I would like to share with you my thoughts about one of the most important things that students and teachers have often overlooked when it comes to learning foreign languages – learning styles. A learning style is a student’s preferred way to absorb, process, and retain information, and learning in ways against one’s learning style can really slow down one’s progress in learning a new language.
In this article, I will show you three fundamental learning styles and their related learning strategies. By the end of the article, not only you will know how to speed up your language learning efficiency by using learning strategies related to your learning style, but you will also become a person that will be more aware of how you learn.
Even though differences exist between how psychologists call these learning styles, there are primarily three of them: auditory, visual, and kinesthetic. In the modern world, almost all of us will use a combination of these learning styles to access and retrieve information. However, we will always be dominant in one learning style, determined by our genetics and environment. For some people, it is very easy to see their dominant learning style.
- A strong visual learner will always rely on pictures and videos to learn.
- A strong auditory learner listens and speaks about new things he or she has learned.
- A strong kinesthetic learner likes to do hands-on activities to learn.
However, you might be one of those many people that require a close examination of learning behaviors in order to tell your dominant learning style. If you do not know your learning style yet, here’s a link to a quiz you can take to determine your learning style.
If you want, you can also search for other learning style quizzes yourself. There are many of them on the internet.
Next, I will give you an overview of all three different learning styles and their corresponding learning strategies. Once you know your learning style, you can skip to your section to see what strategies you can use to help you learn your foreign language.
Auditory learners learn most effectively when they can hear the materials being presented to them. Teachers in the world today conduct their lectures primarily by talking to students, so there is no doubt that strong auditory learners can gain a huge advantage in class. Many foreign language classes also emphasize hearing as a key component of language learning. Auditory learners are good at this, and because they are fantastic listeners, they are usually good speakers of foreign languages too.
However, auditory learners, just like people of other learning styles, have their downsides. They are often distracted by outside noises, and some of them are not good at comprehending written materials.
These learning strategies can help an auditory learner learn a foreign language faster:
- Engage in conversational practices with your language teacher.
- Compose songs or write poems in the language you are learning.
- Listen to music in that language.
- Read foreign books out loud.
- Memorize new words by associating them with words you already know.
- Develop mnemonics, or use rhymes and rhythms.
If you are a visual learner, you learn things best when you see them. Visual learners are attracted to colors, patterns, and imagery. Many schools nowadays appeal to visual learners because presentations and pictures are becoming major ways for teachers to present learning materials to students. Visual learners are great readers and writers because many are able to translate words into pictures in their minds. When it comes to learning foreign languages, visual learners exceed at grammar and spelling because they are often logical and can notice little details.
Visual learners are not perfect, however, in that they are often distracted by auditory activities. Conversation practices might not be the best way for them to learn. They are also not good at following auditory instructions compared to written instructions.
Here is what a visual learner can do to learn a foreign language well:
- Tell your teacher to use presentations and pictures to teach language concepts and vocabulary.
- Take notes in your foreign language lesson.
- Watch videos and movies in the language you are learning.
- Use flashcards to learn new words.
- Memorize words and grammatical concepts by using mind maps or drawing pictures.
Kinesthetic learners like to feel, touch and do actual activities to learn. It is not strange to be a kinesthetic learner. In fact, we were all kinesthetic learners when we were kids. Back in kindergarten, when we could not speak or write very well, we learned new things primarily by experimenting and doing them with our hands. Kinesthetic learners can be very active learners as long as they enjoy doing an activity associated with what they are learning. They are also curious learners. Foreign languages, being a topic with some rules and flexibility, can really encourage kinesthetic learners to ask questions as long as the teacher can find a way to spark their curiosity.
However, being a kinesthetic learner probably means you will not be good at remembering words or grammatical concepts by seeing or hearing them. It also means you will not keep good attention on something after you have been learning it for a long time.
But here’s some advice for you if you are a kinesthetic learner:
- Tell your teacher to arrange breaks especially if you are taking lessons more than one hour at a time.
- Do role play with your teachers.
- Speak your foreign language by using hand gestures and body movements.
- Learn new words and grammatical concepts by writing or drawing them with your fingers.
- Strengthen your memory by repeatedly reading and writing the same thing.
Advice to Language Learners
By understanding the characteristics of your own learning style, you will know what to avoid when you are learning a foreign language. For example, if you are a strong visual learner, you will probably avoid listening to podcasts or music when learning your foreign language. As a foreign language learner, it is very important for you to practice the learning strategies best suited to your learning style because they help you to memorize and process information faster. The ability to retain (digest) learned information is an essential skill needed to learn a foreign language well.
In the world we live in today, sometimes it is not enough to only know your own learning style. You also need to know the learning style of your language teacher and get yourself used to his or her style in your lessons in order to better your academic experience. And in your free time, maximize your efficiency of learning words and grammatical concepts by using strategies of your own learning style. Be aware of other factors such as goal setting, confidence, and your learning environment; they can affect how fast you learn a language too.
Advice to Language Teachers
Language teachers have their own methods and teaching strategies. However, these methods and strategies stem from their own learning styles. Students that have the same learning style as their teacher can definitely benefit from the teacher’s lessons. However, this does not apply to the majority of students because chances are the learning styles of the teacher and student are different.
Teachers need to find ways to accommodate to their students who have different learning styles than him or herself. A language teacher needs to diversify in how he or she teaches. As language teachers, we will need to identify each student’s individual learning style. From time to time, we may need to practice conversations with auditory learners. During other times, we may create presentations for visual learners or do role plays with kinesthetic learners.
The important thing is not to stick with teaching strategies suitable for only one learning style, but rather, stimulate the minds of students by employing a combination of teaching strategies that pertain to different learning styles.
By this point, you should’ve figured out the characteristics of your dominant learning style. Then you can better implement strategies to help you learn and retain information better in your language lessons with your teacher.
Check out my profile and schedule lessons for more language learning strategies and golden tips for learning English and Chinese. I will see you around!
Farwell, Terry. “Family Education.”
Felder, Richard M, and Eunice R Henriques. “Learning and Teaching Styles In Foreign and Second Language Education.” North Carolina State University, Foreign Language Annals, 28, No. 1,1995, pp. 21–31
TABANLIOĞLU, SELİME. “THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN LEARNING STYLES AND LANGUAGE LEARNING STRATEGIES OF PRE-INTERMEDIATE EAP STUDENTS.”THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF SOCIAL SCIENCES OF MIDDLE EAST TECHNICAL UNIVERSITY, Middle East Technical University Library, 2003, etd.lib.metu.edu.tr/upload/1014034.
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