Make the learning harder

Make your learning harder to make it easier

With the popular tendency to make your learning process easier, my statement may sound strange. But there is nothing wrong with it. If you want to learn effectively, there are some aspect of learning you simply shouldn’t skip. I understand that for a very busy person all ready-to-use language learning resources are very tempting and time saving gadgets but in fact, they do more harm than help. Let me explain why.

Learning traps

Let’s have a look at popular flash cards. It is a very popular way of learning any language and many firms offer ready to print or already nicely printed flash cards. The dark side of using them is the fact that you do not prepare them yourself. If you happen to be a kinesthetic learner, watching and reading them does not help you at all. If you learn through writing and reading, you deprive yourself from one activity, that is writing in this instance.

I have already written a post on types of learners here. It is unfortunately in Polish only, but I will give you the short summary of the process of acquiring any data.

Learning process in general

The concept of learning (by William Glasser) assumes (some studies even proved that) that you learn:

  • 10% from what you read,
  • 20% from what you hear,
  • 30% from what you see,
  • 50% from what you see and hear at the same time,
  • 70% from what you discuss with the others,
  • 80% from what you experience yourself,
  • 95% from what you teach the others.

I do encourage you to role-play a teacher and try to pass some pieces of knowledge you just acquired. In the meantime you may just focus on the activities you can practise without external help. To intensify your learning, try to connect the information you want to remember with as many stimulli as possible and make them diverse.

How to approach new words – practice

A simple example:

Your task: learn the Spanish counterpart of an English term “book.”

  • Write a word “book” on one page and word “el libro” on the other side.
  • Colour each word with different colours. Make the Spanish word for example red and yellow as this combination is present on the Spanish flag. You can choose any colour you like or any colour you assosiate with a book.
  • Write kinds of smell you associate with a book. Did your favourite book smell of tabacco, mould or fresh paint? Write it down!
  • Do you fold the book pages? That’s bad! But you can use this fact in your learning and fold your particular “el libro” card too.
  • Write some full sentences with “el libro” and “book” alike.
  • Write down some idioms featuring words in subject in a similar way.
  • Write a short story about a book in English .The story you may be willing to tell your friends. Try to write a similar story in Spanish. Use the words you have already mastered.
  • Notice similarity between “el libro” and “library” – yes, they have the same origin – Latin! Try to assosiate “el libro” with medieval volumes written in Latin available only in Little Libraries.
  • What about this: “I like libros – little Latin books written for libraries.” Shout it, whisper it, cry it out, sing it, act it. The benefits will be countless – you will remember it by heart and you will be less shy of your voice and of speaking foreign language. It’s a normal drill of any actor. It can surely work a dream for you too.
  • Say the words while sitting, standing, jumping etc. With each step saying “el libro” aloud it will be more natural for you.

Was it hard? Of course it was. But it wasn’t only one word. Not at all. You will be surprised how many “side effect words” you learn on the way. With each verbal practice you will gain self-confidence too.

Featured image – explanation

To sum up my post, I will simply justify my choice of pictures here, in the post. Learning as a process is very similar to working out in the gym. Any serious bodybuilder will tell you that to make your muscles bigger you must apply proper weight. No shortcuts here! With learning languages it is the same story with one basic difference. Unlike in a body building where isolating muscles contributes to a better training, in mental trainings, you must engage as many areas of your brain as possible. There will be more “tangible” details you may use to evoke the proper term.

If you reach this line of my post and you do not know Spanish word for “a book” yet, maybe it is time to leave books and take into body building. 😉

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