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How to activate your memory for language learning
Learning a new language can seem all about memory; how on earth am I going to remember all these new words? Apart from the skills of listening, repeating and practice you can also try handwriting and drawing new words. Living in the 21st century the computer keyboard tends to be our “go to method”, but did you know that you can improve your language learning by handwriting new vocabulary?
Studies have shown that using a pen or pencil activates more areas of your brain than a keyboard does.
In a recent study (i) 12 adults and 12 seventh-graders were each asked to write and draw with a digital pen. Each person was also asked to type on a keyboard. While performing these tasks, each volunteer wore a cap that held electrodes next to their head. The results showed that writing turned on memory areas in the brain whereas typing didn’t. Drawing images also turned on parts of the brain involved with learning. These new findings back up other studies showing the benefits of handwriting,
So how does handwriting compare to using a keyboard when it comes to learning new information?
Take a moment to think about how you write.
First, hand movements; the same movement is required to type each letter on a keyboard. In contrast, when we write, our brain needs to think about and retrieve memories of the shape of each letter. We also need to use our eyes to watch the shapes we’re writing. And we need to control our hands to press a pen to shape the different letters. In short, all these skills use, connect and challenge more areas of the brain.
Now think about how you select information; key words can be interlinked by highlighting and small drawings.
Take your time; handwriting can be a slow process and this slowing down requires you to think more, activate the brain and remember better.
Get creative; handwriting can also mean drawing. You can also make a mind map, linking words together in a meaningful visual map to enhance meaning and memory.
But don’t abandon technology all together; the computer can be a great tool to help with correcting grammar and spelling.
But still put a pen in your hand; have you noticed that when you reread a printed text ideas flow into your brain the minute you pick up a pen, corrections flow and you also see mistakes immediately on the paper that you didn’t see on the screen.
So, on balance it is recommended to take notes by hand, making a mind map, writing a first draft of an essay by hand but then use technology to check the grammar and spelling for the final draft.
It’s the best of both worlds !
10 English proverbs you need to know
12 home-based activities to improve your writing
As adults, many of us are learning English on our own, especially in these times of Covid 19. How can we continue to improve our language skills in a situation like this? Take a look at this step by step 12 point guide.
1. Understand a text by clearly dividing it into what is obvious to you and what is not.
‘Obvious’ refers to sentences that do not require interpretation and that you understand immediately. Summarize these points in your own words.
For the part that is not immediately clear, check some words (but not all of them) in an English dictionary and very often you can make an educated guess at the meaning of the others.
2. Annotate to help your learning.
Annotating the text you are reading is useful in helping to you to make sense of the text. Use a highlighter, ruler or sticky notes to deconstruct the text.
But annotating only becomes really useful when there’s a real purpose as to why you’re annotating…..so….
3. Focus on one particular element at a time.
Don’t become overwhelmed by the text. Just select one aspect i.e. new words or identifying different types of sentences.
For example, if your focus is on learning new vocabulary, then focus on highlighting the words you don’t know. If your focus is on style then highlight whole sentences.
Do not make a list of new words but organise them into a meaningful mind map of new vocabulary.
4. Understand pronouns.
Highlight words such as “one”, “ones” and “it”, “they”…. These words are used to avoid repeating a noun, a verb or a person noun. What do these words represent in the context of the text ?
In sections that seem unclear to you replace these pronouns with the nouns/verbs that they are referring to. This will help you to get a better “picture” of the text.
5. Don’t take a word at face value.
One of the complexities of the English language is that words can have several meanings (just think of the verbs to get, to have, to do, to take, to put), so always read the words in the context of narrative.
Watch out in particular for phrasal verbs, such as take off, take away, take in for example. The preposition can totally change the meaning of the verb. Be very careful about these verbs !
6. Use an English – English dictionary.
Do not translate expressions and style from your own language. For new words check their meaning in an English-English dictionary. There are English learner dictionaries available which will give you a clear explanation.
7. Write in long hand, it is a much better way to remember new vocabulary.
8. But don’t forget technology.
Use it to help you… not to translate (please don’t !) but use the spell and grammar check option on your computor. Be active and make a note of the mistakes you made and learn from them.
9. Challenge yourself.
When you start writing you will probably start off with short simple sentences… that’s ok… but then challenge yourself by merging the short sentences into longer ones with linking words (who, which, however, despite, whereas etc) . This will help you become more concise in your writing and make you use more varied vocabulary.
10. Focus on varying your vocabulary by always looking for synonyms.
For example, big, huge, massive, significant
11. Read; look around for sentences you like.
Check out internet texts, books or newspaper articles — and see how you can improve your own writing. What words do you need to add or how do you need to change the sentence structure to improve your sentences? Consider how certain verbs and adjectives can express your thoughts and feelings more strongly or clearly than others.
12. Practice, Practice and Practice !
English pronunciation can be tricky ! Stress and innovation can prove to be a minefield for new language learners as some words are not pronounced as you would expect.
There are silent letters as in the K in the word Knowledge and the P in the word Cupboard.
Some letter are pronounced differently in different words as in the A in the word April.
And some sounds bear no ressemblance to the written letters on the page as in the “ach’ as in the word Stomach.
So it’s always recommended to check the pronunciation of new words in one of the on-line dictionnaries.
Click here to listen to these 20 frequently mispronounced words that you’ll never get wrong again!
One of the tricky aspects of learning English is pronunciation !!
Have you ever been to the UK and been completely confused as how to pronounce some town names?
In this short clip you can hear 10 places that people find difficult…. have a listen…it will
help clear up some of that confusion.