Language Learning Styles

Your Own Special Individual Different Learning Styles:

HOW you Learn determines WHAT and HOW WELL you learn a Language

What is the best way to learn a foreign language? Everything depends on your particular approach to learning. Take a look at the following approaches to language learning. travelguidebook No matter the language, our minds work the same way. But our personalities differ. Just as we have different ways of showing our joy or our anger, we also express our desire to learn languages in different ways.

MOTOR MOUTHS: The persons who are not afraid to try out the language they are learning will progress very rapidly. These folks probably have a little genetic edge over the rest of us. However, we all should try to put together the pieces as we learn them. If there is no opportunity to talk with someone else, then we can tape our attempts.

There are two parts to this early talking practice: confidence and pronunciation. The most important thing is to gain confidence or to be thick-skinned enough to speak your piece, knowing that the exercise will pay dividends. However, we should not put off working on our pronunciation until it is too late and we have given up on acquiring a valid accent.

For example, there are too many people who after living years in a Spanish speaking country are perfect in their grammar but who have a typical or even stereotypical English accent. There is no need for that. Spanish is perfectly regular in its phonetics. Motor mouths should also work on their accent!

NON-VIRGINS: Those who have already studied another language should use the skills they acquired with that language. They know what a conjugation is. They know that verbs are different from nouns. Their previous study gives them some mental hooks to help with their new language. They should not throw away their advantage by working on THE LANGUAGE THEY ARE LEARNING in a completely conversational manner.

They should try to get an overview of some commonplaces in the language. They should get an “old fashioned” grammar and lean heavily on the tables to organize their thought. This type of learner should “invent” their new language on the basis of what they know of the other language. They will remember a little of the structure of the other language. For example, what is the relation between adverbs and adjectives? What is the most common way to express what happened yesterday (past tense)? If the other language is a Western language, they should observe the possible similarities. If the other language is non-Western, the very differences can be their starting point to learn the counterparts. In short, they should study “the wrong way”. This is not for everyone. The learner should know his or her STYLE.

BRAINS: These folks will operate much like the Non-Virgins. They will progress better by concentrating on the little points that intrigue them in their new language, such as the difference in usage in Spanish between the prepositions “por” and “para” and the verbs “ser” and “estar”. The same goes for “da” and “di” in Italian.

To master one or two of these elements so characteristic of their new language will help the learner build on their conquests to go on to master other things. This analytical approach will be of great utility to the persons with the cerebral learning style.

WORD COLLECTORS: This person may be great at crossword puzzles Crucigramas) in Spanish OR French, etc. but rarely gets to speak it. If you find yourself learning words and not getting any further, break out of it! We once had a houseguest, a young man from Spain who came to learn English. There were times when our family would be talking Spanish, and he would echo all the Spanish words with their English equivalents. He had a great vocabulary but never got around to talking English.

This kind of learner should always make sure that they make up sentences to practice using the new words they learn. They can combine their ability with vocabulary with the “divide and conquer” tactic. They should not only invent sentences to use the new words; they should run through different grammatical constructions as the setting for their vocabulary.

PEOPLE PEOPLE: Anyone who likes being with people and who has a need to communicate will progress quickly in learning a language. Many outgoing, friendly people learn language in the “motor mouth” mode. However, other people without the gifts of the motor mouths can gain valuable exposure to the language by just following their social instincts.

These folks, however, should not overlook the need to speak correctly. Although they are not interested in traditional grammar in the same way the “brains” are, they must work at speaking correctly. We all know people who learned English years ago, but still say things like, “I am interested to go with you”.

You don’t want to spend your life in the language you are learning with a similar easily corrected error. Learn it right as soon as you can. The people people have to stay curious about the language. The people people should repeat in the same conversation the new expression that they just heard. The same goes for all the others. The only way to learn a language is by following the “Swiss cheese” method, nibble away at the things you don’t know, and master them until they are all gone.

LEARN-WHILE-DOING PEOPLE: I was told once that the only way to learn French was to sleep with a French woman. The idea behind this is that we learn the expressions and words for the activities we are interested in. People who learn like this try to get their native-speaking friends to accompany them as they cook or fix their car. They find that they learn better when their whole body is involved in learning the new words and phrases. For example, the person who learns the word “serrucho” while sawing a board will remember it better than the person (see the “word collector”) who just learns the vocabulary from a list.

DIVIDE-AND-CONQUER PEOPLE: Every learner of a foreign language has to learn to incorporate the learning style of dividing and conquering into their own style. If they are “brains” they should concentrate on one grammatical turn of phrase, such as conditions contrary to fact, (If my grandfather hadn’t died, he’d be alive today!) until they can handle it.

LOST LATINOS: This person should try to remember the nursery rhymes that they might have learned in Spanish. They should run over the names of their cousins and uncles. All of this will loosen up their rusty language skills. They should listen to how others speak “spanglish” and try to figure out the proper way to say things. They should make a game of trying to spot the influence of English in the Spanish they hear at home or in the barrio. This detective work will make them more aware of correcting whatever bad habits they have picked up. However, don’t think that these persons have all the advantages. The person learning from scratch will probably spell Spanish words better than those who know a little Spanish. I’m not sure why.

What works for EVERYONE… There are two activities that will help everyone move forward rapidly, no matter what their learning style or he language they are learning: They are: 1. Passive Listening, and 2. Pattern Response Drills.



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