Learning to learn
Many people, especially in the UK, perceive languages as being incredibly difficult to learn. This reluctance results in uncomfortable situations abroad as people mumble their way through phrase books. This unwillingness to expand our linguistic vocabulary isn’t helped by the fact English is so well spoken around the world. Overall, it’s estimated that between 500 million and 1.8 billion people speak the language(1), at the upmost estimate this equates to 25% of the entire planet!
Recently a friend of mine moved to Brussels and was excited about learning French, however 6 months later he wasn’t as fluent as he had first hoped. He found as soon as local people identified him as English, they simply switched to speaking English. This article hopes to provide some tips and insight into the difficulties and pleasures of learning a new language. I also hope to dispel any learning myths! There is a certain beauty to being able to understand odd words from foreign menus or catching a few words of passers bys’ conversations. I hope this article inspires you to learn a new language and to experience a new culture.
With so many resources out there it can be difficult in choosing which is the best one for you. Everyone learns differently so finding out the way in which you learn can just be as important. Flemings VAK model categorises people into three different learning styles, auditory, visual and Kinaesthetic (2). Understanding which of these learning styles suits you best can help you personalise your learning. Auditory learners may benefit most from audio tapes, CD’s and podcasts, whereas visual learners may find books and written material more effective. Kinaesthetic learning enjoy learning through doing, these people may find learning languages easiest when role playing scenarios and practising conversations. An effective programme of learning will incorporate a variety of methods covering all of the above.Recently thelanguagelearningblog.com/ (3) composed a list of 25 tips for learning a language, I’ve categorised some of these below into the three learning styles to help identify which you may find most effective.
1. Use your imagination. Visual images can help you remember words.
2. Invent stories using as much of your new vocabulary as possible. Any words you can’t think off in your target language use your native language and then look up those words later.
3. Watch videos.
4. Utilize the BBC for news broadcast and lessons in your target language.
5. Utilize flashcards or small notebooks to review vocabulary words and phrases.
6. Use a bilingual dictionary often, not just to look up specific words, but browse through it.
7. Draw columns on paper, words in your native language on the right and target language on the left. This allows your eye to easily scan to one column to the next and it helps your brain absorbs that word.
8. Write a simple children’s book in your target language. Make it silly and utilize simple concepts as though a child was actually going to read the book.
9. When reading, read more slowly and deliberately than you do in your target language. Later, as you progress, your speed will increase to normal levels.
10. Read bilingual books or books in the target language that you are already familiar in your native language.
11. Read comics and cartons in your target language
12. Read your grammar books.
13. Put stickers in everyday life items until you’ve learned their names.
1. When first starting out, try to just listen to your target language as much as possible without attempting to speak it. This helps you acquiring an ear for the language.
2. Listen to internet radio broadcasts and podcasts as much as possible.
3. Watch videos.
4. Invent funny or silly mnemonic phrases to help you remember new words or concepts.
As you can see all of the above deal mainly with visual and auditory learning so I’ve come up with some tips that’ll suit Kinaesthetic learners.
1. Find a friend that speaks your chosen language and organise times in which to only speak your target language.
2. Attend a club/meeting/group of your chosen language.
3. Role-play with a language teacher.
4. Find example conversations in a language textbook and ask a friends to role play these with you.
It can be difficult to know what kind of learning style you prefer as everyone has an individual mix of the above. There are a variety of online tests that are easy are quick to do, although these are not perfect, they can be a good indicator.
Brain Boxx’s VAK quest is a quick and easy tool that can help you discover your preferred learning style. By ensuring you have a good understanding of how you learn best you can plan a more effective learning schedule and by mixing different styles of activities your learning can not only be more effective but can be more enjoyable. This can result in your motivation to learn being bolstered as you find yourself having fun as you learn a new language.
This post was submitted by jennifer.