“I learned a second language starting with flashcards, and in school it was mandatory, how should you else than learn new words as a beginner?”
That is probably what is going through your head right now thinking of learning new words. That learning new words is connected to flashcards. And I have to admit these are valid points! That’s why I am gonna explain in detail why flashcards are so common, what their advantages and their disadvantages are.
Following, you find also practical exercises to learn new vocabulary words, but let’s stay for now with flashcards.
Learning new words with flashcards
Learning with flashcards was THE method when I went to school back then and it is still, until this day, the only Method school teacher teaches new words. If you go to the Internet, many learning apps also made you cram vocabulary words in a similar fashion.
So there has to be a true part about learning new vocabulary words, if even several different recourses make students learn with it, right?
There are just very few reasons why it’s still so commonly used:
For whom is learning flashcards a good thing:
- For people who want to learn a specific word how it’s written
- Teachers have an easy job in creating and correcting exams
- For learning apps, showing the user progresses how many words they can translate 1-1
- For guys who want to train their general memory
In other words, a list whose advantages totally not lay in learning a language. Let’s go to the opposite…
NOT recommended for people who…
- … want to improve their listening/speaking skills
- … wants to really understand a word, not translating in their head what it means in their own native language
- … really intend to master a language
- … want to learn grammar, bending words effortlessly
But WHY is it not recommended? Why nobody should ever do it?
Reasons why flashcards DON’T work:
- Flashcards are written, you don’t get ANY value out of it regarding understanding, speaking skills
- One word can have many meanings, with flashcards you learn only one at a time
- Learning single words gives you zero idea about sentence structure
- You learn only one form of the word. Cases, plural bending, etc. you have to learn additionally
- You didn’t learn with flashcards for your native language, and you are perfect in it, I know I’m right and so do you
- Flashcard learning is shallow and not connective, which means it is less likely to stay in long term memory
- You may learn false written flashcards that need to get untrained exhaustingly
Alternative methods to learn new words effectively
The main idea of flashcards is not bad actually, just the implementation is horrible. Flashcards intend to get the student access to common words in the new language. Therefore this is the trait that shares it with all the alternative methods.
Important to realize, the sheer power of an alternative method.
Traits of the alternative method:
- Learning in a new word, wrapped in whole sentences/phrases
- Learning through listening
- Effortless, high repetition approach
- A natural and proven method by every human who has a native language
- For beginner listening to audio files with simple sentences
- Mini stories with a punchline, for more advanced beginner
- Intermediate/advanced through conversations with a native speaker
Therefore following Advantages:
- Student practices how the language and its words and sentences sound
- Grammar goes naturally to the subconscious. As a 4-year old you did not learn grammar, the same applies to a second language.
- Bending words, cases, plural all those stuff is adopted automatically
- Deep learning of words, your spoken language appears more naturally
- No more translation of a word 1-1 in your head, what makes you hesitant
- Listening to audio files is always possible, waiting for the bus, at the toilet, in the gym, etc.
- New words get learned by the way, without any effort and frustration
In summary, you realize the great advantages of the alternative method, and why flashcards DON’T work.
After all, I’m sure you ask yourself HOW to find a certain language buddy who you can have conversations with and who records those aforementioned audio files.
Below you find links that go more in detail about specific topics:
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