Friday, May 17, 2013

Language Learning Methods: Flashcards

In our previous posts on language learning methods we've looked at immersion and choral drilling. Today, we're looking at another method that focuses more on the visual aspect of language education. 

When learning languages, despite there often being a lot to read and write, sometimes a picture and a solitary word can be just as effective. We can't oversell the benefits of using flashcards to teach younger learners as they are often a cheap, effective way to teach vocabulary and other short expressions.

We don't mean these flash memory cards!
That doesn't mean adults can't benefit from using flashcards, though they will probably be more embarrassed or shy about using them. If you can convince them, adult novice learners should use flashcards as a memory aid when learning new words.

Flashcards needn't be used just to match words and pictures. You can also use them to arrange sentences, classify words and illustrate various elements of grammar. Use various colours to represent different sentence elements or word types and build up rules from there.

You don't even need to buy flashcards. If you can draw, or even if you can't, you can make your own flashcards at home and even laminate them for next to nothing. They are a cheap and effective way to learn things.

There are drawbacks, of course. Overuse of flashcards can leave learners with a large vocabulary but no real means to string together sentences. Make sure the vocabulary learnt in the flashcards is then used in a real grammatical context in order to further the memorisation of the word and reinforce a semantic link in the learner's mind.

If you have any suggestions on the best ways to use flashcards, tell us about them in the comments below.