All of us learn in our unique ways, but in general there are three common types of learning styles:
Everybody uses all of these methods at one time or another, but most of us find some methods easier than others. And you may have noticed the different struggles that some students have had in school. An auditory student may do quite well listening to plain lectures, while a visual student appreciates having explanations put on the blackboard or displayed on an overhead projector.
I've seen the differences in learning styles in my own home. I'm a strong visual learner, and as such I found learning to converse in Spanish much more difficult than learning to read, write or learn grammar. I also appreciate diagrams and charts as an aid in learning and am a naturally good speller simply because words spelled wrong look wrong.
My wife, on the other hand, is a strong auditory learner. She has been able to pick up some Spanish simply by listening to my conversations, a feat that seems almost incomprehensible to me. She's one of those people who knows the words to a song after the first time she hears it, and that auditory aptitude has served her well in picking up foreign languages. In college she would spend hours listening to German tapes, and years later native German speakers were surprised to find out she had never visited their country.
Kinesthetic learners can have the most difficulty learning, because schools as they are traditionally operated don't take them into account as much as they do auditory and visual learners, especially past elementary age. I have a son who is a kinesthetic learner, and it showed from an early age. Even when beginning to read he would prefer to do so while walking around the house, as if the motion of walking would somehow help him read. And more than any other child I've seen, during the age of primary school he was prone to act out stories with his toys, something his siblings never did.
What does all this have to do with learning Spanish? By finding out your preferred learning style, you can tailor your studies to emphasize what works best:
- Visual learners more often do well using books, and flashcards for rote memorization. If they also don't have a strong auditory aptitude, they may struggle with developing conversation skills. One way they can boost their listening skills is to use computer programs or video devices to provide subtitles or other visual clues to what they're hearing.
- Auditory learners may have the easiest time developing conversation skills. They benefit more than other types of learners by listening to instructional tapes, watching Spanish TV, listening to Spanish radio, or listening to Spanish music.
- Kinesthetic learners often need to use some sort of physical activity to help themselves learn. For many, merely taking notes during class or from a textbook can help. They also do well to speak their lessons out loud, or use software that encourages interactivity.