How learning styles affect language learning

Have you ever wondered why some learning activities work well for you, while there are others you can’t stand? Some people love classes, others enjoy podcasts and others can’t get enough of writing and note-taking.

Depending on your learning style, some activities and materials will naturally and easily work well for you, whereas others might still be usable if you adapt them.

Learning styles

Auditory learners learn by listening. They learn well in classrooms, listening to teachers talk or by watching talks or speeches, or listening to podcasts. When learning alone or revising you may find that talking helps or you may even record yourself summarising some notes and play it back to yourself later.

Visual learners learn by seeing. They might like information presented in charts or diagrams, using written information or watching a demonstration. When you self-study or revise you might use diagrams, mind-maps or written notes that are highlighted or colour-coded.

Kinesthetic (or kinaesthetic) learners learn by doing. Movement and touching or interacting with what you are trying to learn works best for you. Tracing out words as you say them or walking while listening to audio can help to take in the information.

The VAK Learning Styles, useful for language learners. Credit OnlineEducation.net.

The VAK Learning Styles. Credit OnlineEducation.net.

Although in the VAK system there are three styles, many people are actually a mixture of two styles such as kinesthetic-visual.

NB. There are also other ways of classifying learning styles beyond VAK, such as the Reading-Writing learning style.

Tips to identify your learning style

Learning Styles Infographic

Quiz at OnlineEducation.net


You can take quick online quizzes or questionnaires or follow flowcharts like the one on the right.

It can be easiest to identify your learning style(s) by thinking back to your school days and how you revised for exams. I recently found some of my university notes and summary sheets and they were all colour-coded, which is very typical of visual learners.

What this means for language learners

There are different ways of learning a language from classrooms to audio courses to learning by immersion. Some techniques work better for certain learning styles than others.

But, Thảo, audio (aka listening) is really important in languages and I’m not an auditory learner. Help!

It’s not impossible to learn with materials designed for another learning style, you might just need more practice or to adapt them to suit you better.

For example, I’m a visual learner but I still learnt a lot of my basic Vietnamese vocabulary from friends. However they typically needed to repeat new words for me 7 or 8 times when an auditory learner might pick them up in 2 or 3. I also find that visualising the spelling helps me to remember words.

Likewise, I really struggle with audio courses that prompt you to repeat the word almost immediately. Rewinding to hear it a few more times or using an accompanying book to look at the spelling increases my success.

If you’re a kinesthetic learner, listen to audio lessons while walking or you could take notes or draw as you’re listening.

Great advice! Tell me more!

OK, since you asked here are some language learning study tips for each of the learning styles.

Auditory learners

You’re very lucky as you should be able to pick up tones quite well!

  • Follow an audio course like Pimsleur
  • Use flashcards with audio
  • Use rhymes as mnemonics
  • Read aloud
  • Speak aloud while studying
  • Listen to podcasts
  • Ask lots of questions
  • Consider recording your classes and listening to them again later rather than taking notes

Visual learners

  • Use flashcards with images
  • Use visual mnemonics
  • Learn the spelling of words
  • Watch videos instead of just listening to audio
  • Use colour in your notebook (eg. grammar in blue, vocabulary in black)
  • Take notes in class or while watching videos then re-read them later

Kinesthetic learners

  • Listen to audio while walking or working out
  • Trace out the spelling of words while using flashcards
  • Use lots of examples (these are easier for you to remember than rules)
  • Write things out by hand instead of typing
  • Write things down or draw while listening
  • Take lots of breaks
  • Listening to music in the background may help minimise distractions (eg. when you’re reading or writing)
  • Interact with people and take part actively in class

Over to you: What’s your learning style? Do you have any extra study tips to share?

Image credit: OnlineEducation.net

{ Leave a Reply ? }

  1. iminim

    When I am considering preferring of learning, it is probably very directive to think of leaning what I am going do it. as I am new leaner I always use visual learning style. That help to knowledge new skills.

    Understanding of the brain and how to learn new ideas, that is very helpful to become a freedom learner.

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