You have decided to learn something new: a language! German, in particular. But before we start off digging through the rules and exceptions, pitfalls and wonders of this peculiar tongue, we would like to devote some words to motivation and learning techniques.
Yes, there are tons of opinions and methods and researches and books about this topic, none of them perfect — but they mostly agree on two things: That it’s crucial to know why you learn something and that it’s easiest to learn when you are having fun.
Let’s start with why you learn. No matter what you want to learn, having a measurable goal makes it easier to motivate yourself to actually work on the new skill. That is why the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR, or GER in German) sets different levels for learners: starting with A1 and ending in C2, they make your progress in the language measurable and therefore easier archivable. But first and foremost it’s your personal goal that matters most.
1 Why do want to learn (German)?
2 What is your ultimate goal and which are the goals in between?
3 Until when do you want to reach these goals?
4 Is that in all realistic?
Having answers to these questions will take pressure off your shoulders and keep you motivated in times of stress and doubt.
And now to the fun part: If you can read and understand this text, you have already learnt thousands of things in your life — and therefore developed certain strategies how to do it. But can you name the one that works best for you?
And if you can, does it always work best with anything you want to learn?
Right. We learn new things in many different ways: By observation and reproduction, by trial-and-error, by memorizing, and so on. There is actually a whole toolbox of methods and techniques, that help you to learn and remember new stuff, and each of them could be the one that helps you best to learn one specific thing, depending on your personality and the content to learn. Today we’ll take a closer look at three of them, which will also be found in SPRKR.
Vera Birkenbiehl, a German professor with Asperger syndrome who worked in various fields, among them language and brain research, postulated the concept of „brain-friendly learning“: That you shouldn’t terrorize your brain by just bluntly memorizing stuff, but to use its playfulness and curiosity instead. Use both sides of your brain: the creative part and the methodological part. Connect the new info with creative images, categorize topics, create anagrams, make silly drawings and many more. Talking about drawings: they don’t need to be good — on the contrary: the rougher the better, because then they tease the brain and stimulate it. That’s why SPRKR uses very rough and quickly drawn images: Their job is simply to get the idea across — your brain will rather connect the new info with an image from your own memory if the drawing is clumsy; it fills the gap, so to say. It wouldn’t do that if the images were of higher quality, good stock photos for instance.
Another technique created by Miss Birkenbiehl are pseudo-translations, which we also use in SPRKR. They clearly help you to get and understand certain patterns and expressions like the structure of sentences or typical phrases. And they are often fun to read, which makes them more memorable. Once you figured out that Germans put their verbs (or more correctly: participles, infinitives, prefixes and such) at the end of the sentence, you know why they normally don’t interrupt each other. If a sentence starts with „I have your mother yesterday in the park…“, you definitely wait for the last word to come out of the speaker.
Last but not least, it’s a wise choice to combine your senses when learning something: you will remember more when you read and listen to a text at the same time, then just reading or hearing it. Learn new words with gestures or an acted emotion and intonation. Sing songs and learn poems. Write a love letter and say every word out loud while writing it. Anything to make it stick.
And that is basically the whole point: Fool around and have fun when learning the new thing. If you know why you want to learn something and you’ve settled on a goal, then go for it — but make it worthwhile and fun for yourself. Scribble, sing, shout!