“Another improvement for me, I think, is the right method to learn English. Actually, I learnt English in schools for more than 10 years, but the learning methods were not effective for me. The biggest mistake I have ever made is to pay too much attention to reading and writing, rather than listening and speaking……”
What is Language Learning?
Learning involves changes in your brain. Electrochemical changes and new connections between neurons must occur for learning to take place. Just as when you are working on your computer, if you don’t save your work it will be lost. Saving data in the brain involves changes in the brain. Some of these changes happen quickly, and some of these changes happen over a period of days or weeks.
Language Learning is Skill Development
Learning a language is like learning how to play a musical instrument. Frequent and effective practice is the key. The skills of listening and speaking, in particular, require speed. When you listen or speak, you have very little time to process the language, much less time than when you read a text. There is no time to ‘remember’ a word or rule. It must be automatic. To develop this automatic ability, practice and repetition are essential, and without using text as a support.
What is Memory?
There are different types of memory. Some things you remember just long enough to accomplish a short-term task, such as repeating a list of words or sentences, and then it is forgotten. Many language students study vocabulary words and sentences and memorize them. However, without repeated use of the words and sentences over a period of time, this kind of learning quickly fades. Research shows that long term memory takes time to develop. Short, frequent sessions over a period of several days or weeks are the best way to study and develop your language skills. Constant review should also be part of your practice strategy. In this sense, going slow, with lots of repetition and review, is the best way to learn quickly.
The Importance of Recording/Playback
One very important advantage of multimedia study is the possibility to activate many parts of your brain at once. A famous neuroscientist said: “Neurons that fire together, wire together.” After you have studied a lesson to the point where your comprehension is good, you should begin to practice saying each sentence.
Use the microphone to record your voice. Then compare what you said with the native speaker model. Compare your speed, stress and intonation, and pronunciation. This type of practice activates the phonological processor in your brain and helps to develop both automaticity and long-term memory. At least part of every study session should include several minutes of this very important focused practice.
The Danger of Using Text Support
Listening and reading use very different pathways in the brain. The best way to develop listening and speaking skills is to not rely on text. Using text as a support interferes with the development of listening and speaking skills, which need to be developed first. When studying a lesson, try not to use the text support until after you have developed your ability to understand and repeat the key sentences. Research indicates that using the text support too soon slows down your listening and speaking development – even though most students think that using the text is an effective way to learn. It may be comfortable, but it isn’t effective.
Studies of the brain and long-term memory formation show that repetition is very important to skill development. Listening and speaking abilities are skills, not knowledge. Skill development requires effective practice, and this practice must be done on a regular, frequent basis. To develop listening and speaking skills, you must be able to decode language automatically, without thinking or memorizing. Your brain is designed to do this, but only if you practice, practice, practice! Good luck.
Short, regular and frequent study sessions are most efficient
Research shows that regular, frequent study sessions reduce total learning time. Studying and reviewing parts of a lesson several times a week is more effective than studying just once or twice a week. Three 45-minute study sessions are more effective than one three-hour session. Study sessions that are too long are generally inefficient and counterproductive.
The conceptual underpinnings and grammar of English are like the trunk and branches of a tree. The vocabulary and expressions are like the leaves on the tree. As the branches are exercised, they become ‘sticky’ and new vocabulary items have a place to go. Without the branches, the leaves are easily forgotten and drop away, just as a file on a computer which has a disorganized file structure can be difficult to find. Language items must be properly tagged in order to be remembered quickly. Mastering the language models in Courseware courses, along with classroom support, will support new vocabulary and lead to long-term learning at a much faster rate than traditional approaches. Memorizing lists of vocabulary words and idioms is generally an inefficient way to learn a language – though this is the traditional method that many people expect to use – and it’s one reason why learning a language takes so much time.
Focus on trunks and branches, and the leaves will come naturally