[A collaboration post with Day Translations – all thoughts are my own.]
I remember my first all-nighter in college. Well, there was a lot of reading and making presentations. I used most of my time researching, collecting information, summarizing, etc. Unfortunately, this resulted in me being tired and at that time, I didn’t know the methods of learning are more important than time spent learning – quality over quantity. In another word, I need to start learning smarter than harder.
Reading my notes was not really a great strategy to learn. So after years of working in the translation field and also starting my own website, here are the best methods of learning smarter. Which also allows me to learn more efficiently.
Highlighting and Annotating
While reading, you can highlight, take notes, write your own comments, and so on. I started using this strategy when I was in college. I majored in English literature which required me to read a lot of papers or assignments from lecturers.
While studying to become a translator, I also highlight new words that I have never used and immediately look for their meanings. I write notes on each word I highlight to make it easier to remember important things. When you do this, it becomes more of a two-way conversation instead of passive consumption.
I joined local and international translator and interpreter groups via WhatsApp or Facebook. When I need input or a second opinion for a translation project, I often ask in the group. Apart from the fact that translators are unique in translating sentences, we can also exchange ideas.
Discussing a topic you learned with a group who is also knowledgeable about the topic would help deepen your understanding and may expose you to new information. You can also find an online community of people interested in the same topic and get support, help, and so on as added bonuses.
Practice, practice, practice!
Translators practice their translation skills. Content creators practice … well, basically everything from writing, designing, promoting, etc. Musicians practice their instruments. Athletes practice sports skills. The same should go for learning.
Learning from experience, theory alone is not enough to hone our skills in a field. You need practice. I need to practice speaking with English native speakers so that I can be more fluent and confident in my abilities. I need to practice my writing and grammar so I can be a good writer and translator. The more practice, the more often we learn to correct mistakes.
So don’t wait until you’ve gathered all the information out there. Instead, step into the real world without having complete knowledge and learn from your experience through constant reflection and feedback.
I take the TOEFL test once a year to see how far I can go. Practice tests are a good way to see where you’re at, and where you might need to focus. I realized that I still have a lack of grammar and I need to enrich my vocabulary.
There are some great templates that you can find online to help with the structure. If you come across something tricky in your readings, make a note of it and remember to test yourself later for a challenge.
You need discipline and courage to admit what you don’t understand or what you find hard to do. Ignoring those things would be one of the worst mistakes a learner can make. Because you need to have a strong foundation before you move on to an advanced level.
So when you’re self-learning, you must take an extra step to evaluate yourself so you can learn better and grow faster. This is how you’ll find your strong and weak points so you know what to focus on.
If you need to learn something and be able to integrate that new knowledge into your schema and apply it in other contexts, you’ll have to do better than rereading. Learn from my mistakes. Use moderately useful methods of learning and avoid having to pull an all-nighter filled with coffee and pointless rereading.