Learning Styles And Their Effect On Language Learning
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This article makes special reference to the effect
of learning syles in the learning of Spanish but
the principles are valid for all language learning.
¡LEER ES PODER!
How can you best learn Spanish? It depends
on your particular approach to learning. Take
a look at the following approaches to learning
Spanish. But if you already know where you are,
you can skip the following reflections and go
back to see what is available for your level (
beginning, intermediate, or advanced ) in Spanish,
to sort and search for your specific needs, as
well as to read reviews and summaries of the books
that strike your interest.
Non-Virgins: Those who studied another
language should use the skills they acquired with
that language. They know what a conjugation is.
They know that verbs are different from nouns.
Their previous study gives them some mental hooks
to help with their Spanish. They should not throw
away their advantage by working on Spanish in
a completely conversational manner. They should
try to get an overview of some commonplaces in
the language. They should get an "old fashioned"
grammar and lean heavily on the tables to organize
their thought. This type of learner should "invent"
Spanish on the basis of what they know of the
other language. They will remember a little of
the structure of the other language. For example,
what is the relation between adverbs and adjectives
in Spanish? What is the most common way to express
what happened yesterday (past tense)? If the other
language is a Western language, they should observe
the possible similarities. If the other language
is non-Western, the very differences can be their
starting point to learn the counterparts in Spanish.
In short, they should study "the wrong way".
This is not for everyone. The learner should know
his or herself.
Brains: These folks will operate much like
the Non-Virgins. They will progress better by
concentrating on the little points that intrigue
them such as the difference in usage between the
prepositions "por" and "para"
and the verbs "ser" and "estar".
To master one or two of these elements so characteristic
of Spanish will help the learn build on their
conquests to go on to master other things. This
analytical approach will be of great utility to
the persons with the cerebral learning style.
Motor Mouths: The persons who are not afraid
to try out their Spanish will progress very rapidly.
These folks probably have a little genetic edge
over the rest of us. However, we all should try
to put together the pieces as we learn them. If
there is no opportunity to talk with someone else,
then we can tape our attempts. There are two parts
to this early talking practice: confidence and
pronunciation. The most important thing is to
gain confidence or to be thick-skinned enough
to speak your piece, knowing that the exercise
will pay dividends. However, we should not put
off working on our pronunciation until it is too
late and we have given up on acquiring a valid
accent. There are too many people who after living
years in a Spanish speaking country are perfect
in their grammar but who have a typical or even
stereotypical English accent. There is no need
for that. Spanish is perfectly regular in its
phonetics. Motor mouths should also work on their
People People: Anyone who likes being with
people and who has a need to communicate will
progress quickly in learning a language. Many
outgoing, friendly people learn language in the "motor mouth" mode. However, other people
without the gifts of the motor mouths can gain
valuable exposure to the language by just following
their social instincts. These folks, however,
should not overlook the need to speak correctly.
Although they are not interested in traditional
grammar in the same way the "brains"
are, they must work at speaking correctly. We
all know people who learned English years ago,
but still say things like, "I am interested
to go with you". You don't want to spend
your life in Spanish with a similar easily corrected
error. Learn it right as soon as you can. The
people people have to stay curious about the language.
Learn-while-doing People: I was told once
that the only way to learn French was to sleep
with a French woman. The idea behind this is that
we learn the expressions and words for the activities
we are interested in. People who learn like this
try to get their Spanish-speaking friends to accompany
them as they cook or fix their car. They find
that they learn better when their whole body is
involved in learning the new words and phrases.
For example, the person who learns the word "serrucho"
while sawing a board will remember it better than
the person (see the "word collector")
who just learns the vocabulary from a list.
Word Collectors: This person may be great
at crossword puzzles (Crucigramas) in Spanish
but rarely gets to speak it. If you find yourself
learning words and not getting any further, break
out of it! We once had a houseguest, a young man
from Spain who came to learn English. There were
times when our family would be talking Spanish,
and he would echo all the Spanish words with their
English equivalents. He had a great vocabulary
but never got around to talking English. This
kind of learner should alway make sure that they
make up sentences to practice using the new words
they learn. They can combine their ability with
vocabulary with the "divide and conquer" tactic. They should not only invent sentences
to use the new words; they should run through
diferent grammatical constructions as the setting
for their vocabulary.
Divide and Conquer People: Every learner
of a foreign language has to learn to incorporate
the learning style of dividing and conquering
into their own style. If they are "brains" they should concentrate on one grammatical turn
of phrase, such as conditions contrary to fact,
(If my grandfather hadn't died, he'd be alive
today!) until they can handle it.
The people people should repeat in the same conversation
the new expression that they just heard. The same
goes for all the others. The only way to learn
a language is by following the "swiss cheese" method, nibble away at the things you don't know,
and master them until they are all gone.
Lost Latinos: This person should try to
remember the nursery rhymes that they might have
learned in Spanish. They should run over the names
of their cousins and uncles. All of this will
loosen up their rusty language skills. They should
listen to how others speak "spanglish" and try to figure out the proper way to say things.
They should make a game of trying to spot the
influence of English in the Spanish they hear
at home or in the barrio. This detective work
will make them more aware of correcting whatever
bad habits they have picked up. However, don't
think that these persons have all the advantages.
The person learning from scratch will probably
spell Spanish words better than those who know
a little Spanish. I'm not sure why.
What works for EVERYONE... There are two activities
that will help everyone, no matter what their
learning style, move forward rapidly: They are:
1. Passive Listening, and 2. Pattern Response
1. Passive Listening. Everyone should keep
the Spanish radio on as much as possible. Keep
the radio or TV on while you doing other things.
It has to be the sea of sound that you swim in
while you are beginning your study of Spanish.
You don't have to concentrate on it; you are not
listening to try to understand. After a while
you won't hear it but it will be affecting you.
Little by little you will begin to anticipate
the rhythm of the language, even before you understand
everything. You will also begin to recognize certain
words. You will begin to hear "beyond" the differences in pronunciation of different
people and recognize the underlying word. Once
you clearly hear a word or phrase, you can look
it up and progressively expand your vocabulary.
2. Pattern Response Drills. You have to
run through all the permutations of the new expressions
that you learn. For example, suppose you just
learned to say. "Pedro tiene cuatro años"
rather than translating from the English incorrectly,
"Pedro es cuatro". Now to make this
new element of the language stick with you, you
should go on substituting different ages and the
names of different people. You have to be able
to say comfortably, "María tiene cuatro
años." "Juan tiene ocho años."
"Yo tengo treinta años." "¿Cuántos
años tienes tú?" "Nosotros
tenemos cuarenta años." This type
of drill is necessary for all the different learning
Do you want to return to look at beginning ; intermediate
, or advanced books? Or you can check out other
Books ON Spanish at: http://www.bookslibros.com/spanishbooks.php
to help you out.
Or do you want to see our books IN Spanish? You
will find books on health, the family, self help,
literature, etc. and the possibility to search
for any other topic. Check out http://www.bookslibros.com/LibrosEnEspanol.php
Kids Can Learn Spanish! Take a look at: http://www.bookslibros.com/SpanishForNinos.htm
the Author: Frank Gerace Ph.D has lived and
worked in Latin America on Educational and Communication
Projects. He currently teaches English in New York
City at La Guardia College/CUNY. He invites learners
of Spanish of all levels and styles to visit him at:
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