Is there one best way to learn Spanish?

Let me tell you a story of my good friend Krysia. She is an accountant (or CPA, as you would call her in USA), working for a major company in Poland. After reading my book about language learning she once told me her way to fluent English.

At the beginning she learnt mostly grammar, built her vocabulary, practiced basic sentences and dialogues and was very methodical with it and very inquisitive. Doesn’t it sound like a typical school drill? She generally liked it, but, like most learners, felt she is not making a lot of progress. This was mostly due to the fact that she had no occasions to practice her new skills.
Then Krysia moved to Canada for personal reasons and she was astonished at how quickly she became communicative in English. Again, things clicked very quickly and she became fluent in English in a short time.

Now, a lot of people would argue that the way she chose to learn was boring and ineffective and that should focus on speaking instead. But this learning style matched very well her analytical mind. And she felt comfortable with it.

If she was more like a party animal probably she would be bored to death with such learning style. Yes, learning style. There is no one best way to learn a language. Although there are some obvious prerequisites, like that at some point you have to learn to speak because language is all about communication, it is up to you how you achieve this goal.

This concept I am talking about can be better understood by referring to seven basic types of intelligence defined by Howard Gardner in 1983.

Here are these seven types:

This area deals with the ability to visualize with the mind’s eye, so to speak and spatial judgment.

This area has to do with words, spoken or written. People with high verbal-linguistic intelligence display a facility with words and languages. They are typically good at reading, writing, telling stories and memorizing words along with dates. They tend to learn best by reading, taking notes, listening to lectures, and discussion and debate. They are also frequently skilled at explaining, teaching and oration or persuasive speaking. Those with verbal-linguistic intelligence learn foreign languages very easily as they have high verbal memory and recall, and an ability to understand and manipulate syntax and structure.

This area has to do with logic, abstractions, reasoning, and numbers. While it is often assumed that those with this intelligence naturally excel in mathematics, chess, computer programming and other logical or numerical activities, a more accurate definition places less emphasis on traditional mathematical ability and more reasoning capabilities, abstract patterns of recognition, scientific thinking and investigation, and the ability to perform complex calculations. It correlates strongly with traditional concepts of “intelligence” or IQ.

In theory, people who have bodily-kinesthetic intelligence should learn better by involving muscular movement (e.g. getting up and moving around into the learning experience), and are generally good at physical activities such as sports or dance. They may enjoy acting or performing, and in general they are good at building and making things. They often learn best by doing something physically, rather than [by] reading or hearing about it. Those with strong bodily-kinesthetic intelligence seem to use what might be termed muscle memory – they remember things through their body such as verbal memory or images.

This area has to do with rhythm, music, and hearing. Those who have a high level of musical-rhythmic intelligence display greater sensitivity to sounds, rhythms, tones, and music. They normally have good pitch and may even have absolute pitch, and are able to sing, play musical instruments, and compose music. Since there is a strong auditory component to this intelligence, those who are strongest in it may learn best via lecture. Language skills are typically highly developed in those whose base intelligence is musical. In addition, they will sometimes use songs or rhythms to learn and memorize information.

This area has to do with interaction with others. In theory, people who have a high interpersonal intelligence tend to be extroverts, characterized by their sensitivity to others’ moods, feelings, temperaments and motivations, and their ability to cooperate in order to work as part of a group. They communicate effectively and empathize easily with others, and may be either leaders or followers. They typically learn best by working with others and often enjoy discussion and debate.

This area has to do with introspective and self-reflective capacities. People with intrapersonal intelligence are intuitive and typically introverted. They are skillful at deciphering their own feelings and motivations. This refers to having a deep understanding of the self; what are your strengths/ weaknesses, what makes you unique, can you predict your own reactions/ emotions.

You probably already feel what type of intelligence is dominant for you and what learning style goes best with it. So, let me just briefly recap:

Are you an interpersonal type? Great, in that case you will be inclined to communication; you will like group learning with lots of interpersonal interactions, like drama play, etc.
If you are intrapersonal, you will find internal motivation for self learning, you will like computer aided learning and will be good at setting learning targets and achieving them.
Persons with Visual-spatial intelligence may like to graphically represent words, use various colors, draw diagrams and grammar schemes. They will find the mind mapping techniques especially useful. In the case of language learning this would mean building subsequent associations around on word.

For persons with musical intelligence it is advisable to learn poems, songs, mimicking the speech of famous people on tv, playing with accents.

Bodily-kinesthetic types will lie playing drama in foreign language, writing foreign word and sentences, because their hand will remember the movement.

Those gifted with Logical-mathematical intelligence like to deal with grammar in detail, analyse sentence structure, build them by themselves according to learned rules. They would group the vocabulary by subjects.

Finally verbal-linguistic intelligence. Such person would like to discuss things in a foreign language, build their vocabulary, analyse usage and meanings of words. They would enjoy reading and finding new words.
I am sure you already know what learnig style is best for you. Stick to it!

Lots of succes in your Spanish!

3 comments so far ↓

#1 leonia dunka on 05.18.10 at 5:47 pm


#2 Alfredo on 06.01.10 at 2:12 am

This should be called ‘the best ways to learn Spanish’ as opposed to the ‘best way to learn Spanish’ because everyone already knows what the best way is: living in a Spanish speaking country. That just might not be practical though!

Total immersion in any foreign language is best achieved when that language is all around us.

#3 Smith on 06.07.10 at 4:09 am

I agree with Alfredo, I have a friend who has a german dad, they live in Mexico for a while and he speak Spanish fluently, until his family decided to live in Germany when he is 7 years old. I met him again 10 years after and totally he cant speak or understand Spanish anymore.

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