Making it meaningful – putting words into context
I was struck by the news of a young man who is fluent in 11 languages. There is a lovely video on him on the BBC where he does in fact speak in all 11 languages. It is significant that he said only one thing about what makes it easier for him to learn new languages and I wrote it down word for word. He stated:
“The easiest way to learn is from context. I remember what I see or hear more easily than words written in a list.”
There are strong scientific reasons for this phenomenon. Rote learning involves the mental storage of information that is random and unconnected with other bits of information. Its insular nature means it is unlikely to be retained – a bit like someone asking you to remember a random telephone number while they dial it. You hold on to the information to complete the task in hand. Within seconds, however, the information starts to slip away like grains of sand through your fingers.
Meaningful learning, on the other hand, means connecting new information with information that is already known. This creates what is called a cognitive structure – in essence, the new information is “hooked” in by the known information. And the more hooks there are, the more “anchored” the new information becomes.
Dr Brown again draws his conclusion from extensive research:
“What is important is meaningfulness. It appears that contextualized, appropriate, meaningful communication in the second language seems to be: THE BEST POSSIBLE PRACTICE THE LEARNER OF A SECOND LANGUAGE COULD ENGAGE IN.”
– Principles of Language Learning and Teaching, Longman Pearson, 2005, 5th Edition
Context is a process that hooks the new vocabulary into your mind and on its own will dramatically improve your word retention.
But there is something else too and we will look at that in the next blog!
KLOO Games is a multi-award winning game that uses context and other proven language learning principles to accelerate your learning. When you use KLOO – you effortlessly learn new words as you play. 🙂