How Do You Learn A Language? Posted by Sean Young on Apr 23, 2012 in Archived Posts
Everyone has their own style for learning how to do something. It could be a job skill, how to care for their lawn, hobbies and crafts, etc. Each individual has a preferred way to learn, a way that helps them see how things are done clearly and makes sense in their minds so they can get the job accomplished. Do you know your preferred learning style? Here’s a simple exercise to help you find your style by the way you interact at a party. You are surrounded by people who look, act, and speak differently from you. Which one of these situations would apply to you?
- Do you decide to sit back, observe, listen carefully, take your time, and learn from watching what others say and how they act?
- Do you ask yourself questions and make guesses about what is going on based on what you see and hear?
- Do you wait to say something until you are pretty sure you will not make any errors?
- Do you experiment with things you have learned in other situations in an attempt to communicate in this new situation?
- Do you wish you could see the new words you are hearing in writing?
- Do you jump right in and begin talking to the people at the party and sharing in the activity even if your language is pretty minimal?
Each of the above questions represents a different learning style. Language learning styles are the general approaches that we use to learn a new language. Each of us is unique and learns in the way that suits us best. However, by being aware of how we prefer to learn and of other possible ways, we may be able to capitalize on our strengths to improve our weaknesses. There are no right or wrong answers to the above questions, there are just different ways people learn through interaction.
Let’s use a few more questions to break things down a little more and identify your preferred learning style. Ask yourself the following:
- Do I focus on details or on the “big picture”?
- Do I have a visual, auditory, or kinesthetic preference? (These are explained below.)
- Is my preferred style more abstract, random, and intuitive or is it more concrete, organized, and sequential?
- Is language learning a game or a task for me?
How Do You Learn?
Learning can be broken down into three major categories. Once you identify which category you belong to, you will be able to enhance your language learning capabilities and see some amazing results.
Visual learners like to see things in writing, and associate meaning with what the words look like. They may be good at figuring out meaning from gestures and visual context, but may have difficulty conversing when there is little visual back–up to convey meaning (as in phone conversations).
Auditory learners, on the other hand, do not need much visual input. They like to learn by listening to conversations. They are good learners of tone languages such as Chinese, Vietnamese, Yoruba, etc. and sensitive to differences in pronunciation and tone of voice.
Kinesthetic learners prefer hands–on learning: acting in skits and role plays, doing activities that accomplish something, or working with real objects. They learn best while doing something else (in the language), such as playing sports, singing songs, or helping to prepare dinner with a friend.
Once you’ve figured out how you learn, the next thing is, how do you prefer your lessons?
Intuitive or Sequential?
Intuitive learners prefer to jump right into a new situation and accomplish what they’ve set out to do. They like to figure out the main principles of how the language works without benefit of the rules.
Sequential learners prefer to learn in a set order, slowly and steadily. They like to be told facts about the language and learn from lists and charts.
A Game or a Task?
Learners who look language it as a game prefer open–ended communication and do not worry about making mistakes or paying conscious attention to what they are learning. They enjoy learning and see any obstacles as a challenge to overcome.
Other learners approach language learning as completing a task; they frequently like to plan and organize their learning and then evaluate what they have learned. Sometimes critical of themselves, they prefer to make sure they know their lessons thoroughly before moving on.
Find Out For Yourself
If you’re interested in seeing for yourself what your learning style is, you can fill out an online questionnaire that determines your preferred learning style. It has 70 questions that will then calculate your results and give you a better understanding of what your style is, and you can go from there. A series of different learning styles will be posted here so you can find how to use any language method to fit your needs.
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