challenging.

In spite of this – and in spite of my small sample size – there was a definite link between ambidexterity and more successful language learning. The small sample size is obviously something to be wary of, but all in all the results of the study were promising!

So, next time you’re trying to learn a language, try doing something with your non-dominant hand for five minutes each day for a period of time; it could be something as simple as brushing your teeth or writing your name. The idea is that the ‘forced ambidexterity’ will result in higher levels of interhemispherical activity in the brain, thus bringing about more successful language learning. Sounds a bit wishy-washy, but the theory seems to hold up.

Do you have any unusual language-learning methods? Have you ever had to learn a language in a hurry? Do leave a comment down below!

Love and luck,

Clodagh X

personality and language learning

Today’s post actually comes from an essay I put together a while ago on the impact of personality on language learning. Part of the essay focused on the impact of Introversion and Extraversion on how we learn languages; personally I found it to be an intriguing topic, I hope all of you do too!

Extrovert Language Learners: Extrovert language learners tend to engage in conversation and employ intercommunicative learning strategies when learning a new language. Group work and active environments (i.e. environments with adequate levels of stimuli to keep the extrovert engaged) tend to work best for extrovert language learners. It has also been shown that extroverts tend to use more visual learning strategies than introverts (Ehrman and Oxford, 1988). This tendency towards visual language learning strategies relates to the extrovert’s preference towards external stimuli; “visualization is a way of making connection between elements of outer-world experience and the symbols of which languge is composed” (Ehrman and Oxford, 1988 : 8). Use of interactive materials such as powerpoint presentations and picture-association may therefore be effective for extrovert language learners. Teaching methods that require much interaction and communication would also be effective; extroverts are arguably more suited to an immersive environment due to their tendency to focus on external stimuli in everyday life. Total Physical Response (or TPR) may also suit extrovert language learners due to the emphasis on external stimuli. In an academic setting, an extrovert is more likely to feel comfortable in an environment with plenty of social interaction, such as an oral language class. This isn’t always the case however, and is dependent on the confidence of the extrovert language learner in question.  If, for example, an extrovert scores highly in the Neuroticism element of the Big Five personality inventory, the thought of making mistakes when practicing language aloud may deterr them and make them feel uncomfortable in such a setting. An extrovert’s level of Openness To Experience, another factor of the Big Five personality inventory, may also have an impact on how comfortable or capable they feel in a largely interactive environment. If an extrovert has a relatively low score on the Openness To Experience scale, they will be more conservative in their language learning technique and less inclined to participate in conversations on wide-ranging topics or place themselves in situations where they are surrounded by people outside of their peer group.

Introvert Language Learners: As a result of their internal rather than external focus, introvert language learners benefit more from independent learning strategies. Working alone in a quiet, potentially isolated environment where there is little room for distraction tends to work best for introvert language learners. Introverts also learn language better when they are given a chance to absorb what is being said in relation to context and meaning rather than diving straight into conversation like an extrovert would; this ties in with an extrovert’s aforementioned tendency to be more risk-taking than their introvert counterparts. According to Ehrman and Oxford, “the introvert is defined as being concerned with the inner world of ideas” and “tends to look for meaning and context before acting” (Ehrman and Oxford, 1988 : 8). Although interaction is essential for language learning, introverts may benefit from more passive learning methods; something as simple as overhearing a conversation can enable the introvert language learner to absorb what is being said, piece together grammatical structures and learn new vocabulary. This is in contrast to the extrovert language learner who, by nature, would be more likely to join into the conversation without hesitation than passively listen to it. (Ehrman and Oxford, 1988). Teaching methods such as the Grammar-Translation method may be of benefit to the introvert language learner due to the lack of emphasis on oral language. The structural approach may also be effective given the introvert L2 learner’s tendency to find meaning and build systems in language learning rather than going straight into language practice.

Generally speaking, we all tend towards either introversion or extroversion, even if the distinction is marginal. In some cases, however, it is possible to be classified as an ‘ambivert’. An ambivert, as defined by Mercer in Psychology for Language Learning (2012) is someone who “exhibits the traits of both an introvert and an extrovert” and may value time spent alone or in solitude just as much as spending time around other people (Mercer, 2012 : 248).  An ambivert scores exactly 50:50 (or shows extremely marginal preference) between Introversion and Extraversion. They are therefore lucky in the sense that they can benefit from a wide range of language-learning strategies should they choose to make use of them. They are capable of working both with large groups of people and on their own, can focus on both internal and external stimuli to equal extents and can give equal amounts of attention to the written form of a language versus the spoken form. Depending on other subfactors such as attitudes towards language-learning or motivation for language acquisition, ambiverts can make the most effective language learners due to their capacity to be flexible in their language learning techniques. Contrasting techniques such as the Structural Approach and Total Physical Response could be equally effective for the ambivert depending on the other aforementioned subfactors of the language learner in question.”

Love and luck,

Clodagh X

P.S. – Watch my latest video here!

six hundred of you | gratitude + shameless plug

I hadn’t planned on posting today, but a teeny tiny celebration is in order –  thank you for 600 followers?! Having made it to 500 I thought it would take a lot longer to break another hundred, but the internet can be unpredictable at the best of times. Thank you so much for being here, I appreciate it beyond words.

Since I don’t have a whole lot to say, I thought I’d just remind you all of where else you can find The Electric Oracle;

50 Facts About Me (me being Clodagh!) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K8vrDPKRRSA

Snapchat: electric_oracle

Instagram: instagram.com/clodagh.mc

I hope you’re all feeling healthy and happy. Thank you for being here.

Love and luck,

Clodagh X

 

reflections on college | university experience

Going to college was, surprisingly, not something I thought about too much when I was younger. I loved to imagine what job I would have in the future, where I would live, the people I would meet – but never what I would study at university. In retrospect, I believe this was an early sign that third level education would not be the formative experience it constitutes for so many. To say that it would have no impact on my life would be an understatement, but it was not to be a period of transformation.

As time went on I became more aware that change was imminent. Having said this, it wasn’t until I was about 15 that I had made (what I thought was) a firm decision regarding what I wanted to pursue in college. I was convinced that I wanted to study psychology, given my fascination with the human mind. My outlook shifted when I thought more pragmatically; i.e. what I excelled in at school versus what made me cry on a regular basis. The latter being anything maths and science related, I veered away from psychology and chose to do a bachelor of arts in languages. Fast forward through exams, results and college offers, I have a place on my course and I’m ready to go.

This is when things go downhill. Sort of. My experience in college has been odd in the sense that I haven’t hated it, but I definitely haven’t loved it. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so indifferent towards something. Academically speaking it’s all been fine, but to this day I feel utterly unstimulated. This combination of indifference and lack of stimulation has not been a good experience. I cannot count the number of times I’ve mentally destroyed myself with regret, agonising over what could have been if I’d chosen a course I was genuinely interested in. Normally this doesn’t last any longer than a day, and I have ploughed on through the very worst of essays and assignments.

The social element of college has also been a mixed bag. I’ve met some wonderful friends over the years, and for that I am incredibly grateful. Many of the people I have crossed paths with in college have restored my faith in humanity, in stark contrast to my experience in secondary school. Having said all of this, the way in which I view socialising has changed quite a lot. If you read my previous post on what constitutes fun, you will know that I’m not really one for parties or going out. Much of the social scene in college revolves around parties, drinking, etc etc. As you can imagine this isn’t something that sits well with me, but it’s no big deal. You can navigate your way around it quite easily.

I would love to say that going to college has been a worthwhile experience, but I’m honestly unsure if I would stretch that far. What I will say is that I have a far healthier relationship with how I view educational institutions; secondary school was downright hellish at times, but I feel as though many of my wounds have healed and I am ready to move on. This wouldn’t have been possible without learning that I could be happy in a school-like setting – i.e. I would still feel terrible if I hadn’t chosen to go to college.

I’ve re-written the end of this piece about six times, but I can’t figure out what the most effective conclusion would be. I don’t even know if there is a conclusion to all of this. If I don’t stop writing here i’ll just end up rambling (because that isn’t what I’ve been doing for this entire piece), so here are a few things I’ve learned from my experience in university. Some ‘reflections’, if you will.

  • I hate working in groups; always have, probably always will. I tried to get involved with society work (we have clubs and societies in most Irish third level institutions), but… it’s a no from me.
  • You are your single biggest priority.
  • Education is important, but it comes in many many forms. Living in this world is an education in and of itself.
  • People can change, for better or for worse.
  • Facing fears is important, but you don’t have to like what it is you once feared. I don’t fear travelling for long periods of time anymore, but I still don’t like it.
  • Routine is essential; much and all as you may dream of days off and lie-ins on a week day while you’re at school, a lack of structure can create all sorts of practical and emotional problems.
  • Disillusionment is worse than hatred. It’s better to feel something than nothing at all. I would honestly say that my worst maths classes were better than some days I’ve spent in college feeling lifeless.
  • It may be true that quitters never win, but quitters also have a chance to move on and try news things. Giving up is not a sign of weakness. So, maybe quitters do win from time to time.
  • The whole ‘you’re only young once’ thing is true, but you can adapt it to your own wants and needs. I may not go out at night all that often, but that doesn’t mean I’m not experimenting with new things.

If you’ve reached the end of this and thought ‘why the f*ck did I read this whole thing when I could have just scrolled to that list at the end’ – you could have, but a lot of the above wouldn’t have made sense. I hope I set the scene appropriately, and that you don’t feel like I did in maths class all those years ago.

If you’re about to start college, or if you’re already wrist-deep into your degree, I wish you the very best of luck in the future. The present is not forever, realistically we’re all gonna be just fine. Or so we hope. It’s all to play for.

Love and luck,

Clodagh X

humble beginnings

I was sorely tempted to start this with an inspirational quote, but I’ll refrain. If you’re reading this you *probably* came over from Twitter, so you already know that I’m Clodagh bla bla bla bla bla. If you didn’t come from Twitter, hello! I’m glad you’re here. You can read a little more about me on, unsurprisingly, the ‘about’ section of this page.

This is something I’ve wanted to do for quite some time, but I could never figure out how to execute it properly. To be honest I still don’t know what I’m doing, but (a) who the hell does and (b) this means I have plenty to write about. Happy days.

So what do we have so far? Inspirational quotes (or a lack thererof), uncertainty and ‘happy days’ – I think that serves as quite a good summary for all that this page stands for. It’s a blog in the sense that I’m using a blogging platform, but it’s not a blog in that it’s going to be a strange mixture of things. In short: idk.

Do stick around.

Love and luck,

Clodagh X