On Learning Euskara, And Learning How To Learn

A few years ago, I decided to learn Euskara, or the Basque language. Why did I do this? I have no idea. It was a whim. What’s more, I decided I was going to learn it from French. So I got myself a book that taught French people how to learn Euskara, a language that hardly anyone in the world speaks, and is almost impenetrable.

Suffice to say, I learned a few words and eventually gave up, but it gave me a real insight into how I operate as a learner. Yeah, you might say, not a very good one.

But I’m a reader who needs repetition. It’s why I turned to a book first, as opposed to getting one of those newfangled CD-ROMs that they had back then. If you’re under the age of 45, just think Duolingo on a disk.

There are, of course, many different ways of learning. In fact, there are four main styles: visual, auditory, kinesthetic, and reading/writing. 

1. Visual learners

Do you find yourself easily remembering information that was presented to you in a visual format, such as charts, graphs, and images? Do you struggle to recall information that was only presented verbally? If so, you might be a visual learner. Visual learners process information best when it is presented to them in a visual format. They tend to have a strong visual memory and often remember what they see better than what they hear or read. In other words, if you see it, learn it.

When I was learning Euskara, it was all about looking for the written patterns in the language. So if you’re a visual learner, how can you develop your learning skills? Well, instead of just reading your biology textbook, try creating flashcards with images and diagrams to help solidify the concepts in your mind. You could also try creating mind maps or diagrams to visually organise information and make connections between related concepts. Using highlighters and different colours to highlight important information can also help make the information more visually appealing and easier to remember.

2. Auditory learners

Do you find yourself easily retaining information that was presented to you through speaking or listening, such as lectures, podcasts, or discussions? Do you have a tendency to hum tunes or repeat phrases to help remember them? If so, you might be an auditory learner. Auditory learners process information best through hearing and speaking, and they often remember what they hear better than what they see or read.

Now, I failed at Euskadi on the old CD-ROM. I kept referring back to the written word, and the longer it went on, the more distracted I was. 

If you're an auditory learner, instead of just reading your history textbook, try finding a podcast or video lecture to accompany it. This way, you'll have the information spoken to you, helping it stick in your mind better. You could also try recording yourself reciting information to help reinforce it in your memory, or find a study group or someone to discuss the material with. The act of speaking and hearing the information can be a powerful tool for auditory learners.

3. Kinesthetic learners 

Do you remember the time you learned how to ride a bike, play a musical instrument, or do a new physical activity? Chances are, you learned best by actually doing it and getting your hands dirty. That's because you're a kinesthetic learner - you process information best through hands-on, physical experiences.

I learned French in a kinesthetic manner. In other words, my years at university were wasted, because I’d have done a thousand times better by just parachuting myself into the nearest French village and abandoning the English language for a couple of months. 

If you're a kinesthetic learner, instead of just reading your chemistry textbook, try doing hands-on experiments in the lab to better understand the concepts. You could also try creating physical models or props to help bring the information to life. For example, if you're studying anatomy, you could make a 3D model of the human heart to help you visualize and understand its structure and function. Hands-on learning can be especially effective for kinesthetic learners as it allows them to physically experience and interact with the information.

4. Reading/writing learners

OK so this is me. And you? Do you find yourself highlighting and taking notes on everything you read, and retaining information better when you write it down? Then, you might be a reading/writing learner. These learners process information best through reading and writing, such as taking notes or writing essays.

If you're a reading/writing learner, always carry a notebook. This not only helps reinforce the information in your memory but also allows you to review your notes later on. You could also try creating summaries of the material you read or writing essays to further explore and analyse the information. For a more active approach, you could try practicing speed writing to quickly jot down information as you read or listen to it. Reading/writing learners often find that the act of writing helps them process and retain information more effectively.

Now, of course, my Euskara is super limited, but I learned perhaps more about how I study than the Basque language itself. But limiting myself to just my preferred (and most comfortable) way of studying was perhaps limiting in itself. If I had parachuted myself into Bilbao and forced everyone to speak this ancient language with me, that may have been better and more kinesthetic. Or perhaps I should have given Duolingo another chance.

What’s really important is to understand not only where you are comfortable learning, but how to take advantage of the other styles of learning. That’s when you open up new opportunities, and given that we now have YouTube, podcasts, blogs, reddits and subreddits, multimedia courses and the old-fashioned book still available if you're that way inclined, there's no excuse for not learning something new.

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Published on Feb 01, 2023 by Gareth Cartman