How I learned Personal Shorthand

Shorthand Textbook

My sister needed to use shorthand for her work. She kept looking for shorthand training courses at so many places but couldn’t find a single place offering shorthand courses. After a long search, she finally stumbled upon one place that offered shorthand courses. After she took the training course and brought the textbook with her, I got curious about shorthand. I was still studying at university by that time. I started looking through the shorthand textbook and my interest grew.

Practice

I then set about to learn shorthand from the textbook on my own. I used lectures I attended at university as an avenue for practicing my shorthand skills. It was not that I was learning shorthand so that it could help me write down lectures I am attending but it was actually the other way around. I was curious to learn shorthand so I used university lectures I was attending back then as an excellent opportunity for practice.

Personal Shorthand

I remember I started on that journey during the second semester of my third year at Cairo University. The type of shorthand I was learning is called Personal Shorthand or PS for short. It is a renaming of what had been known before as briefhand. What distinguishes PS from other types of shorthand, such as Pitman shorthand, is that it relies solely on the 26 letters of the alphabet and therefore is very easy to learn compared to most other shorthand methods and can even be typed on a computer since it contains no special symbols and relies only on letters of the alphabet.

Full Lecture Transcription

I started reading in the personal shorthand textbook and doing the exercises it had. I started practicing during all lectures I attended at university. It was a lot of fun. By the second semester on my fourth year at university I was able to write down every single word the lecturer was uttering during the lecture. I no longer needed to rewrite my shorthand notes into longhand as I came back home. I just kept the shorthand sheets I had written during the lectures as they are and studied from them directly.

Tools

When I went to university I did not need to take any notebook with me, all I needed was a few folded foolscap folios and a pen. A whole 2 hour long lecture could be transcribed in full in just 2 foolscap folios since I wrote on both the front and back sides of each folio.

Exams

As the time for the final exam came at the end of the semester, I used the transcripts of the 12 or so lectures that I had stapled together as a way to revise all lectures before taking the exam. I was surprised at the amount of information they contained most of which I would have totally forgotten had I been attending the lectures without caring to take notes during the lectures.

Lessons Learned

There are many lessons to be learnt from this story. One of them is that a new skill can help you do better in life. Another lesson is that lots of practice is required to master a new skill. Practicing in a real life context also proved more effective. A third lesson is that one can learn some skills from a book plus practice without the need for external help.

Have you ever thought about learning shorthand? If so, what might you be using it for?

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Boosting Reading and Speaking Skills

Explaining Training Method

It is important to make trainees aware of the training style you are using. Explaining it to them makes them trust you the more since it makes them aware that you know what you are doing. By understanding why a particular style of training is used and why it works and is effective trainees give it their full attention, effort and focus thus benefiting from the training the most. In addition to establishing trust in the trainer and boosting the amount of benefit trainees get from the training, understanding the training style being used makes trainees better able to practice on their own and keep improving their skills even long after the training program has ended.

Second Language Learning

When delivering training to improve the second language of trainees it is of great importance to tell them about the training style you will be using during the training. Not only will they appreciate this and perform better and follow your instructions more closely but it will help them further develop their language skills on their own.

Contrasting Learning Methods

Two of the main skills required to master a language are reading and speaking skills. The method by which the learner practices each of those two skills contrast sharply with one another.

Reading Skills

In order to improve reading skills one should practice by reading correctly and accurately. The learner should attempt to read everything without making any mistakes in reading even if this means reading at an extremely slow rate. the focus here is on correctness and not on speed. Focusing instead on speed of reading will never get the learner anywhere. Attempting to strike a balance between reading speed and correctness while practicing is also wrong and would lead to poor results on the long run. Only by focusing totally on accuracy and correctness and completely ignoring speed would a learner be able to improve his reading skills in a second (or first) language. By repeating what one is reading for so many times speed will eventually come on its own without forcing it.

Speaking Skills

As for speaking skills, the exact opposite is required to successfully practice them. A learner should focus on attempting to communicate meaning while practicing to speak using a second language. Here speed while practicing is required and even essential. If the learner slows down in an attempt to get every grammatical rule correct and search for the perfect vocabulary to use this could break the flow of communication. If he focuses just on communicating meaning, the inaccuracy in grammar and/or vocabulary will tend to vanish in the future as he keeps on practicing his speaking skills.

Conclusion

The methods for improving reading and speaking skills contrast sharply with one another. By making trainees aware of such methods they tend to trust the trainer more, follow his directions more closely and willingly during the training and be able to practice and improve their skills on their own even long after the training program is over.

What about writing and listening skills? What could be good methods for practicing any of those?

Developing Training Objectives

Training needs analysis (TNA) is a formal method for gathering the training needs of employees at a company in order to design a training program for them to cater for such needs.

Identify Problems

A similar, yet less formal, approach to designing training programs for the corporate and non-corporate worlds is to start by identifying a problem that people are greatly suffering from then attempt to design a training program that would help in solving such problem. The beauty of such approach is that it guards against creating and delivering a training course that is not needed by people and does not actually have any practical benefit for them in real life save only perhaps for their enjoyment as they have fun during the time of the training program.

After identifying a strong problem that people are suffering from, on an individual level, on the company level or on the community, level the training program designer then sets about to list a number of training objectives for the training program that would help in remedying the identified problems. The set of training objectives can be listed under the following three categories: knowledge; skills and behavior.

Knowledge

Most traditional training courses have been focusing more heavily on knowledge objectives. Such programs intend to cram as much information as possible about the subject matter in the minds of attendees and aims at having them memorize such information and ultimately understand it.

Skills

More advanced training programs shift the focus from knowledge objectives to skills objectives. The main focus of the training program thus becomes to equip trainees with the necessary skills to perform various activities in the real world. Minimal focus may be given to the amount of information transferred directly in such a training program. Such highly interactive and practical training courses overcome the problems faced by knowledge focused programs which produce a trainee that has a lot of knowledge yet lacks the abilities of putting such knowledge into practice in the real world.

Behavior

A trainee who has gained specific skills may still suffer from the lack of desire to actually apply such gained skills. Here comes the role of the third and final element in the 3 groups of training objectives which is behavior. Some like to call it attitude rather than behavior. Some even go a step further and refer to the third element as beliefs. The reasoning behind this being that beliefs directly influence behavior. Behavior and beliefs can be considered as actually two sides of the same coin. Training programs that focus on shifting beliefs and influencing behavior are the most effective and long lasting. They can make enormous change in a trainee in a very short period of time.

Conclusion

No matter what the focus of a training program is be it on knowledge, skills or behavior, objectives of an effective training program should be based on the actual needs of the people and should help solve a real problem that people are actually suffering from.

Which courses do you think will benefit more form a knowledge-centered training program rather than one centered on changing attitude or developing skills?