Science of Learning and Foreign Languages

Learning a foreign language is easier, such as Chinese, when understanding how you learn. The science of learning is based on several theories and include: multiple intelligences, right-brain/left-brain/whole-brain, and brain-based learning. Understanding how you learn new information becomes the keystone to effective study patterns and habits. Many people who attempt to learn a new language give up, primarily because they pick a program that does not fit their learning style. These people unknowingly try to fit their learning style into a program. The following discussion focuses on learning styles, ways of learning, and how to master second language usage.

Multiple Intelligences and Learning Styles

The theory of multiple intelligences, by Howard Gardner (Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences., 1983), provides the foundation for the seven learning styles associated with this theory. They are:

- Verbal - Linguistic: use language and words to understand
- Logical - Mathematical: inductive and deductive reasoning in using numbers abstract patterns to analyze information
- Visual - Spatial: visualize objects/dimensions and create internal images/pictures to understand how something will or might work
- Body - Kinesthetic: control your body`s physical motion
- Musical - Rhythmic: recognize tonal patterns
- Interpersonal: person-to-person communications, relate with others
- Intrapersonal: spiritual, self-reflection, and awareness

Everyone has many styles of learning and one is dominate over all other learning styles. Knowledge of your dominate learning style helps identify which program to select for learning a second language. See the first link at the end of this article to spend a few minutes answering questions to determine your dominate learning style.

Left-Brain, Right-Brain, Whole Brain Learning

Most instruction in educational settings is left-brain oriented, which means a focus on logic and reasoning (Logical - Mathematical learning style). This approach does not emphasize understanding, because traditional education emphasizes rote memorization of facts. Right-brain activities focus on creativity, such as feelings and the arts (Sperry, R.).

A foreign language program needs to focus on a whole-brain approach to support dominate and non-dominate learning styles. This whole-brain approach focuses on comprehension, as learners are encouraged to describe a visual image, draw pictures, use reasoning, and act out situations in which the language is used to understand new language context. This is a very good method for learning new language vocabularies through contextual settings. See the second link at the end of this article to spend a few minutes answering questions to determine if you are left-brain or right-brain dominate.

Brain-Based Learning

According to brain-based learning research (McClean, P.), although each brain is unique, everyone can learn a foreign language such as Chinese. Better foreign language programs take advantage of brain-based research and dominate learning styles to using a whole-brain approach with the following techniques:

- Orchestrated - immersion into learning environments
- Relaxed - elimination or reduction of anxiety and still challenging
- Active - internalization of new knowledge by processing information

A program should not be strictly lecture-based and depend on rote memorization of knowledge. The best programs use many different instructional strategies that fully engage you in the learning process. Based on this brain-based research to support internalization of new knowledge, emersion in cultural and personal experiences with a new language is important to relaxed and active learning. With the wide diversity of people in this country, there are many opportunities to use the new language in an appropriate cultural setting that helps you process and internalize the language.

Mastery Learning of Chinese

Another key to selecting a foreign language program is allowing you all the time you need to learn and master the language. Mastery of learning moves beyond rote memorization of vocabulary to a level that the new language becomes second nature. After reading the different theories of learning you can see that everyone uses different strategies and techniques to learn, even if they do not understand why. Another aspect with knowledge of your learning style is that you do not learn at the same pace as everyone else. The Chinese program we offer supports learning at your own pace and giving you time to master the language. Mastery is attributed to how we learn and the ways we use a new language (Glasser, W.). The following demonstrates level of mastery when Chinese is:

- 70% - Discussed with Others
- 80% - Experienced Personally
- 95% - Taught to Someone Else

Examples of Mastery Learning

An example of 95% mastery is to teach someone else the meaning of yi gong which means all together in Chinese. This is accomplished by having the person take scattered items and place them together while saying the Chinese word. This helps you to internalize and learn as you observe using a whole-brain approach in an orchestrated/active environment. This example uses dominate learning styles that are Logical-Mathematical or Visual-Spatial.

A second example of 95% mastery is to teach someone else the meaning of yi gong by having them follow your actions. This is accomplished by having someone else emulate your motions as you both gather scattered items and bring them together. Again this uses the whole-brain approach in an orchestrated/active environment. This example uses dominate learning styles that are Verbal - Linguistic, Body - Kinesthetic, or Interpersonal.

A third example of 95% mastery is writing a short song that uses yi gong in a pattern or change the words in a musical lyric to include yi gong. Keep the meaning of yi gong in context at all times in the song or lyric. After completing one of these actives, think about how this fits within any of your other actions or situations. This example uses dominate learning styles that are Verbal - Linguistic, Musical - Rhythmic, or Intrapersonal.

Science of Learning and Our Program

My Chinese Lessons provides all the tools that fit within any learning style to help you master Chinese. Visit our online library of Chinese Lessons, Chinese Games, and Teaching Methodology to learn more how we can help you learn Chinese. Do not forget to complete the online questionnaire and quiz below to quickly discover the ways you learn.

Article Source: Science of Learning and Foreign Languages

Author: Mark E. Piscopo
Mark Piscopo offers free Chinese lessons on his website. His lessons are developed based on his personal experiences in studying Chinese. You can visit his site at

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