Discover your learning style

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 advise 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 stimulus. 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 helps 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 benefits 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 abstracts 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. 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 some new things!

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)

Get some inspiration from a polyglot expert

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