Something for learning English from bbc word service
Your personal learning style
Learning a language undoubtedly requires dedication to the cause. You can only learn a language by applying yourself, by putting in the time and effort. During the day today, and when reading these notes, you should bear this in mind.
- Two ways to describe learning style
Different people learn things in different ways. I think it is important to have some self awareness of your learning style, of what suits your intellect and personality. Here is a brief guide to two ways to look at learning styles. Which parts seem to relate to the way you study and learn?
- The four modalities
People with a VISUAL learning style use lists to organize their thoughts and recall information by remembering how it was set out on a page
People with an AUDITORY learning style like dialogues, discussions and plays and use rhythm and sound as memory aids
People with a KINAESTHETIC learning style learn best when they are involved or active andd use movement as a memory aid
People with a TACTILE learning style learn well in hands-on activities like projects and demonstrations
- Left brain dominated and right brain dominated
The brain is divided into two halves which appear to have different mental functions.
A left brain dominated learner has a more logical thinking style. They like sequences, logic, lists, numbers and names. They have good reasoning skills.
A right brain dominated learner likes image, colour, emotion and patterns. They have good visuo-spatial skills.
If you have a left brain preference you could try...
writing out information by hand
turning the information into lists
using headings to break information into categories
If you have a right brain preference you could try...
using shape and colour to highlight information
drawing a diagram to show how information links up
singing the information you have to learn!
- How to use learning style awareness
Once you have explored your learning style and decided what suits you best, you can then approach your learning in a way that will suit your learning style.
However, ideally you should try using your whole brain in your learning. If you can you should use a variety of techniques when trying to remember something. If you feel you are right brain dominated, and you draw pictures to help learn things, you should perhaps number those pictures, and so bring your left brain into action. Using both sides of your brain can only help in learning and remembering.
So, the best thing to learn from knowing about learning styles is that there are so many different ways to help you learn. It is time to experiment and explore new and imaginative ways to learn.
- Here are some activity ideas.
Make connections between new words - which have similar sounds? Do any belong to a themed word family e.g. jobs, the outdoors
Write personalised sentences using the new words, something that is relevant to your life
Write short stories or paragraphs connecting the words and expressions that you want to learn
Look out for the words and expressions you are trying to learn when you are reading or listening to English
Make vocabulary cards, each holding a word or phrase, with a definition and something to help you remember the word - a picture, a colour, a movement? Or, keep the words you want to learn in a small notebook with an example sentence. You can then take it with you wherever you go and when you have a few minutes (whilst waiting for a bus), test yourself.
Draw simple pictures to represent the words
Mime the word, as in the game of charades.
- Fight memory decay
Make sure that you keep revisiting vocabulary you have spent time learning. If you dont use it, youll lose it! I always advise my students to look at their class notes again that evening and do some work to fix them into long term memory. Then to look again at the notes a week later, and use the vocabulary in some way, and to look again at the notes a month later.
- How do you keep a record of vocabulary?
Really, a simple word list is not very useful. Think of a new way to organise your vocabulary. I suggest a system which is really flexible, a loose leaf file is best, perhaps an A5 size one.
This allows you to organise the vocabulary in different ways - by topic, by alphabetical order, by sound, by book unit, by week - and it gives you flexibility, you can change things as you wish. For example, on one page the words may be in a list, on another you can have the same words as a spider diagram. Or, a word may appear on its topic page, and also on a page of words that all use the same dependent preposition.
- Pre-listening or reading
If you know the general topic of the text, do some work on this topic before you listen or read.
What do you know about this topic in your own language?
What English vocabulary do you know that is connected to this topic?
Can you predict any language that you might see or hear?
- First listening or reading
You should follow the text through to the end without stopping (unless it is a novel!!). Afterwards, make some notes on what you have remembered or understood.
- Second listening or reading
Read the whole piece again, making notes as you go, to try and get a full understanding of the text. Underline, or note down, new vocabulary
- Dictionary work
Look at the vocabulary you have selected, which words do you think are important? Check some of them in an English-English dictionary if you have one. Choose some of these words to learn. Dont choose all of them, you may overload your memory!
- Third listening or reading
During this stage you may pause and repeat sections to notice the meaning or the use of language
- Fine focus
In a listening, listen repeatedly to one or two sentences or phrases. Can you identify all the words? Can you listen and repeat?
In a reading, choose a sentence or two which shows interesting grammar or sentence style
Overall, you should move from a general understanding to a more detailed focus on meaning and structure. Learn to take notes to help organise your understanding and to be an active listener or reader.
- The internet
You can read, listen and write. And I am sure that before long, speak.
Writing practice is excellent for your learning. You can develop both your language accuracy and your fluency. Message boards might be a good place to communicate and focus on your accuracy. Live chat rooms are a good place to focus on fluency, as people dont want to wait too long to hear your response.
For listening, the internet may be better than the radio as you can listen again and again. BBC radio is an incredible resource. The ability to listen repeatedly, and to pause, allows you to put into practice the advice I give in the reading and listening skills section.
Using a search engine like Google, you can search for sentences and phrases. It can be quite fun writing a sentence using the new vocabulary you have been learning and searching the internet for it. Has anyone else written the same sentence as you?!
DVDs are a gift to language learners. This is because you can watch a film in sections,
you can rewind and fast forward with ease and you can choose to have sub-titles
Why not watch a section without sub-titles?
Make notes and record what you have heard. Note down your understanding.
Then watch with English subtitles. What do you understand now? Had you misheard words?
Finally, watch with subtitles in your language. Was your understanding good?
The best thing about all this new technology is that it allows you to choose how and what to study, learn and remember. By making choices you are already helping your brain remember the language, you are improving your motivation and you can then follow good learning practice.
- Enjoy your studies and remember the following
Variety is the spice of life and
20% of what we read
30 % of what we hear
40% of what we see
50% of what we say or write
60% of what we do
90% of what we read, hear, say and do! (Flanagan 1997)