Upgrading your reading skills: online vs offline reading

I have a confession to make here: I’m an old-fashioned guy who likes to read the old-fashioned way and believes firmly in the paper brain and deep reading. When it comes to reading Chinese texts though, the advantages of online-reading are simply overwhelming. How to make the best out of both worlds?

Online reading

What makes online reading great?

  • Texts tend to be up to date! I mean who wants to read some Mao Zedong poem if you could be reading what is happening in China right now or for that matter any other content that is relevant to you.
  • Never ending supply of free online resources (Intermediate and advanced learners can check out the Mandarin version of the New York Times or read Chinese news from Deutsche Welle for example)
  • You can find topics that naturally interest you instead of reading the usual random stuff from your textbook.
  • Most important: You can use reader apps to track your progress, create your own system of flashcards and vocabulary lists. Reader apps can tell you the difficulty level of a given text.

But there are some risks as well…

  • The texts won’t always match your reading level. If they are too hard for you, you can loose interest easily. This is why people invented graded readers for Chinese.
  • Some people say you are more easily distracted reading online (pop-ups, other content appearing, chat messages and what have you). This depends on your situation, but I somewhat agree.
  • When I read online-texts or use an app like Pleco or DuShu, I have an urge to check every unknown character. This is not a good way to read texts, because the learning effect is very limited. I have forgotten most new characters the day after. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as clicking or tapping your way to fluency. Skill comes with practice. And practice in this case means daily brain gymnastics without (too much) cribbing.

Reading like the monkey king or Non-linear reading

Neuroscience, in fact, has revealed that humans use different parts of the brain when reading from a piece of paper or from a screen. So the more you read on screens, the more your mind shifts towards “non-linear” reading — a practice that involves things like skimming a screen or having your eyes dart around a web page. 

Your paper brain and your Kindle brain aren’t the same thing

Offline reading

Merits of reading the old-fashioned way

  • I personally like the focus of the physical object in front of me. In others words, I get out my book and will put any other stuff that will distract me away, so it’s just me and the text I’m reading. This is called deep reading or slow reading and involves a higher level of concentration.
  • I also have this nasty habit of making markings, notes and drawings when I’m studying a text. Of course, you can do that online as well and may even have more editing options available, but still! Old habits die hard. I cannot help preferring to “physically” work my way through a text.
  • If you are reading a Chinese textbook like the New Practical Chinese Reader, chapters follow a well thought out progression and cover a variety of general topics. Most of which even proofed quite useful in China, though I didn’t really like those texts much when studying, I have to admit. The point this kind of offline reading really helps you laying the foundation for basic proficiency.

Deep reading is the active process of thoughtful and deliberate reading carried out to enhance one’s comprehension and enjoyment of a text. Contrast with skimming or superficial reading. Also called slow reading.

A Guide to Deep Reading
Outdated Chinese reader from the Mao-Era

What’s less attractive…

  • This has always been a major issue: most textbooks take so much time to conceive, write and publish that by the time they are released, they are already outdated. When time goes by, they just grow increasingly odd and silly. To take an extreme example: I have a Chinese reader which is filled with stories about communist wartime heroes and speeches of Mao. Apart from being historically interesting (if you dig language didactics), this reader has lost its relevance.
  • Or to counter this effect, readers become just so timelessly boring, containing only classical texts or content-free reading material that fails to be relevant on any level.
  • Mostly you look in vain for any “hot topics” like new trends in Chinese social media or currently the Sino-US tradewar that you might want to be able to discuss with your Chinese friends.
  • Many textbooks come with audio, but certainly not all. This problem is easier to solve online.

So to come to a conclusion here: Offline reading still has got its merits. The key issue being FOCUS which allows us to comprehend and appreciate what we read on a deeper level. It shouldn’t be impossible to integrate that into our online reading routine though. The possibilities of online reading are just too good to ignore. For now, I stick with a healthy mix of both: online reading can definitely complement old-fashioned, offline reading in a powerful way.

Three character traits you need to improve your Chinese skills

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Someone asked me which “character traits” you need to be successful at learning Chinese. “Character traits”? I had to think about that. Finally, I came up with three things which I think are important to have or develop.

But let’s go back a little bit. For the sake of clarity, I’ll just take the basic meaning of the word “character”. It generally refers to the particular combination of qualities in a person or place that makes them different from others. The “character traits” are those qualities that make us “different from others”.  

The five-factor model (FFM) has become very popular. It describes human character (or personality) by focusing on these 5 factors:

  • Openness to experience (inventive/curious vs. consistent/cautious)
  • Conscientiousness (efficient/organized vs. easy-going/careless)
  • Extraversion (outgoing/energetic vs. solitary/reserved)
  • Agreeableness (friendly/compassionate vs. challenging/detached)
  • Neuroticism (sensitive/nervous vs. secure/confident)

It’s a scaled approach which can be really helpful to understand how you are wired up. You can also ask yourself who you want to be.

Anyway. Looking back on my experiences as a language student and teacher, here’s what I came up with:

  1. Openness and curiosity
  2. Creativity and self-awareness
  3. Discipline

You can of course argue if these three are really character traits in the traditional sense.

Openness and curiosity

In the five-factor model “openness” is described as follows:

Openness is a general appreciation for art, emotion, adventure, unusual ideas, imagination, curiosity, and variety of experience. People who are open to experience are intellectually curious, open to emotion, sensitive to beauty and willing to try new things. They tend to be, when compared to closed people, more creative and more aware of their feelings.

Now we can’t be open for everything all the time, but we can cultivate an open mindset or growth mindset when it comes to learning.

As a language teacher I know how many people only see their limitations and the obstacles down the road. “It’s just too hard for me! I’ll never be able to speak fluently!”. I heard that kind of phrase a lot. I would ask them very bluntly: “Look, if you don’t believe in your own potential, how can you learn anything?” You need to start shouting back at that negative voice inside you. Start shouting back right now if you have to!

It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves. (Edmund Hillary)

You need to be keen on learning new things.

The thing with people who score high on openness is that they don’t look before they leap. They just do it. They’ll just start learning some obscure instrument you never heard of or book a course in programming although they never wrote one line of code in their whole life. This is a mentality thing.

As a teacher (and a student) I’d also see many people who just cared about the language certificate they’d receive at the end of the course. They just cared about that, not about actually learning anything beyond the course requirements. The positive thing was that they were very focused on their goal. In the long run though, they are limited by that purely practical mindset. Their learning curve stagnates in an early stage, because they are not interested in the thing itself.

To cultivate that growth mindset, you must believe in your own potential to learn.

Creativity and self-awareness

This next point is not about being a creative genius who invents new apps every other day or writes music or poems and what have you. If you do though, that’s great too.

What I had in mind though, is the ability to discover new ways to learn outside the curriculum you’re in. Typically, you’ll have Chinese class with prescribed books and homework you are expected to finish. You’ll trust your teacher knows what’s best for you. But guess what? Your teacher doesn’t! Your teacher has other stuff to worry about!

The kind of creativity I’m referring to here involves knowing what you need. Just trusting your teacher won’t unleash your full potential. Your teacher probably won’t tell you to paste vocabulary stickers all around your house, although it can be quite useful. I still didn’t remove the 微波炉-sticker from my microwave, and I used to have many other stickers like 门,电脑,雨伞,花盆 and so on pasted around the apartment. It was just an idea and it worked for me.

You have to know what works for YOU. You must get creative in some way.

And this can mean many things. It can mean finding a Chinese tandem partner to chat with or team up with other students to practice. It can even mean inviting your Chinese teacher to dinner or using wechat to fire random questions at people you just learned: 你是哪国人?你今天想做什么?你饿了吗?Again, you have to get active and find out what’s best for you.

Discipline

I use the word “discipline” for lack of a better word. I like to think about “discipline” as the art of developing (and maintaining) good habits. It’s not about making a schedule and sticking to it no matter what (though it does involve effective time management). It’s not about creating a cage around you. It’s more about cultivating positive learning habits and integrating them into your daily routine. This relates to the “conscientiousness” from the five-factor model:

Conscientiousness is a tendency to display self-discipline, act dutifully, and strive for achievement against measures or outside expectations. It is related to the way in which people control, regulate, and direct their impulses. High conscientiousness is often perceived as being stubborn and focused. Low conscientiousness is associated with flexibility and spontaneity, but can also appear as sloppiness and lack of reliability.

Toegel G, Barsoux JL (2012). “How to become a better leader”. MIT Sloan Management Review. 53 (3): 51–60.

Indeed, if you can combine a high degree of openness and curiosity with a form of self-discipline, you are holding the key ingredients for successful learning in your hand.

“20 to 30 minutes every day”

I don’t want to mystify anything here. The kind of “discipline” you need for language learning is really not that special, but you have to be serious about it. It’s like practicing violin. It’s better to play 20 minutes every day instead of two hours every Saturday. By playing every day you’ll develop a feeling for the instrument, your hands will get accustomed to new movements and finger arrangements, you learn new melodies and sound better. Without being aware of it you’re slowly climbing a mountain. Every hour you play is another step on your way up. It’s the same with learning Chinese. To make progress you need daily practice.

Now I know that can be challenging. Time is a valuable resource. Maybe you are looking at your schedule right now and saying that’s not going to work for me. If you don’t have 30 minutes, then take 10 minutes of your day and try that for one week. Check your progress: What did you learn? Were you focused enough? In some cases, you will find out that you need to make more time.

They may not admit it, but every “successful person” I know of practice some way of self-discipline, knows how to set goals, track progress and structure their time in an effective manner.

To wrap it up here, these three character traits I think are very useful:

  1. Openness and curiosity
  2. Creativity and self-awareness
  3. Discipline or the art of cultivating good habits

From my own experience, I don’t see character or personality as static and unchangeable. I also spoke of “mindset” and “mentality” to underline that view. If you possess or cultivate these three traits you will climb higher than most.

Chinese dictionary: Why Pleco is irreplaceable

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One gloomy afternoon in Beijing, thirty years ago. Chinese language student Lily gets out her dictionary to look up four mysterious characters. Half an hour later her noodles have gone cold and the battle-scarred book still hasn’t provided any answers. In a desperate state, Lily smashes the book against the window. Glass shatters everywhere. One Chinese student gets hurt. Lily has to cover his medical costs, but she can’t and is forced to give up her studies and leave China forever.

This story of tragic failure clearly occurred in the dark era before the invention of Pleco.

The reason my Chinese dictionary became filling material for my bookcase

The Pleco Chinese dictionary dates back to the year 2000. Founder Michael Love, who was studying Chinese in China back then, revolutionized the use of dictionaries to look up characters. Because of Michael Love’s app, nowadays, hardly any Chinese learner uses old-fashioned paper dictionaries. In fact, the old-school way of looking up a character by their radical is becoming a less and less relevant skill.

Good to know: Pleco is pronounced like “pleeco” with a long “e”. The name refers to a type of aquarium catfish (scientific name Hypostomus plecostomus) which can also be seen in the company’s logo. Actually, it seems to be the founder’s personal way of pronouncing the word, but since Pleco is his baby he must know best.

Why ride a donkey if you have a car…

The Pleco dictionary has been installed over a million times and some of its users have been working with Pleco for almost twenty years now. The main reason can be found in the continuous improvement of the app. Pleco has become much more than an online dictionary. Additional features include different Chinese fonts, handwriting input, flashcards, audio and multiple dictionaries.

I finally could stop ordering stir-fried noodles

a satisfied PLECO user

In 2010 Pleco was the first to launch an OCR system for Chinese characters which caused another revolution in Chinese learning. Say you were sitting in a Chinese restaurant: all you had to do is scan the characters from the menu with Pleco and the definitions would appear automatically on your screen. For the first time, you could read the whole menu, instead of randomly picking Caterpillar Fungus Duck or ordering the same dish over and over again.

Pleco and my personal ongoing battle with Chinese characters

Pleco has played a major part in my learning and continues to do so. Especially in China, I spent hours with Pleco opened on my tablet or smartphone – in class, at home reading texts or even watching TV. What I personally like the most about Pleco are actually mostly basic features:

  • You can use handwriting and Pinyin to find almost any character you come across.
  • Pleco shows you the stroke order of the 500 most common characters. Great when you are just starting out. And more can be added.
  • Pleco provides useful example sentences and word combinations which makes it easier to remember a new character.
  • Speaking of memorizing: one of the best features is the search history. Pleco automatically stores all your entries, showing the exact date and time when you looked up a particular word. Making notes can hardly be more very convenient.
  • You can use your bookmarks to make flashcards (it’s an add-on) and practice new and old vocabulary.
  • It’s very up-to-date and comprehensive. The lexicon covers a large area from internet slang and international movie stars all the way back to Chinese dynasties, classic texts and historical figures.
  • Pleco contains not just simplified characters but also the traditional ones, so it’s Taiwan- and Mainland-friendly.
  • You can copy Chinese texts to the document reader and then simply tap on unknown characters to see their meaning. Useful when you’re trying to get into the details of an news article or almost any other text.

Are there any major things to dislike? In my opinion: No. Of course you have to pay for add-ons, but depending on your use and purpose, spending some money on additional features in the long run may well be worth it. And let’s not forget that in the dark times before Pleco, Lily paid a high price for her dictionary.

Pleco customer satisfaction
Pleco’s popularity in the app store

Top 10 Chinese songs for Mandarin beginners

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Here’s a top 10 of Chinese songs that are suitable for beginners. When I say beginners, I don’t mean absolute beginners, but learners with at least a few months of learning experience. Enjoy!

Do you have any songs that helped you improve your Chinese skills? Please leave a comment below.

Nr. 1. Teresa Teng – 月亮代表我的心

Teresa sings “月亮代表我的心” (the moon portrays my heart)

For those who do not know her yet: Teresa Teng (邓丽君 (dèng lì jūn), 29 January 1953 – 8 May 1995) was an extremely popular singer from Taiwan. Her fame spread all over Southeast-Asia in the 70’s and 80’s, although her romantic songs were officially banned from mainland China for being to “bourgeois”. Her records could still be bought on the black market though and were played all over China, even in government circles and night clubs. Her fans from mainland China nicknamed her “Little Deng” as she shares her family name (邓) with the communist leader Deng Xiaoping. The saying went that “Deng the leader ruled by day, but Deng the singer ruled by night”.

By the way, she not only recorded songs in Mandarin but also in Taiwanese, Cantonese, Japanese, Indonesian and English. She even spoke French fluently.

Nr. 2. Teresa Teng – 甜蜜蜜

Trying to remember where I saw that sweet smile before

Some people may know the song from the Hongkong movie “Tian mi mi” which was released in 1996. Teresa’s music is featured prominently throughout the whole film; in fact, the cinema classic is considered a “love poem” to the Taiwanese singer. The song is about love at first sight.

甜蜜蜜  Tián mì mì
你笑得甜蜜蜜  nǐxiào dé tián mì mì
好像花儿开在春风里  hǎo xiàng huā er kāi zài chūn fēng lǐ
开在春风里  kāi zài chūn fēng lǐ
在哪里在哪里见过你  zài nǎ lǐ zài nǎlǐ jiàn guò nǐ
你的笑容这样熟悉  nǐ de xiào róng zhè yàng shú xī
我一时想不起  wǒ yī shí xiǎng bù qǐ

Teresas Teng – 甜蜜蜜

Nr. 3. Teresa Teng – 你怎么说

“You can’t even speak my name properly” – Teresa Teng loosing patience with her lover

The reason Teresa’s songs are so excellent for learning Chinese is they are mostly slow love ballads sung with her sweet and clear voice. The lyrics are simple and pure. From a learning perspective you only need basic grammar to be able to follow. Repetition is key here. Soon you are singing along and can impress your Chinese friends in a karaoke bar of your choice.

你说过两天来看我
Ni shuo guo liang tian lai kan wo
一等就是一年多
Yi deng jiu shi yi nian duo
三百六十五个日子不好过
San bai liu shi wu ge ri zi bu hao guo
你心里根本没有我
Ni xin li gen ben mei you wo
把我的爱情还给我
Ba wo de ai qing huan gei wo

Teresas Teng – 你怎么说

Nr. 4. Teresa Teng – 美酒加咖啡

Teresa’s melancholy drinking song “美酒加咖啡”

The idea of mixing wine and coffee or drinking both simultaneously didn’t occur to me till I heard this Chinese drinking ballad. In this song, a heartbroken Teresa assures her listeners time and time again that she is not yet drunk but just brokenhearted and looking for equally grief-stricken company to empty another cup.

美酒 加 咖啡我只要喝一杯 Měijiǔ jiā kāfēi, wǒ zhǐyào hè yībēi
想起了过去又喝了第二杯 Xiǎngqǐlai guòqù yòu hēle dì èr bēi
明知道爱情像流水管他去爱谁 Míng zhīdào àiqíng xiàng liúshuǐ, guǎn tā qù ài shéi
我要美酒 加 咖啡一杯再一杯 Wǒ yào měijiǔ jiā kāfēi, yībēi zài yībēi

Teresas Teng – 美酒加咖啡

Nr. 5. 李娜 – 女人是老虎

女人是老虎

“Women are tigers”. This may be common knowledge to some, but for the poor monk in the song it serves as a warning not to mingle or even come close to the opposite sex as they will swallow him alive. Listen to Li Na to find out what became of him.

Nr. 6. 于文华、尹相杰 – 纤夫的爱

纤夫的爱

The original name of this unbelievably catchy love song seems to be “纤夫的爱” or “boat tracker’s love” and is another gem from yesteryear. I love the epic video clip of the heroic bloke with the glasses pulling the boat with his “younger sister” behind him. ”The virtues of Chinese rural life”, someone commented. The “dangling rope” between them becomes a metaphor for their unfolding love. He pulls her, he sweats for her: This is old-school Chinese chivalry (with “traditional” gender roles), no matter if the male singer (Yǐn Xiāngjié) was arrested for possessing drugs or not.

妹妹你坐船头
mei mei ni zuo chuan tou
哥哥在岸上走
ge ge zai an shang zou
恩恩爱爱
en en ai ai
纤绳荡悠悠
qian sheng dang you you

于文华、尹相杰 – 纤夫的爱

Nr. 7. 于文华、尹相杰 – 天上有太阳

The sun is shining

If you found the last one a bit too hard, try this one. It’s another extremely catchy duet between gege and xiaomei, still breathing the rural spirit of the nineties. As their relationship enters into a more mature stage, gege – in an optimistic and forward looking mood – is wondering how to satisfy xiaomei’s dreams and expectations.

Nr. 8. Joyce Chu -【好想你 I MiSS U】

好想你!是真的吗?

Joyce Chu is a young singer from Malaysia. She changes her outfit and whereabouts just about every second in this clip just to underline how she misses you. It’s the kind of song that gets stuck in your head pretty quick.

Nr. 8. Wanting 曲婉婷 – 我的歌声里 (You Exist In My Song)

Wanting 曲婉婷 – 我的歌声里

Do you hear an English accent? I wonder if Wanting Qu does it on purpose, because she was born in Harbin, China and already 16 years of age when she moved to Canada. Wanting earned a degree in international business and relocated to Vancouver where she began her musical career. “You exist in my song” is about lost love that still lives on in heart and dreams.

你存在 我深深的脑海里
Nǐ cúnzài wǒ shēn shēn de nǎohǎi lǐ
我的梦里 我的心里 我的歌声里
Wǒ de mèng lǐ wǒ de xīnlǐ wǒ de gēshēng lǐ
你存在 我深深的脑海里
Nǐ cúnzài wǒ shēn shēn de nǎohǎi lǐ
我的梦里 我的心里 我的歌声里
Wǒ de mèng lǐ wǒ de xīnlǐ wǒ de gēshēng lǐ

曲婉婷 – 我的歌声里

Nr. 9. 慕容晓晓 – 爱情买卖

慕容晓晓 – 爱情买卖

Murong Xiaoxiao became famous with this poppy R&B song from Chinese street life that even involves some rap elements (I guess that was something new back then). It could be heard on every Chinese street corner in 2009 (and afterwards). 买卖 or 做买卖 literally means buying and selling (doing business) and is often used to refer to small businesses and street vendors. In this case, it’s Xiaoxiao’s love that’s been bought and sold and she obviously feels wronged by her lover who thinks love is something that can be purchased and thrown away anytime.

chūmài wǒ de ài bī zhe wǒ líkāi
出卖我的爱 逼着我离开
zuìhòu zhīdao zhēnxiàng de wǒ yǎnlèi diào xiàlái
最后知道真相的我眼泪掉下来
chūmài wǒ de ài nǐ bēi le liángxīn zhài
出卖我的爱 你背了良心债
jiùsuàn fùchū zài duō gǎnqíng yě zài mǎi bù huílai
就算付出再多感情也再买不回来

dāngchū shì nǐ yào fēnkāi fēnkāi jiù fēnkāi
当初是你要分开 分开就分开
xiànzài yòu yào yòng zhēn’ài bǎ wǒ hǒng huílai
现在又要用真爱 把我哄回来
àiqíng bù shì nǐ xiǎng mài xiǎng mǎi jiù néng mài
爱情不是你想卖 想买就能卖
ràng wǒ zhèngkāi ràng wǒ míngbai fàngshǒu nǐ de ài
让我挣开让我明白放手你的爱

慕容晓晓 – 爱情买卖

Nr. 10. 筷子兄弟 – 小苹果

筷子兄弟-小蘋果

This extremely popular song by the Chopstick Brothers “traumatizes” a lot of people on their first trip to China. Imagine getting caught in a massive swarm of elderly women (阿姨) dancing in formation to the beat of “xiao pingguo” and being forced to join their revolutionary movement as happens to numerous innocent tourists every year. Most of them don’t make it back. The upside is though, that the lyrics are plain and simple. Listen to it once or twice and the song will stick with you for days!

你是我的小呀小苹果 Nǐ shì wǒ de xiǎo ya xiǎo píngguǒ
怎么爱你都不嫌多 zěnme ài nǐ dōu bù xián duō
红红的小脸⼉温暖我的⼼窝 hóng hóng de xiǎo liǎn er wēnnuǎn wǒ de xīn wō
点亮我生命的⽕ diǎn liàng wǒ shēngmìng de huǒ
⽕火⽕火⽕ huǒ huǒ huǒ huǒ huǒ

筷子兄弟-小蘋果

Discover your learning style

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Starting out learning a new language? If you are new to language learning or want to rethink the process, bear with me for some self-discovery. Knowing your personal learning style will make studying easier and more fun. Non of the four styles match you? I have some advice for you too.

Natural listeners

Do you prefer lectures over reading books and articles? You do a good job at following verbal directions? You don’t really need the visual backup to support your learning?

If you are a so-called auditory learner, you learn particularly well by listening. In essence, auditory learners retain information best when it is presented through sound and speech. If you identify with this type, consider listening to dialogues, vocabulary and music. Build your own playlist and put tracks on repeat. Speak or sing along and try to repeat the phrases. Stop when you feel the urge to destroy your playing device. For Chinese in particular, repetition really will help you to get the tones and the melody right.

“I see what you mean”

Sorry, what did you just say? Can you write that down please?

If you are more of a visual type of learner, you typically process new information by reading, writing and using other visual stimuli. I personally like to write summaries and vocabulary lists, because the visual backup not only helps me to memorize words and sentences I’d otherwise forget in the long run, but also supports my neurotic self to create order out of chaos. The drawing of symbols and pictures is essential in this as well.

Learn characters with pictures

Tactile and kinesthetic

Are you more the kind of hands-on learner who benefit from actively doing something? Then you might feel more comfortable with working with flashcards, tangible objects, and other creative means. As a kinesthetic learner you already know that standing up will improve your comprehension and retention. When you stand up, your body is more engaged and connected to the learning process. Investing in a book stand or standing desk may help you concentrate for longer periods of time and remember more of what you read. You may also consider to do some burpees or jumping jacks in between chapters. Combining activity keeps you energized and cements the language you’re studying in your brain.

The intellectual

Last but not least, there is the intellectual learner. As the name suggests as an intellectual learn you learn best the abstract way. You want to first understand the rules and are not afraid to read rather dreary grammar explanations like this:

Chinese, like English, is classified as an SVO (subject–verb–object) language. Transitive verbs precede their objects in typical simple clauses, while the subject precedes the verb. For example: 他 喝 酒。Literal: He drink alcohol. Translated: He drinks alcohol.

Not my style?

If you got the feeling that non of the above styles or types matches your particular profile? That’s completely fine, since they are only abstract distinctions to help you orientate. Have you ever met a person who learned language purely by listening to spoken dialogues and other recordings? Would be unnatural, wouldn’t it? Speaking of natural and unnatural: Don’t forget that when we try to learn a foreign language as adults, we are actually kind of helplessly imitating the natural process of language learning that we all went through as children as we mastered our first language. How did that work out so well? Natural language acquisition involves all the senses and is meaningful. It’s both active and passive. All four areas of language skills, that is speaking, listening, reading and writing, develop overtime, but not necessarily in a guided manner.

So taking that into account, you should really try to create your personal mixture of the four learning styles. Know your strengths and keep it balanced: If you like to read, don’t forget to communicate with people. If you are the opposite and prefer learning by conversation and listening, try making notes. It will help you remember fresh vocabulary and keep track of your progress. Challenge yourself by trying new things!

PS. Get some inspiration from a polyglot expert

According to language learning expert Steve Kaufmann, most important of all is knowing what motivates you, what interests you. Note his opinion on different types of learners:

I have never believed that there are “auditory learners”, “visual learners” or other types of learners. I do believe that learners are motivated by different things. It is these different kinds of motivations that need to be researched and better understood.

Steve Kaufmann (lingosteve)
Language learning legend Steve Kaufmann discussing the question if there really are different types of language learners