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Published: Thu, 12 Oct 2017

Revising Foreign languages

Ever wonder why smaller children can learn languages more readily than adults? It is because they are not as caught up in putting meaning to the words but are simply collecting, memorising, and recalling letters, syllables, and sounds – the older we get, the┬ámore we actually complicate things for our brains! There are actually three ideal approaches to learning foreign languages that can be truly effective because they focus on the most important words to learn, illustrate how to link words in your own language to those in another language, and teach you how to structure recall capability of the foreign language through ‘the town mnemonic’.

The first language learning technique is known as the LinkWord technique. This uses an image that is linked to a word except that, in this case, it is linked to a word in your native language that can also help you remember the accompanying foreign language word. There are actually books available in various languages that does this for you by pairing up about one thousand common words to help you effectively learn another language. Those behind the concept state that it only takes a few hours to start picking up vocabulary in another language using this technique!

The second language learning technique is the Town Language Mnemonic, which combines the concepts of the LinkWord system with the Roman Room memory system. The Roman Room technique is based on ancient techniques that help recall what appears to be unstructured information without trying to find a relationship for the information – instead, you focus on the function of the information by imagining a room. Within that room, you imagine objects; you can then link images to those objects and overlay that with the information you need to memorise. To easily recall the information you need, you take a mental tour of the room from a snapshot you have in your head and visualise the objects and their related images, which will unlock the information you need. That concept is now applied to a town, city, or village rather than a room, which provides a way to incrementally increase the information that you will be able to recall. The system was founded on the idea that all of the basic vocabulary of a language can be related to common objects or places – you should select a city or town that you are familiar with (most often the one you have lived the majority of your life in) and then use objects and places within that city or town as the cues you need to recall specific images linked to the foreign language words. Here’s how to break it down by word type:

  • Nouns in Town: These are the most common types of words, so they can also be associated with many relevant locations. For example, the foreign word for book can be linked to a picture of a book on the shelf at the local library, whilst bread can be tied to a picture of a loaf at the local bakery.
  • Adjectives in the Park/Beach/Garden: Since adjectives are describing words, these can be associated with a park, beach, or garden. These can be used to create images that relate to foreign words for hot, cold, small, green, fragrant, etc. Equate the characteristics found there with the foreign words for easier comprehension and memorisation.
  • Verbs in the Leisure Centre: What better place than a sports and leisure centre to create associations with verbs? This includes creating associations between native words and foreign words around actions like running, swimming, hitting, lifting, etc.
  • Of course, one of the most confusing aspects of some foreign languages is the fact that many words are tied to a gender. You can divide your town or city up into two gender zones – male and female – and even add a gender-neutral zone, like a river or railroad tracks, for those words. For each language you learn, you may want to choose a new city, town, or village to avoid confusion between languages.

The third technique is learning the 100 Most Common Words. This common was conceptualised by Tony Buzan in his book, Using Your Memory, so be sure to get his list of the 100 most common (basic) words to start working from this foundation. In his research, he found that these 100 words actually make up about 50% of the words that are most commonly used in daily conversations, whether between friends and family or as part of the work environment. Since one of the main reasons you learn a foreign language is to be able to converse with others, it makes sense to focus on these critical everyday words.


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