A present from the past – my time capsule

Lena and I were cleaning out the garage yesterday when she came across something we had completely forgotten about:

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A time capsule! Prepared and hidden away by a much younger Daniel (whose handwriting is so similar to mine as to be almost indistinguishable). How it ended up in our garage in Alexandria rather than in the roof of young Daniel’s house is a story unto itself – stay tuned for that tale in a later blog post, maybe.

Anyway, it turned out that young Daniel had done an amazing job of sealing the time capsule. We had to bust out the can opener to get it open, removing the bottom of what was formerly a shortbread tin:

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Inside were all manner of treasures! What a discovery:

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In case it’s not obvious from the visual, an inventory:

  • a photo of young Daniel
  • a mother-of-pearl shell (so pretty)
  • a Remembrance Day poppy
  • one of my favourite marbles (I just loved shiny things, okay?)
  • some stamps
  • a term program from my local church youth group
  • the comics and front page of the newspaper from the date of the time capsule’s creation (31/12/2002, as it turned out)
  • some seeds from Cosmos Sensation flowers sealed in an old TAB ticket (Dad used to collect them to use as scrap notepaper)
  • a letter

The letter ran to two pages, and had some good things to say. No testable hypotheses about the future, sadly, but the whole package did yield some interesting insights, of which a couple were:

  1. My sense of humour was just about fully developed by the age of 12. I have a better grasp of irony now than I did then, but other than that present Daniel and past Daniel would find one another hilarious.
  2. I was unbelievably investment-minded, even then – thus the stamps. I haven’t looked up their market value yet, but I feel like past Daniel might be disappointed with how little they’ve appreciated in the intervening 12 years…
  3. I have no idea about botany whatsoever – I’ve optimistically planted the seeds, but could not tell you at all whether they’re likely to grow. Would love to hear any advice you have on this front, to save me from disappointment.

Hope you liked taking that trip down memory lane with me and my time capsule. If you’d like to do something similar but don’t quite have the energy to make a physical time capsule, check out something like futureme – I highly recommend sending yourself a message in the future.

Three ways to optimise your language learning

Learning a second (or third!) language is a fantastic experience, and opens the door to a host of experiences you otherwise would have missed. But the learning process is both tough and time-consuming. So, unabashedly revelling in my economist nature, I’ve got three tips for you to optimise your language learning – saving you both time and effort.

  1. Doch indeedGrab yourself a frequency dictionary early on in the language learning process. As implied by the name, a frequency dictionary lists the most commonly used words in a language, enabling you to focus your attentions on increasing your vocabulary in ways that will quickly yield big dividends. Do note, however, that a frequency dictionary is not a substitute for a normal dictionary – you should definitely buy both.
  2. Speak the language you are learning. Find as many opportunities as you can – with a native speaker if possible. Meetup.com is the perfect place to look for fellow language learners, and universities often have casual conversation groups you can attend. One vital piece of advice, though: it’s not enough just to go to the group and listen to other people. You’ll start seeing big gains only when you step up and join in the conversations yourself. And yes, that means you are going to make mistakes – that’s an unavoidable part of the process. Plus, although those gaffs are slightly embarrassing at the time, they make for great stories later…
  3. Practice every day. It’s tempting, particularly for the time-poor among us, to think that putting in an hour of practice twice a week will be much better than doing 15 minutes per day. Unfortunately, two things work against this: diminishing returns, and human nature. Diminishing returns means that your ability to concentrate on language learning will decline after about 15-20 minutes – so it’s better to do a lot of short, separate practice sessions rather than one long stint. And humans like patterns and routine – it will be a lot easier to stick to a commitment to practice every single day rather than a more flexible schedule. To help me with this, I use an app called Streaks – it’s amazing what lengths you find yourself going to in order to avoid breaking your perfect run of days!

Hopefully those three points help take your language learning to a whole new level! If you liked this post, Lingholic also have a list of the best language self-study methods available.