Me, too! Come to think of it, have you ever heard someone say they were anything except a visual learner? I have not, and it turns out for good reason. While we all can agree that everyone learns differently, there isn’t any scientific evidence that we can be grouped into “styles” that focus on one of the five senses. (1) This isn’t to say we shouldn’t try to use images, video, sounds, and music in our teaching and learning, rather we should consider the content and goal of the lesson.
For example, research has shown that we are better able to remember vocabulary when we associate a new word with an image. (2) With some words, it may not always be possible to create vocabulary lists with each word corresponding to an image that clearly defines the word. However, as learners, it is helpful to associate even abstract words with an image, although they may be just our own. Educators have also found music useful to introduce culture into their lessons and to keep students engaged and motivated. (3) Language learning is a time intensive activity. Any opportunity we can find that encourages learners to listen in the target language outside of class is extremely valuable. Finally, many teachers may have heard of the Total Physical Response, or TPR method of teaching. Most teachers have done some form of TPR when introducing the imperative or command tense for example, “sit down”, “open the book”, etc. Students demonstrate their understanding of the commands by responding physically following the command.
All of this is to say the most effective approach, and in my opinion also the most enjoyable, is to engage the language in all of its forms. As we communicate with others, listen to the radio, read books or online texts, and watch our favorite movies, we’ll be experiencing the language in a variety of ways, and more importantly, learning about different cultures while practicing reading, writing, listening, and speaking in the target language.
Image from Flickr, US Embassy Bolivia https://www.flickr.com/photos/usembassybolivia/