Want to learn a new language like French, Spanish, or Italian? It’s not all about memorization. There are things we can do to optimize our learning ability. Dr. Howard Gardner says that there are at least eight different intelligences that make up the human mind. We can use strategies from each of these intelligences to tackle a new language. Here are some examples, based on learning Spanish:
- Word Smart – Read texts in Spanish, and use Google Translate to help you look up new words and phrases.
- Picture Smart – Associate Spanish words with pictures in your mind (e.g. see a white house in your mind with the words casa blanca superimposed on it – or perhaps an image of Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in Morocco – LOL!).
- Body Smart – Say a phrase in Spanish as you are acting it out with your whole body (e.g. yo tengo hambre as you act out what a person looks and feels like when he/she’s hungry).
- Music Smart – Have a friend read to you Spanish words and definitions out loud while doing it in rhythm to the musical piece Pacelbel’s Canon or some other music in 4/4 time. All you have to do is sit back with your eyes closed and listen.
- Nature Smart – Focus on words that have naturalistic features (e.g. start with animals and plants – perros, árboles etc.), or write descriptions of a natural setting in Spanish.
- Number/Logic Smart – Analyze logical relationships between Spanish roots and their derivatives (e.g. oro = gold; dorado = golden etc.).
- People Smart – Take a list of Spanish words out into the world and use them in conversations with others. Practice speaking Spanish with a native speaker.
- Self Smart – Study Spanish vocabulary by associating the words and/or phrases with personal life experiences, especially ones that contain strong emotion, like when you almost won the lottery except for one wrong number (e.g. ”yo recuerdo cuando yo casi gano un millón dólares”).
These are only a few suggestions, but they help illustrate the fact that there are many different ways to learn a new language other than just sitting down and memorizing words and sentences. Of course, the single best way to learn a new language is to plunk yourself down in the middle of a culture where they only speak that language and you need to speak that language in order to survive. Perhaps this is an illustration of Howard Gardner’s possible ninth intelligence: the existential!
For more information about using Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences to learn new things, get my practical guides to multiple intelligences for:
- Adult learners (7 Kinds of Smart: Identifying and Developing Your Multiple Intelligences)
- Educators who teach children and adolescents — kindergarten through high school (Multiple Intelligences in the Classroom, 4th edition) and/or
- Parents (In Their Own Way: Discovering and Encouraging Your Child’s Multiple Intelligences).
This blog post was brought to you by Thomas Armstrong, Ph.D. and www.institute4learning.com.
Follow me on Twitter: @Dr_Armstrong.