Forget the tedious vocabulary lessons you endured as a kid. Thanks to a new MIT technology, now you can pick up new words on the fly. The WaitSuite Language app sense when you have a “micro-moment” of downtime—say between sending emails or while waiting for a text back—and will flash a new word up on the screen, increasing your vocabulary without requiring any extra time or effort on your part. In MIT’s testing, they found that users of this type of “wait learning” learned about four new words a day. You’ll be the most percipient* person in your group in no time! Test your own vocabulary skills against these 33 middle-school words adults often get wrong.
Get on the podcast train
Podcasts—audio shows you can listen to on your phone or tablet—are taking over pop culture, and with good reason. The shows average between 10 minutes and an hour, offering up entertainment and information in bite-sized pieces. There’s a podcast for every person’s tastes, including history lessons, cooking discussions, comedy, true crime mysteries, political commentary, business advice, fictional theater pieces and virtually every other topic you can think of. And the best part is you can listen to them at your leisure, say, during a long commute, washing dishes, or in the school pickup line. The fastest way to listen to shows is to download a podcast app (Podcast Addict for Android and Apple’s Podcast App are both free and work great). New shows are coming out every day so whether you’re already a podcast devotee or a listening newbie, it’s a great time to get sucked into something interesting. Try one of these 11 ways to improve your vocabulary in just one day.
Learn a second language on your phone
Speaking a second (or third or fourth) language is both fun and practical—not to mention that it give brain cells a healthy workout. Yet for most of us it ends up in the pile of forgotten New Year’s resolutions, along with trying a new vegetable every week and hand-writing thank you notes. But it doesn’t have to hard or time consuming. In fact, Duolingo turns language learning into a video game. The app teaches Spanish, French, German, English, Japanese, and other tongues using reading, writing, listening, and even speaking modules. And each module is generally done in a few minutes—short enough to sneak in a lesson every day on the bus home or while you’re waiting for the meat to defrost for dinner. Follow these 41 little grammar rules to sound instantly smarter.