If you are interested in speaking the French language, learning how your mind works when trying to learn a new language, so that you can work with it instead of against it.
Language is simply a code we use to access memory. That may seem like a weird definition, but think about it for a minute! Language is nothing more than a complex phonetic (spoken sounds) code we use to remember, and help others remember, concrete experiences.
You can teach someone the sounds that make up a word, but if they doesn’t know what those sounds relate to, then he or she doesn’t really know the meaning of the word because it isn’t linked to anything real in his or her memory. It doesn’t trigger any inner experience.
Leveraging Your Memory for French Language Learning
With that in mind it becomes obvious that French language learning requires the you to do three things:
- Create strong memory links between the sounds that make up French words and the experiences they relate to – this is learning vocabulary.
- Develop the skill, through habit, of how to properly structure French words to convey meaning accurately – this is learning natural grammar as used by native speakers.
- Learning the peculiarities of how the spoken language is converted into written format – this is an extension of the first step; reading and writing.
The Way Your Memory Works
When you use different senses together in an intense manner, your brain’s nerve cells (the neurons) literally grow a connection between them.
Like Song Stuck In Your Head
Have you ever noticed how listening to a song you really liked, but haven’t heard in a while can instantly transport you back to the time you used to listen to it?
That is because when you were listening to the song, you were literally hard-wiring your brain to access the memory of that period of your life.
Practical Application Time
This principle can be used to help you in your French language learning. As the mind can’t distinguish between your external senses (what you experience in the world) and your internal senses (what you imagine), all it takes is an effort on your part to vividly imagine the things words relate to during study.
Use Your Imagination To Learn Vocabulary
When using flashcards, don’t just speed through them translating the words from French to English. Instead, try to actually experience their meaning in your imagination. With practice your mental pictures will become more vivid.
Of course, you can and should, use visual language learning aids, such as videos, pictures, or even concrete objects.
The more intense and rich your experience, the easier it will be for your mind to link the sounds that make up the word to their meaning.
Learn French Grammar Naturally By Habit
The second step, learning natural sounding grammar, is a skill. Learning French grammar is different from learning vocabulary as it uses the brain in a completely different way. For learning grammar, you need to make practicing a daily habit.
Have you noticed how, if you play Tetris for a long time, your mind starts to play Tetris on its own every time you close your eyes, and maybe even with them open? That is the way you want to learn French grammar, by using the language (correctly) as often as you can.
Dig Up and Watch Those Foreign Films
This is why movies in French can be a great aid (they also help cement vocabulary!) and why you should seek native speakers to talk to as soon as you have a minimal enough knowledge of French to be able to have a basic conversation.
French language learning does not need to be tedious or difficult. The reading and writing aspect can be learned through books, audiobooks, online French courses, and even by watching French movies with subtitles (so you can read and hear dialogue at the same time).
What Has Helped You?
What have you tried, that helped you learn and retain the most vocabulary and grammar? Please share your experience in the comment section below.
Photo by: StetsonHayes