Neurolinguistic Self-hacking

By jer979!! | | 29 May 2020

tl;dr: An experiment in familiarizing oneself with a foreign language by integrating learning into 2nd nature activities.

The other night, I spent 10 minutes trying to connect a laptop to an Alexa device via bluetooth. But it didn’t take 10 minutes for the typical reasons one might think. It was part of an experimnet.

During our family dinnertiime, there was a fundraising event featuring some singers that my wife and children particularly enjoy.

The event was on my daughter’s laptop. Since the Alexa device is in the kitchen near the table, it made perfect sense to set up the bluetooth connection between her laptop and the Alexa speaker.

A better sound/listening experience for everyone, right?

But the process didn’t take 10 minutes because the devices weren’t working or something was wrong with the app.

It took 10 minutes because, in order to connect the laptop to the Alexa device, I needed to navigate the Amazon Alexa app and set it up.

The barrier?

My Alexa app was in Spanish and I don’t know Spanish particularly well.

Changing the Default Language

I don’t remember where I got the idea, but I thought it made a lot of sense.

At this point, I’m pretty familiar with the ins and outs of my phone and laptops. It’s pretty much 2nd nature now.

So, when I saw a suggestion to change the default language on those devices to another language, it totally clicked. It seemed like a low-cost/low-risk way to learn.

The lowest hanging fruit for this one seemed like Spanish. So, I changed the default language on my phone.

Then, on all my laptops.

Now, I will say that there are scenarios where I do switch it back to English. I’m not at the point where I’m going to do most financial transactions (especially crypto!) and technical stuff (such as when I upgraded the home network from IPv4 to IPv6).

The ROI on having Spanish in those transactions is not worth the risk.

But for the rest of the time…why the hell not?

Yes, my family was ridiculously irritated with me: “WHY IS THIS TAKING SO LONG?!!!”

But I persisted.

“Look, the app is in Spanish and I haven’t figured out all the words yet to navigate the settings menu. Sorry.”

It was a typical, “dad” moment.

But, hey, I’m a dad…that’s what I am supposed to do.

But the fact that I was familiar enough with the app and the concepts, understood the downside risk (very low), and was forced to focus on figuring out the words by really thinking about them has made the experience rewarding.

Some words are starting to click for me. Others take more effort.

But I can feel the learning happening.

I can feel the mind exercising as I try to figure out from context clues that “Guardar” means “save.”

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I can literally feel myself hacking my own brain and because the stakes are so low, it’s a good workout.

One Piece of Advice

If you’re going to try this out, the only piece of advice I can give you is this:

Make sure you know how to get back to language settings if you ever get really stuck. 😉

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