Ways to learn more foreign language words!

Thanks to “Current Biology” for publishing some really interesting research last week, specific to learning vocabulary in a foreign language.

When looking at most areas of learning, using different sensory methods is recommended – to engage as many areas of the brain as possible. In the context of learning foreign vocabulary; reading out loud, writing the word while saying it, drawing a picture of the item with the word next to it, are all accepted as being good ways to retain the vocabulary.

These researchers looked specifically at the importance of the visual cortex and the motor cortex in learning foreign language words.

Two key points are:

  • Learning foreign words with pictures (engaging the visual cortex) or gestures (motor cortex) works better than verbal learning (listening and repeating)
  • Using gestures gives the best results

The researchers showed that different areas of the brain were activated when the learning involved the visual or physical senses. They suggest that this supports multisensory learning theory and that “the results highlight the importance of learning foreign language vocabulary with enrichment, particularly with self-performed gestures.”

Bottom line for us as language learners is that this stuff is scientifically proven to work.

So, you may feel a little bit silly miming crunching an apple to remember the word in another language, but if it works, then it’s worth it!

You can always practise your new vocab in another room away from family and friends who may think you are odd – and perhaps don’t practise it in the car or on the bus on the way home from la Academia!