What’s possible in a week? If you dedicated seven days to the achievement of one goal, how ambitious could you make this goal? These were the questions that the multilingual friends Katy and Sara posed themselves when they determined to learn English in one week, to prove that it can be done and anyone can do it with the right methods.
They would attempt to liberate themselves from the distractions and responsibilities of modern-day life in order to cram eight hours of study time and I was observing some of the world’s most capable language learners at work.
The friends set themselves the challenge of learning a language in a week in order to stretch themselves, and then it was a question of choosing which language to learn. English presented itself as a natural option; there are nigh on 300,000 English speakers in Germany’s capital, and the areas are dotted with stores adorned with signs in English.
“Truly understanding one’s environment requires one to first understand English”
The first operational step in the friends learning process was to decorate the entire apartment with sticky notes. This had an almost ceremonial touch to it as the friends delved into dictionaries and proceeded to label everything with its corresponding English name.
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The researchers added a techie dimension by conducting electroencephalographic (EEG)recordings of the sleeping participants brains to track neural electrical activity during the learning period.
They found that learning the foreign words overlapped with the appearance of theta brain waves, an intriguing result since theta is the brain wave state often associated with heightened learning while awake (usually we’re in either the high-frequency, high-alertness alpha or beta states while awake, but it’s thought possible to induce theta state slower in frequency than alpha and beta through concentration techniques).