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Language Learning Styles
Your Unique Individual Learning Styles:
HOW It determines what you learn YES and HOW GOOD you are learning a language
What is the best way to learn a foreign language? It all depends on your particular approach to learning. Consider the following approaches to language learning. Regardless of our language, our minds work the same way. But our personalities are different. Just as we express our joy or anger in different ways, we also express our desire to learn languages in different ways.
MOTOR MOUTHS: People who are not afraid to try the language they are learning will progress very quickly. These people probably have a slight genetic advantage over the rest of us. However, we should all try to put the pieces together as we study them. If there is no way to talk to someone else, we can record our attempts.
There are two parts to this early speaking practice: confidence and pronunciation. The most important thing is to gain the confidence or have the thick skin to speak up, knowing that practice 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 reliable accent.
For example, there are many people who, after years of living in a Spanish-speaking country, have perfect grammar but have a typical or even stereotypical English accent. There is no need for that. It is perfectly regular in Spanish phonetics. Motor nozzles should also work on the accent!
NON-VIRGINS: People who have already learned another language should use the skills they have acquired in that language. They know what a merger is. They know that verbs are different from nouns. Their previous studies give them some mental hooks to help them with their new language. They should not lose their advantage by working on the LANGUAGE THEY LEARN in a fully conversational way.
They should try to get an overview of some common situations in the language. They have to take an “old-fashioned” grammar and lean heavily on desks to organize their thoughts. This type of learner must “invent” his new language based on what he knows about the other language. They will remember a little of the structure of the other language. For example, what is the relationship between adverbs and adjectives? What is the most common way of expressing what happened yesterday (past tense)? If the other language is a Western language, they should observe possible similarities. If the other language is a non-Western language, these differences can be a starting point for studying their counterparts. In short, they have to learn “the wrong way”. This is not for everyone. The student must know his STYLE.
BRAIN: These people will act as non-Virgins. They will do better by paying attention to the little things that interest them in their new language, such as the difference in usage between the prepositions “por” and “para” and the verbs “ser” and “estar” in Spanish. The same is true for “da” and “di” in Italian.
Mastering one or two of these elements that are characteristic of a new language will help the learner build their conquests to continue mastering the rest. This analytical approach will be very useful for people with a cerebral learning style.
WORD COLLECTIONS: This person may be great at crosswords (Spanish or French Crucigramas) but rarely speaks. If you find yourself learning words and not getting any further, quit! We once had a young man who came from Spain to learn English. There were times when our family spoke Spanish and he would translate all the Spanish words with their English equivalents. He had a large vocabulary but could not speak English.
This type of learner should always make sure to make sentences to practice using the new words they learn. They are able to combine their skills with vocabulary through a divide-and-conquer tactic. They should not invent sentences just to use new words; they have to go through different grammatical constructions for their vocabulary.
PEOPLE: Anyone who likes to be with people and needs to communicate will make rapid progress in language learning. Many sociable, friendly people learn the language in the “motor mouth” mode. However, other people who lack the gifts of motor mouths can exert a valuable influence on language simply by following their social instincts.
However, these people should not overlook the need to speak properly. Although they are not interested in traditional grammar as “brains”, they should try to speak correctly. We all know people who learned English years ago but still say things like, “I’m interested in going with you.”
You don’t want to spend your life making a similar mistake that’s easily corrected in the language you’re learning. Learn as soon as possible. People should be interested in the language. People have to repeat a new phrase they heard in the same conversation. The same goes for the others. The only way to learn a language is to follow the “Swiss cheese” method, get away from the things you don’t know and master them until they’re all gone.
LEARN BY DOING PEOPLE: I was once told that the only way to learn French is to sleep with a French woman. The idea behind this is that we learn expressions and words for the activities we are interested in. People who learn this way try to accompany their native-speaking friends when they cook or fix their car. They find that they learn better when their whole body is involved in learning new words and phrases. For example, someone who learns the word “serrucho” while sawing a board will remember it better than someone who just learns vocabulary from a list (see “word picker”).
DROP AND TAKE PEOPLE: Every foreign language learner must learn to incorporate the divide-and-conquer learning style into his or her own. If they are “brains”, they must concentrate on one grammatical turn of phrase until they can handle it, such as counterfactual conditionals (If my grandfather hadn’t died, he would be alive today!).
LOST LATINOS: This person should try to remember the nursery rhymes they learned in Spanish. They should avoid the names of their cousins and uncles. All this will weaken their rusty language skills. They have to listen to how others speak “Spanish” and try to find a way to say everything correctly. They should try to detect the influence of English in the Spanish they hear at home or in the barrio. This detective work will give them more knowledge to correct the bad habits they have picked up. But do not think that these people have all the advantages. A beginner will probably spell Spanish words better than someone who knows a little Spanish. I’m not sure why.
What works for EVERYONE… There are two activities that will help anyone progress quickly, regardless of their learning style or the language they are learning: 1. Passive Listening and 2. Sample Response Exercises.
1. Passive Listening. Everyone should keep foreign language radio on as much as possible. Keep the radio or TV on while you do other things. When you start teaching, you must be swimming in a sea of sound. There is no need to concentrate on it; you don’t listen to try to understand. You won’t hear it after a while, but it will affect you. Little by little, you will begin to guess the rhythm of the language before you understand everything. You will also start to recognize certain words. You will begin to hear the differences in different people’s pronunciation of “beyond” and recognize the key word. Once you hear a word or phrase clearly, you can look it up and gradually expand your vocabulary.
2. Sample Answer Exercises. You have to go through all the permutations of the new phrases you learn. For example, let’s say you just learned to say. Instead of mistranslating from English “Pedro tiene cuatro años” “Pedro es cuatro”. Now you have to keep substituting different ages and different people’s names for this new element of the language to stick with you. You should be able to say “María tiene cuatro años” comfortably. “Juan tiene ocho años.” “I’m fine.” “¿Cuántos años tienes tú?” “After all, there is nothing.” This type of drilling is necessary for all different learning styles.
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