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A Q&A with Colin Barrett, this month’s Irish Times Book Club author
Training, Dual Curriculum Education, and Internships Skilled employees are a crucial asset — which explains why we have been training specialists in technical and commercial professions for many years now. A key part of learning a new language involves training your ear.
However, even beginning language learners can benefit from something called conversational shadowing. This helps you get used to the rhythm and patterns of the language, as well as learn to identify individual words and phrases from longer chunks of spoken language.
Another great strategy involves holding practice conversations, where you create imaginary conversations and rehearse them multiple times. Both of these strategies are great ways to help you learn and retain new vocabulary, and they also increase your language output in a low-stakes practice setting! Since expanding your vocabulary is so important, identifying new words is a big priority. Basically, you need to collect words: any time you encounter a new word, you want to capture it by recording it in some way.
The easiest way to do this is in a small pocket notebook, but you could also put a note in your phone, send a text or email to yourself, or even record yourself saying it. The key point is to capture the word as quickly and easily as possible.
This is the time when you find the correct spelling, write down the definition, maybe find an example, and so on. To make this process as effective as possible, you also want to have some sort of system that helps you record and organize your word collection. If you like paper-based methods, then flashcards can be easily organized in index card boxes, though you might want to include some alphabetical divider tabs to help yourself stay organized. However, digital tools are particularly helpful with this kind of information, and there are tons of apps that can help you organize a large vocabulary collection.
Finally, you also want to make sure to use your word collection! In any case, make sure that you incorporate review along with learning new words.
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Flashcards are one of the most common tools that language learners use. However, flashcards are not without problems. The following tips describe ways to use flashcards in a strategic and effective manner. The point behind this paradox is that you want to minimize the time and effort you put into the flashcard set-up process.
Similarly, you also want to minimize the volume of information you put on each flashcard. Flashcards should not be pages of notes in a smaller format, especially when using them for vocabulary. Instead, each card should have just enough information on it to test your memory. Another common flashcard issue is that they promote rote memorization, so that information is divorced from context.
Only practicing vocabulary in rote drills may end up slowing you down when you need to actually use the words.
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A great way to reduce this issue is to change the type of cues used on your flashcard: instead of written words, you might represent the meaning of new words with a picture— or for digital flashcards, you could even use audio files. She could make several different flashcards for this word:. You can also combine these types to make different hybrid-style flashcards. Additionally, make sure to practice using both sides of the flashcards as cues.
You can also avoid the pitfalls of rote memorization by making sure to practice using the words in context. For example, in addition to testing yourself with each card, follow that up by using the word in a sentence. Ultimately, flashcards are just a tool, albeit one that is ideally suited to vocabulary practice. And as with any kind of practice, the more time you put in, better your results will be: flashcards work best when used frequently and consistently. If you want to get the most out of your flashcards, turn using them into a regular habit.
Here are some tips to keep in mind:.
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Small sets, many reps : To improve memorization when practicing new words, create sets of 7 flashcards or less and practice each set several times before moving on to the next one. Increase portability : Make sure you take full advantage of the portable nature of flashcards. Even if you use full-sized paper cards, you increase portability by being selective in the number you take with you. How much time do you spend riding the bus? How about stuck in line at the grocery store, or waiting for an appointment at Campus Health? Instead of checking your Twitter feed or hopping on Facebook, open up your flashcard app or pull out your flashcard stack and do a quick vocab review.
Create a routine : Habits are powerful. So think about how you can create a daily routine for using your flashcards. What about taking 5 minutes every morning to do vocabulary review while you drink your coffee? Once you find ways to make vocabulary flashcards part of your daily routine, you can use the power of habit to help grow your vocabulary. Each week, randomly select a few words to review. You might do a review set once each day, or the review words can be mixed in with your current learning sets this is a great way to keep your word collection going strong!
But in addition to staying focused on what you enjoy, you can also deliberately create fun social activities that also help you grow your language skills.
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In addition to this handout, there are lots of resources to help you with your language learning goals. Our friendly staff is ready to help — drop by or make an appointment! You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Learning Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Murphey, T. Language hungry! Japan: MacMillan Language house.
Dunlosky, J. Brown, H. Readings on second language acquisition. Listening comprehension strategies in second language acquisition. Readings on second language acquisition, Oxford, R. Research on language learning strategies: Methods, findings, and instructional issues. The Modern Language Journal,73 4 , Nunan, David.