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Learning Styles

 Language Learning Forum : Learning Techniques, Methods & Strategies Post Reply
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Andy E
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United Kingdom
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 Message 33 of 55
13 October 2006 at 1:56am | IP Logged 
Farley wrote:
This leave me curious, if you lean towards one style of learning, what is the best way to balance your learning method?

Of course, there is another question - do you need to balance your learning method?

Do those who lean markedly towards one learning style or another actually benefit from using material geared towards the other end of the spectrum?

Until the subject of learning styles was raised originally, I had difficuly understanding the polar opinions of some on Assimil and FSI since I could see concrete results for me personally from both courses.

If material targetted (either deliberately or accidentally) at a particular style makes you switch off, I can't see that it's worth pursuing such material.


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 Message 34 of 55
13 October 2006 at 3:32am | IP Logged 
Here is another article from the web that advocates global learning. I agree with the article except for a few minor points. You can read it here or read it here.

Six steps for learning difficult subjects quickly

Here's a strategy I've found useful for learning dry and difficult material quickly. At various times, I've used it to build up my knowledge of subjects like economics, investing, writing and computer programming languages. Some people have been surprised at how fast I can learn these kinds of skills, but I think anyone can do it with the right plan. Of course, you can use this to teach yourself interesting things as well, but most people don't have any problem learning stuff that's fun.

Okay, here are the steps...

Step 1: Bombard yourself with information

Many people try to slowly and methodically digest difficult material. They underline things and re-read paragraphs ten times to try and understand. This approach might eventually work, but most people get fed up with it and give up before finishing. Our brains hate this way of learning.

Instead, try to get through the material as quickly as possible. Don't worry if you don't understand everything; just keep reading on. Push yourself to get the damn textbook finished, and don't worry too much about how much you take in.

Skip any exercises or quizzes and just keep ploughing through.

Some people can read an entire textbook in a couple of sittings, but not me. I like to digest 10-20 page chunks, then go and do something else for a while to give my brain a rest. If you do this three or four times a day, you can finish a 600 page textbook in about two weeks.

The only time I stop to go back is if there's some key concept that's being repeated a lot and I don't know what it means. Then, I might allow myself to read a key paragraph or two on that topic, but no more. Otherwise I just challenge myself to get through the book as quickly as possible.

Step 2: Identify the key concepts and make them yours

Once you've finished the text, think about what the key concepts were. Don't concentrate on the details at this stage, just identify the core ten or so ideas that form the basis of the subject. Look them up again and try to define them as simply as you can. Putting them in your own words, with an example, rather than learning by rote is important.

For example, The Economist defines the concept of Opportunity Cost as: "The true cost of something is what you give up to get it. This includes not only the money spent in buying (or doing) the something, but also the economic benefits that you did without because you bought (or did) that particular something and thus can no longer buy (or do) something else. "

So you could say to yourself: "Opportunity cost means not being able to spend your resources on one thing because you've already spent them on something else. I can spend my Saturday night doing homework, which means the opportunity cost is that I can't spend that time going to the movies."

Step 3: Only memorize what absolutely has to be memorized

Most facts and figures can be looked up. Don't fill your mind with junk trivia that's only a mouse-click away. Instead of the raw data, concentrate on understanding the ideas of a subject.

However, in any topic, there are some things that simply must be memorized. Cut the list of these down as much as possible, so you're only remembering that which absolutely and definitely has to be remembered.

There are all sorts of memory tricks around, but the one I find most useful is pretty simple. I just repeat out loud the thing that has to be remembered ten times or so. Then, I wait until later in the day and try to remember it again. If I can't, I look it up and repeat it out loud again. Then I wait for later and try to remember it again - and so on. Usually, you can burn a fact into your brain pretty quickly using this method.

Step 4: Get some feedback on your understanding

Now that you've filled your head with stuff, it's time to get some feedback on how well you've understood it. A good way is by doing some kind of mock-exam. You can find these for various subjects on-line, or you might want to try some of the exercises in the textbook.

Again, break this dull task up into chunks if necessary, doing a few different tests over a few days.

You'll probably find that you did pretty badly when you mark yourself. After all, you raced your way through the text. But if you look up the questions that you got wrong, you should amaze yourself at how quickly you start getting a detailed knowledge of the material.

What you're trying to do is build up a framework of the subject in your mind and then fill in the details. This will probably be pretty fuzzy at first, but clarity usually comes quickly as you teach your brain how the concepts are related.

The important thing is not getting the answers right, but looking up what you got wrong and learning it. Do this as quickly as possible. Try to avoid reading whole chapters unless you feel you absolutely need to.

Step 5: Bombard yourself with some more information, but from another source

Now is the time to get some information from other sources. Often, hearing something in a different way helps me to understand it better. It also gives some flexibility to my comprehension.

I'm not suggesting reading another whole textbook. Instead read a few short articles on the subject in magazines and on websites.

Step 6: Get some real-world feedback

Now is the time to get some real-world feedback. If you've learnt a language, try speaking to a native in it. If you've taught yourself anatomy, try having a discussion on the subject with a doctor.

The best real world feedback of all is if you attempt to use your knowledge for fame or fortune (on a small scale of course). Throw yourself in the deep end, in other words. Join a discussion board on the subject and pick an argument with one of the participants. Or try to get paid employment using your new knowledge.

So there they are, my six steps for learning a difficult subject quickly. Of course, the actual amount of time it takes depends on how much work you put in, but this is the most efficient method I've found in terms of understanding achieved compared to time and effort spent. Usually, I can get a good broad understanding of a topic in a month or two using this method.

I hope it works well for you.

I have been teaching this approach for many years with specific help on how to remember the important information, including a summary of the arguments and ideas, and how to recall it under pressure.

I have observed many examples of students who changed their study method with huge success. I am not saying that everyone should. If your own methods are giving you good results, stick to them.
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 Message 35 of 55
13 October 2006 at 1:02pm | IP Logged 
Iversen wrote:
frenkeld wrote:

It may be interesting to try to classify those who don't like either of those programs. We've had people in this forum who liked learning with a rerference grammar, a dictionary, and authentic sources. I've wondered if they are to be considered leapers or plodders.

Well, I'm one of those persons, I hate preprogrammed courses, and I never use them as intended.

At least as far as my learning style is concerned, you've hit the nail on the head. Visual or audio, it's the "preprogrammed" part of most courses that can be the hardest pill to swallow. Assimil or FSI, you are stuck slogging through them day, after day, after day, without much control over what happens from one day to the next.

Edited by frenkeld on 13 October 2006 at 3:40pm

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 Message 36 of 55
23 December 2006 at 1:19pm | IP Logged 
I know this thread is a few months old, but it is very interesting. I'm gonna take that learning styles survey when I have a moment. I have a feeling I'm an intuitive learner as far as languages are concerned. Listening comprehension was always a strong suit especially in high school french class and college hebrew class. When others had no idea what was going on everything the teacher said in the target language made sense to me.

I thought this was very intriguing:
"Step 1: Bombard yourself with information
Many people try to slowly and methodically digest difficult material. They underline things and re-read paragraphs ten times to try and understand. This approach might eventually work, but most people get fed up with it and give up before finishing. Our brains hate this way of learning.
Instead, try to get through the material as quickly as possible. Don't worry if you don't understand everything; just keep reading on. Push yourself to get the damn textbook finished, and don't worry too much about how much you take in."

It reminds me of the approach of a product I purchased called the Immersion Protocol. (Don't bother purchasing it, as others have mentioned there is over-the-top ad hype, and the guy spends maybe 7 minutes actually discussing the method. The rest of the tape is a history lesson on a South American Polyglot during the time of the Incas.) Anyway the guy's method was to use tons of different source material, and just bombard yourself with the language. Like throwing mud at a wall-eventually more and more will stick. I think it's a good method when you have that kind of time available to you and if you have the patience and perserverance to keep going until you hit a breakthrough.
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 Message 37 of 55
06 December 2007 at 6:23am | IP Logged 
I've heard that while most lnguists agree there are different learning styles, nobody has been able to
a) determine students learning style, and
b) teach them in a way that takes advantage of this knowledge
with results that are better than those of a multi-learning style curriculum. My questions are
1) is this true
2) what's up with that?
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 Message 38 of 55
15 March 2008 at 8:59am | IP Logged 
I am 3 active, 5 intuitive, 9 visual, 3 global. I am also 57, and have always been monolingual, was largely unsuccessful and uninterested with a year of college Spanish. However, if I get "turned on" by any topic, I tend to go after it hard. This happened when I went to Brazil, "accidentally" loved it, got motivated, and stayed five months with very little study before going in. However, I found this immersion slow and gradual, even after acquiring a Brazilian girl friend (who spoke fair English). I also supplemented with Pimsleur as it's free from my library, and went to one on one class maybe five hours a week.

I can now see one of the problems with my learning style and this "unprepared" immersion, is that I was impatient to make big progress. I am also highly intelligent and used to big light bulbs going off. Apparently language doesn't quite work that way. Another characteristic I have is a preference for active speech over listening. I am also social, and that helps because I engage people, and I really didn't worry about sounding like a poor Portuguese speaker, just let 'er rip. In Brazil, culturally a very friendly country, people are amused by it, so it works there.

So I have obvious strengths and weakness to deal with. Home from Brazil, and with another month of Pimsleur under my belt, I've taken stock. I have realized that my speaking isn't bad at all. My big difficulty is hearing. Pimsleur was useful, but is just repetitive, same voices over and over. After being in colorful Brazil in fact Pimsleur has gotten down right painful. 50 lessons in seven months would suggest that is so.

I've picked up Rosetta stone because it's more visual and I found the voice recognition corrects my speaking. My kind of learning tends to skip the "small" details such as how to correctly say, and then of course hear words. I'm sure serious students are howling at that one, mas e verdade. Still I did develop a fairly deep vocabulary of immersion "in the shadows" Portuguese. Sometimes Brazilian would laugh and say they didn't even know some of it: "voce e uma Carioca real'. But if it's still mangled, isn't doing much good.

The method I am using now the most is listening and then shadowing dubbed films with English subtitles. The first time I use the replay bottom constantly. By the third time through I turn the subtitles off. I pick very visual films like O Ultimo Imperador and Gladiador. This really feeds my active, intuitive, visual "big picture" style. It's also very individualized for exactly what gets the pheromones and activity going in my brain. I can choose to watch it once, twice, three times whatever. It's a joy rather than painful. The assimilation is rapid now, because the immersion at least gave me a lot of language sort of embedded in my brain, that can be released. It's really the light bulb I was looking for.

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Studies: German

 Message 39 of 55
10 October 2008 at 6:39am | IP Logged 
I'm 3 reflective, 1 intuitive, 9 visual and 7 global.

I started to learn German 14 months ago. This is what I think works best for me.

I have two weekly 90 min German class that focus on the "deutsch aktuell" books. I'm the best student of the class not because I feel the method is good (too much grammar, boring drills, very limited vocabulary) but because I go out of my way to try many different methods. What I feel is good is that it gives me some structure (grammar) that I wouldn't have the discipline to study by myself.

When I started the classes I started to use audio programs in my car and before bed: Michel Thomas, Pilmsleur, learn German in your car, warum nicht...

It got me a good "feel" for the language.

6 months later I got a native German friend that was learning Portuguese to exchange language classes with me. It was very good for pronunciation. I read aloud and she corrected my pronunciation. What a difference it makes!

By that time I started to try FSI but I found it extremely boring (drills). I think it is good but no fun at all.

I also started to use good old paper flashcards for vocabulary and it works great. Sometimes I like to ask my friends to play a game with flashcards to see who know more vocabulary. Good fun.

Right now I feel the method that is working best for my level and that keeps my motivation high in DVDs. I get DVD with German audio and German subtitles and what them in different ways: English audio with German subtitles, German audio with English subtitles and German audio with German subtitles. It is fun.

I watched Twin Peaks, Seinfeld, and several Hollywood films this way.

My next step will be Assimil in my car and dual language books (eng/ger) (just ordered).

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CanadaRegistered users can see my Skype Name
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 Message 40 of 55
02 October 2010 at 10:14pm | IP Logged 
Sorry for bumping a old thread but it is really interessting and I don't want to make a new thread on the same subject.

I was also having doubt about how I am learning language and I am still searching for my method. So i thought I should try to find out more about my learning style.

I done the test. Here are my result:

Reflective 7
Intuitive 9
Visual 9
Global 7

The result were interessting and I got a few surprises.

Reflective: No surprise here. I always take a good amount of time thinking about how I am going to solve a problem instead of just try it.

Intuitive: I never hear of the difference between sensing/intuitve. At first, I was skeptical, I had a biais against the concept for a non-logical reason I must say. After reading the distinction between them, no doubt here, I am a intuitive person.

Visual: I always knew.

Global: here the big surprise. I was sure I was more of a sequential person because I like to have the steeps or a clear explanations BUT I discover (specially while learning Russian) that I need the big picture before understanding the steeps or explnations.

After reading the whole thread, I will look up fanatic and Iversen.

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