With Language Learning Your Brain Wants You to be Curious

Curiosity is one of my favorite words in English (along with transcend and lovely but that is another story). And, interestingly enough, I've learned in the past year that curiosity is incredibly important to the learning process.

Curious, by definition, means, “eager to know or learn something.”

When I think of eager, I think of a child. More specifically, I think of my daughter and the way she acts when she wants to research a specific monster in her Fantastic Beasts book (thanks J.K. Rowling!), or when she takes a notebook to write in when we go to the science museum.

She can’t wait to dive in!

It’s this state of eagerness and anticipation that we need more of in learning environments. This is because science is now showing us that when our brain is in a state of curiosity, our brains are better prepared to learn and make memories related to what we are learning (Rachel Paling, the author of Brain-Friendly Grammar, explores this more in her book).

It is so important that coaches who use Neurolanguage Coaching®* are consistently trying to pique our learners' curiosity by asking provocative questions that aid them in making connections.

What does that mean for you, the learner?

In a coaching session, I might ask you how a certain grammar concept compares with your native language. If you have never made a comparison like this before, you might find that it requires deeper thinking on your part. I have had some wonderfully interesting conversations in comparative linguistics with my clients! Our minds become engaged, yet calm, and here in this perfect learning state, lasting language connections are made.

Or, I will begin the topic of the present perfect verb tense by asking you what you already know about it. I do this instead of giving you a long explanation to start. By starting with a question, I hope to awaken your existing knowledge so you can use it to make new connections.

How can you bring curiosity into the picture?

Part of my role as a coach is to help stimulate your mind, but you have a role, too: to understand what makes you curious (or be willing to explore the possibilities) and to know when you are losing focus or interest...and then to share that information with me or whoever your coach may be.

Sometimes I can tell when a learner is not engaged, but at times it can be less obvious. That’s because some learners have been taught in previous learning environments to just do what the teacher says; it doesn’t matter whether it’s helping them learn or not. With Neurolanguage Coaching®, the communication needs to be two-way and open, and both the coach and coachee need to be engaged.

Now, knowing what truly sparks your interest requires a lot of self awareness, I think. But I find that the learners who are attracted to Neurolanguage Coaching® are quite self-aware and willing to take responsibility for their learning.

For example, I have clients who have found specific Youtube videos that are interesting and relevant to their industries, and we have incorporated into sessions in order to work on listening skills. Or, one client was intrigued by Ernest Hemingway and wanted to use Hemingway's writing as a way to build vocabulary. She knew what interested her and brought that to the table, so to speak. Contributing ideas and activities that you find relevant and stimulating will put your brain at an advantage!

These are examples. The important thing is that however you decide to improve your English, make sure that the method continuously makes you curious to learn more. Without a curious mind, your brain isn't ready to learn!

*Registered US and European trademark in the name of Rachel Marie Paling


Paling, Rachel, Brain-Friendly Grammar. Express Publishing. 2019.

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