March 2


Learning a language – A guide for students

By Katharina

March 2, 2016

Before going into detail and providing tips for students, I would like to describe the three key elements of learning according to Perkin. Perkins´ model includes three elements that influence the way of learning.

  1. The first element is TEMPO. It reflects the speed of our neurons. This speed is inherent and individual. Somebody who has “slow neurons” usually needs more time to learn something new. The positive aspect is that those people go into detail when learning something, thereby storing the new information in the long-term memory.
  2. The current KNOWLEDGE NETWORK is essential as well. It is far easier to gain additional information, if you already have some knowledge beforehand. At the beginning, learning a foreign language is always tricky; however, the learning curve rises exponentially after the beginning and learning becomes easier.
  3. The LEARNING METHOD is an important element. Unfortunately, students seldom have influence on that. In cases where about 90% of the students in a class have a problem with the English lessons, it simply cannot be the fold of the students. The goal of learning a language is vital; it should be as with learning to play the piano or how to bake a cake. In contrast, languages – especially in schools – are mostly learned like in the History class.


The Birkenbihl Approach can be employed in addition to the language lesson in school!

Language lessons in school rather focus on strategy and form of languages, such as grammar or vocabulary. This method is retained from former times, when people have not had the possibility to document knowledge other than in a written form. Nowadays, there are endless possibilities.

The goal of learning languages is mainly to understand or even be able to speak it. To reach this goal, you should rethink your learning method. 95% of learning should take place in our unconscious. Only then you learn the language sustainably. Repeating what you want to learn helps to access this information quicker in the future. Have you ever played City-Country-River? The more often you play this game, the faster you fill out the blanks. This is because the access to your knowledge is becoming simpler and faster with every time you repeat the game.

Kids who learn their mother tongue never cram vocabularies. Speaking the language just happens at some point. Languages need to be learned like an activity. Syntax and strategy are to be learned later in the learning process, when you have already stacked your bricks. The more advanced a student is, the more critics by teachers are effective, because only now the two sides can understand each other. Another issue in language teaching is that speaking is not considered important. But how can you speak a language ifs you seldom have the chance to practice it?


The Birkenbihl Approach for students

If you want to use the Birkenbihl Approach parallel to your language classes in school, make sure to prepare yourself accordingly! It is essential to use audio material of the text book you use in school. Follow step 1 to 3 BEFORE you work out the lessons in school.


Tip 1: De-Coding

Translate the texts of a lesson you already know word-by-word. It is very important to translate word by word, so that you learn the different meanings of the word and how to use it in a sentence.
Learn together with a friend so that you can compare and share your experiences. To translate unknown words, use a dictionary or the list of words, which is usually attached to the book. At the beginning you may need to translate almost all words of a lesson; but don´t give up – with the time your word pool will increase quickly.

In case the translation into another foreign language is easier for you, don´t hesitate to do that. Linkages and mnemonic rhymes can increase the chance to remember it sustainably. Even drawings are allowed and highly effective.


Tip 2: Active Listening

The sequence of learning steps in schools is widely interchanged. Teachers often require the students to speak from the very first lesson on. But how should we speak and pronounce the words if we haven´t heard them properly beforehand? Even a child listens to the mother tongue for months before they try to speak it. Therefore, listen to the texts again and again and read along the translation until you know the meaning of the word for sure. Use the audio files of the textbook.


Tip 3: Passive Listening

Only do this step in case you aim to speak the language. You will have a perfect pronunciation through repeated passive listening of the texts in the background (while you are sitting in the bus, while you are sleeping etc. Listen passively with low volume day and night, if possible). This will prepare you to speak the language almost perfectly.


Tip 4 IN SCHOOL: Activities

If you want to apply the Birkenbihl Approach in addition to language lessons in school, you need to be ahead of the lesson every week! Thereby, the language lessons become activities. Even when grammar is discussed in class, NOW it will make sense to you and you can understand it effortlessly. However, this only works when you prepare yourself accordingly. For you, grammar exercises will become language games.


Would you like to use additional learning material? Have a look at the language learning software by Brain-Friendly which is based on the Birkenbihl Approach.


This guide will help students to master foreign language learning with ease and make the most of language courses at school!

Click here to learn more about Brain-Friendly language courses


Photo by Laura Rivera on Unsplash


About the author

Content Manager and blogger Katharina Rucker has devoted herself to the Birkenbihl Approach for language learning since 2011. Since 2014, she has been working as a freelancer in the field of online marketing: www.rucker-marketing.at

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