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Last Updated on March 31, 2020

How to Use Visual Learning to Learn Effectively

How to Use Visual Learning to Learn Effectively

People learn in different ways; and out of the 6 types of learning, one is particularly interesting — that is those who partake in visual learning.

These are the people who envision precise locations, have a near-photographic memory or can remember covers of books or specific details vividly.

These people possess truly unique abilities, however, one of the problems visual learners face is their uphill battle with learning. Ever since elementary school, our education system is a system that benefits primarily one form of learning over others.

And while our education system isn’t good in accommodating visual learning, the learning community at large has uncovered a wide variety of information.

In fact, there are some highly effective learning techniques that visual learners can use to learn effectively now and for the future.

The Characteristics of a Visual Learner

To determine whether visual learning is best for you, it’s worth looking at characteristics. In school settings, study.com uncovered the following traits:[1]

  • Remember what they read over what they hear.
  • Prefer reading stories over listening.
  • Learn through sight.
  • Use diagrams, charts, and drawings to understand ideas and concepts.
  • They will take notes during classes and presentations.
  • They study by reviewing things.
  • Have good spelling.
  • Requires them to have a quiet space and time to study.
  • Prefer working alone rather than in groups.
  • Will ask questions to clarify.

Visual learners also portray the following characteristics:

  • Can recall faces, but not names.
  • Have a good sense of direction and are good with maps.
  • Make to-do lists.
  • Will notice changes in appearance in both physical space and in people.
  • Often are quiet and shy.
  • Have a good sense of fashion.
  • Make plans for the future.

The Perks of Visual Learning

While visual learners can benefit from this unique way of learning, those who aren’t visual learners can still reap benefits from it.

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While everyone has their own preference for learning, studies show that a predominant amount of us are visually inclined. Consider the work of Silverman L.K. who in 2002 did a study of 750 students in two schools.[2]

From the study, Silverman discovered 63% of students surveyed were visual-spatial learners. The problem is that those talents couldn’t be seen well seeing as the education system lacked support in that area.

By including more visual learning in the classroom, those individuals will reap the benefits. Even the auditory learners can get benefits as well. This is based on Richard Mayer’s work who, in 2009, found that when using texts and graphics, retention increased by 42%.[3]

Here’s what visual learning can do in terms of effective learning:

Help Store Info Longer

Our brains process pictures faster than they do words. Whenever we see pictures, they are etched in our long-term memory, allowing us to recall concepts and ideas.

Make Communication Quicker And Simpler

Do you know why so many blog posts are listed in bullets? Do you know why people get headaches or confused when they see massive walls of text and no paragraphs?

It’s because we’ve learned that breaking information into smaller sections – and using bullet points – can help in processing information better. It’s the same idea as using an image or video for learning. This was uncovered by the Visual Teaching Alliance which has listed all kinds of facts on visual learning.[4]

What all this means is that, since we have a bias towards images, videos, and bullet points for learning, the best way for us to convey ideas is to use these methods in future teaching methods. These mediums can help us convey ideas in many ways compared to walls of text.

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Serve as a Stimulus for Emotions

Emotions and visual information are processed in the exact same spot in our brain. Because of this connection, if we use plenty of visuals to stir emotions, people will be able to form links easier. All because they got an emotional response from something.

This idea is similar to why we consume content in general, the headline pulls us in because it stirs an emotion within us.

Inspire People

We all have subjects that we’re not that excited for or that we struggle to grasp. Whatever the case is, visual has a way of sparking motivation and interest.

There is that emotional aspect I mentioned, but the idea of putting in videos, images, and graphics break up the boredom of information and motivate and excite people.

When we are engaged with what we’re learning -even if it’s something we’re not remotely keen on – it can still benefit us.

How a Visual Learner Learns Best

Visual learners need to embrace visual learning techniques and strategies to learn effectively. Like with any other learning style, there are a number of ways for you to gain benefits. Broadly speaking, some strategies that ThoughtCo [5] have brought up come to mind:

  • Taking notes as you learn.
  • Studying by yourself.
  • Sitting closer to the instructor in classroom settings.

But there are other techniques that can be considered as well. Here are four other highly regarded techniques:

1. Use To-Do Lists

With so many things on the go, it makes sense for people to start organizing duties once more in to-do lists. Even if you’re not a visual learner, a to-do list can let you order tasks based on importance and boost your productivity.

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In learning settings, this also adds structure. People can understand and process what is being covered over the course of the class or lecture. In a sense, it outlines the person’s goals and intentions.

What’s also nice about to-do lists is their flexibility. For example, some people have decided to color-code tasks or use various shapes and symbols. These pull the attention of the individual and can serve as a guiding post for them.

2. Add Graphs And Charts

Adding in graphs and charts to convey ideas is another way to learn effectively. It’s along the same lines as using to-do lists, though this is more time-consuming.

Using graphs and charts can help in a wide variety of areas for personal life, and for learning. Graphs and charts can help you keep an eye on finances and budgeting for example. In learning, they can be used to convey ideas and enhance your learning.

Further exploring this, graphs can help us develop data literacy.[6] Since graphs and charts can be used in all manner of things, we can use data literacy to ask meaningful questions which can deepen our learning experience.

3. Use Mind-Mapping

Mind-mapping is a form of note-taking that specifically benefits visual learning. The idea with mind-mapping is to display relationships and connections to people, places, events and more.

This technique helps with broad learning of particular concepts, but it has other applications as well. You can use this to break down tasks – similar to to-do lists – and it can measure your productivity as well.

Learn more about mind-mapping in this article: How to Mind Map: Visualize Your Cluttered Thoughts in 3 Simple Steps

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4. Use Videos

As mentioned above, videos have a way of gripping people’s attention, so why not incorporate it into your learning?

We all have a little bit of visual learning in us, so videos greatly benefit everyone in the room. It allows us to recreate those stories into clear pictures in our minds.

I would encourage you to be creative with videos. While you can try to record the lecturer or their words can help you, it might also benefit you to record yourself and make videos explaining certain concepts. This helps with the learning process because we often use hand gestures and other techniques instinctively to say what we mean; even outside of learning atmospheres.

Final Thoughts

While visual learning has a lot of benefits, it’s not the only learning style that helps with your learning. Each learning style has its benefits and everyone has their own preferences.

The key to visual learning is that since so many of us have some visual learning aspect, we should use it to complement our learning experience. And based on the various techniques and effects, visual learning can definitely help you learn faster.

More About Learning

Featured photo credit: Chang Duong via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on October 22, 2020

7 Hardest Languages to Learn For English Speakers

7 Hardest Languages to Learn For English Speakers

What are the hardest languages to learn? It depends on what your native language is. If it’s English, you’re in the right place.

When you peel the onion back to the beginnings of language formation, such as by studying the language families tree below, you will be able to see where different languages branched off. Now, you may be able to notice why Spanish has similarities with languages like German, Italian, French, etc.

That’s why the hardest languages to learn for native Korean speakers will be different from those that are hardest for native English speakers like us. Today, we’re going to focus solely on the hardest languages to learn for English speakers (hint: they’re located in different branches on the language tree).[1]

Language tree

    If you’re looking for official statistics, the Defense Language Institute (where they teach members of the CIA foreign languages) has organized languages into four categories, the 1st Category being the easiest, and the 4th Category being the hardest languages to learn for English speakers.

    • Category 1: Spanish, Italian, French, Portuguese
    • Category 2: German, Indonesian
    • Category 3: Hebrew, Hindi, Persian Farsi, Russian, Serbian, Tagalog, Thai, Urdu, Turkish, etc.
    • Category 4: Mandarin, Korean, Japanese, Modern Standard Arabic, etc.

    Before we take a closer look and see which of the above are the most difficult languages to learn, you can check out this TED Talk with John McWhorter to help you get inspired to learn a new language:

    1. Mandarin

    Number of native speakers: 1.2 billion

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    Country with the greatest number of speakers: China

    It may be the most widely spoken language in the world, but it is particularly challenging for English speakers. It is often spoken of as being the hardest language in the world to learn (and certainly the most difficult language on this list!).

    First, since Mandarin is a tonal language, you can have a completely different meaning of a word just by changing your tone. Just take a look at this visual of the four tones, and you can begin to imagine the difficulties this could cause English speakers[2].

    Mandarin tones in one of the hardest languages to learn

      Add to that thousands of characters, complex systems, Chinese dialects, and the language’s richness in homophones,[3] and you’ve got one of the hardest languages to learn in the world.

      2. Icelandic

      Number of native speakers: 330,000

      Country with the greatest number of speakers: Iceland

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      While the Icelandic language has not changed much since the island was settled in the ninth and tenth centuries[4], it continues to add new meaning to old words. It also doesn’t help that there are fewer than 400,000 native speakers who you can learn and practice with.

      3. Japanese

      Number of native speakers: 122 million

      Country with the greatest number of speakers: Japan

      Japanese has three independent writing systems[5]: hiragana, katakana, and kanji. Before they can start writing, Japanese learners need to learn thousands of different characters in these writing systems. It is, however, significantly easier to learn than Mandarin!

      4. Hungarian

      Number of native speakers: 13 million

      Country with the greatest number of speakers: Hungary

      Most languages spoken in Europe come from the Indo-European language family shown in the tree above, but not Hungarian. It is, instead, a Finno-Ugric language[6] in which words are formed in an isolated manner.

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      In other words, it’s one of the hardest languages to learn because the word order is nothing like how English speakers normally structure words or sentences. For example, “with my [female] friend” is combined into just “barátnőmmel.” If you’re confused, don’t worry. So are we.

      5. Korean

      Number of native speakers: 66.3 million

      Country with the greatest number of speakers: South Korea

      Korean is a language isolate, which means it isn’t linked to any other language family root. It also has seven different speech levels that native speakers flip back and forth to depending on the formality. The image below just begins to scratch the surface of the complications caused by the speech levels and the use of honorifics[7]:

      korean speech levels: how to address other people

        6. Arabic

        Number of native speakers: 221 million

        Country with the greatest number of speakers: Egypt

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        Despite having 221 million native speakers you can potentially learn from, Arabic is still one of the hardest languages to learn. First, vowels are not included when writing. And, to complicate things further, most Arabic letters are written in four different forms, depending on the placement of the word.

        7. Finnish

        Number of native speakers: 5.4 million

        Country with the greatest number of speakers: Finland

        If you’ve ever watched The Lord of the Rings, you’ll know about the strange language the elves speak. The Finnish language is what the author J.R.R. Tolkien based the Elvish language on[8]. Finnish, like Hungarian, is a Finno-Ugric language in which grammar complications are taken to the extreme, which makes it difficult for English speakers.

        Furthermore, just when you’ve got the hang of translating Finnish to English, you’ll quickly find that modern Finnish speakers have their own way of expressing emotions that’s different from the traditional translation!

        The Bottom Line

        The hardest languages for English speakers to learn depends on a number of different factors, not just one. The number of speakers, the language’s origins, its similarity to English, and other factors contribute to determining how much difficulty you’ll have learning it.

        However, what’s important is not which is the hardest language to learn. As with learning any language, it comes down to how passionate you are about learning, how you’ll deal with psychological fears, and who you will go to for help.

        Every language will come with its own challenges, but it’ll also come with its own rewards, experiences, and fulfillment. Remember, whichever language you decide to learn, your time will be well worth the investment.

        More Language Learning Tips

        Featured photo credit: ORIENTO via unsplash.com

        Reference

        [1] Soho Press: THE PROTO-INDO-EUROPEAN FAMILY
        [2] MIT: Mandarin Tones
        [3] Wikipedia: Homophonic puns in Mandarin Chinese
        [4] Iceland: Language
        [5] Dartmouth: Japanese Writing Systems
        [6] Britannica: Finno-Ugric languages
        [7] LingoDeer: Korean Speech Levels
        [8] Omniglot: Quenya

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