For Visual Learners


Visual learners may prefer a strategy that allows them to see the printed word or images that trigger the memory of words.  If you keep a "PC- diary", you can use a program to color-code different kinds of words or expressions and even include pictures from a PC program's image bank to create vivid associations with some of the language you want to remember. For example:                  

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For example, one student who always remembered words as they looked written on a blackboard made notes like this:



New expressions:

Different strokes for different folks

to each his own

Variety is the spice of life


Another student chose to make color-coded notes for easily-confused idioms:

make a speech                 do the homework

make a proposal               do research

make a report (spoken)    do a report (written)

   You might also decide  to match associated images with words:

      to be tied up in red tape


to juggle many things at the same time


to take a snooze/nap


to have a safety net



to have a breakthrough

Each person has his or her own style of learning and coding language.  If you understand your style of coding, you can use it as a tool to further your learning.  Neuroscientists tell us that any given human being's brain pattern for processing language is unique.  That unique brain pattern leads to a unique way of expressing language. By putting that unique form of expression to work for us, we can use it as a tool to help us learn more language! One of the keys to successful independent learning is, "Know thyself."

    No matter what activity you choose, remember to break it down into small steps. Just start by writing a few words you want to remember in a vivid way.  Just reviewing and adding a little bit to your diary at regular intervals can help. The key to a successful study strategy is to stay with it.


Know the varieties of personal coding styles:

The Variety of Visual Learning Experiences

Below are some quotes from some individuals who reflected on the way they recall words and internally represent language to themselves.  Below each student's quote is a possible way to use that internal representation of language as a tool to prmote futher study:

1) "My native language is Chinese. When I am trying to retrieve an elusive Chinese word from memory, an image of a "screen" comes into my mind.  If I am successful at remembering the Chinese character I am looking for, it appears on the "screen".  The problem is, this 'screen' doesn't work in English. I learned English in a more 'auditory' way, like learning a song.  I have trouble spelling in English.  I wish I could make the screen work in English."



2)   "When I try to remember an elusive word, I get an image of "mist" in my mind.  I have the sense of walking through the mist and searching for the word.  When I remember the word, the mist clears."(the latter description was represented in a painting by the student, below): Laura Glenn, editor





3) "When I think of things I have to do, I 'see' them in my mind's eye, written on  list in what reminds me of a very formal notebook for bookkeeping - a kind of "abstract" form of a ledger. Everything on the list is written out very carefully.  On the other hand, when I think of less formal activities, like writing letters to friends, I inwardly "see" these things on casually torn fragments of paper ( like big pieces of confetti) with a bit of information on each piece."

                                                                               --Carmen Crosa.Spanish language teacher




4) "If I focus on a word, I see it in my mind's eye written out in capital letters.  It's very large and occupies the entire frame of "space" in my mind's eye...


Sometimes other concepts are represented as abstract shapes. A year, for example, has an abstract shape - something like a comma with a flourish" :

                                                                                                      Odile Kory, French language teacher


5) "I think of words spelled out in my mind's eye in their different letters.  If the word is short, I can see the whole thing written out.  If the word is long, however, I can only see the first few letters of it.  To be sure I'm spelling a long word correctly, I have to write it down on a piece of paper.  A long word overruns my mental space."


 --Tyler Gore, Fulbright Scholar, creative writing



6) "I think of letters of the alphabet as having different colors. "A" is orange, "B" is green, "C" is dark blue. The color of the word is usually determined by the color of its first letter. For example, the word ""boy" is green."

 --Pat Duffy, English language teacher


Sometimes, a person's unique way of coding language can be used as a tool to aid memory.  Match the styles of coding described above with the "possible tools" for aiding memory described below (the first match has been done for you):

example:    1 - f


a) possible tool: in the PC diary, represent hard-to-remember words in upper-case letters in a large font; represent numbers and names of months in target language within or next to the abstract shape representing a year (or 'personal' abstract shapes representing other time words)

b) possible tool: in the PC diary, write hard-to-remember words in colors matching the words'  first letters

c) possible tool: represent the image of the "abstract ledger" in the PC diary. Type words that need to be remembered within this image. Write all formal vocabulary in a formal ledger-like image on the PC-screen and informal vocabulary (social, travel, etc.) against a "confetti" image (like template #  in Powerpoint)

d) possible tool: write hard-to-remember words within a simple sketch of the familiar "clearing mist"

e)  possible tool: in the PC diary, type the first three letters of the word in a larger font than the others - as this match the internal image that is the 'natural trigger' for remembering the entire word  

f) possible tool: represent the image of a screen in the PC-diary. Type hard-to-remember words or "formula phrases" used in writing letters, memos, or other written forms inside the "screen image" as a memory trigger




For auditory learners 

For auditory learners   

Auditory learners may want to keep a PC-diary in auditory form by making a recording of the words and phrases they want to remember. You may want to do the recordings yourself or else download phrases or songs containing words or expressions you'd like to remember from Internet video and radio clips.  Set aside a regular time to review the sound clips already in your PC-diary and to download one or two more.

For kinetic learners 

"My native language is French, and my second language is German.  The word order in German is different from that of French. In German, the verb is at the end of the sentence.  When I am constructing a sentence in German, I inwardly feel myself "flying" with the verb to the end of the sentence."

possible tool: kinetic learners like to have a sense of moving and manipulating language - play the "scrambled word" game: write each word of a sentence or expression you want to remember on a different index card.  First, scramble the cards; then, arrange the cards so the words are in the correct order.

One kinetic learner recorded this in his PC-diary:

"Whenever I'm trying to remember a word - and feel that it is 'right on the tip of my tongue' - but I just can't recall it - I feel my shoulders and arms tense up.  When I remember the word, I relax." 

This person later reported:

" I discovered that when I tried to remember a word, if I deliberately focused on my shoulders and arms, I could sometimes bring the word to memory faster."

Put your plan into action

Computer technology gives us the possibility to tailor our PC-diaries to fit our own unique stored memories of  language.  As such, the diaries can be helpful and unique creations. 

You may want to start just by writing a brief description (just a sentence or two) about how you internally represent information (visually, aurally, kinetically, etc.). You may want to make a PC-diary using images from a computer program or from the Internet to match what you experience internally.  If you would like to try this, launch MS-word.  Then, save your PC-diary entry on a disk.  You might want to bring this disk with you whenever you work at the Self-Study Centre.  

take a learning style quiz                develop a study strategy



Do any of the above descriptions remind you of your own way of internalizing language?  If so, which one?  If not, how do you internally represent language for yourself?    If any of the above descriptions sound strange to you, any of the above descriptions sound unusual to you, keep in mind what Sir Francis Galton, a renowned nineteenth-century British scientist said:  

 "The differences between [people] is profound, and we can only save ourselves from living in blind unconsciousness of our own mental peculiarities, by informing ourselves as well as we can, of those of others."  (Inquiries into the Human Faculty, 1890)

Put more positively, we could say, there is much to be gained by better knowing the variety of ways we represent language to ourselves - the diversity of "internal landscapes" that human beings experience.

Write your own description of how you code language in your PC-diary.  Then, reflect on how you might use your own personal code as a tool for  learning.

The simple exercises below may help you determine what type of learner you are:

Think of your name.  What comes into your mind?  Do you inwardly 'see' your name written out in its letters?  If so, are the letters in script or in print?  If they are in script, whose handwriting is it?  If they are in print, are they in capital letters, standard print or another kind of print?  What color is the print?

 On the other hand, when you think of your may , inwardly 'see' an image.  What image do you see?

It's also possible that you may inwardly 'hear' something when you think of your name?  Do you hear someone calling your name?  If so, whose voice do you hear?

You may also, inwardly feel something when you say your name. Some kinetic learners report inwardly experiencing the motion of writing their signature as they think of their name; others report a sense of walking as if responding to someone calling their names.  What do you experience?

Share your PC-diary:  You may want to show your PC-diary to other students who are also keeping one - it can be enlightening to see the very different ways students conceive of language.


1) What kind of learner do you think you are?  visual? auditory?  kinetic? Why do you think so?  First write a few sentences by reflecting on your learning style. If any of the descriptions written above remind you of your own way of coding, you may refer to them too.

2) Write a vocabulary item you would like to remember in your PC diary.  How might you represent this item so you could better retain it?  By writing it in color?  By associating it with an image?  By associating it with an experience (using the term to describhe something that really happened to you)? By having  a recording of it?

3) After you have written several vocabulary items you would like to remember, think about how you would like to organize them.  Alphabetically?  By subject category?  By their source?

4) Prepare to share the beginning of your PC-diary with the other members of the group next week. Explain why you have decided to experiment with representing and categorizing the terms in your chosen way.

5) Next week you will add at least three more terms to your PC-diary in your chosen method of coding.  Share these terms with the other members of the group, who may, in turn, want to code the expressions in their chosen way.  Compare your methods of coding with theirs.

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