Reflections Of A Visual-Spatial Language Learner
- Written byDonovan Nagel
- Read time8 mins
Every language that you learn after your second language is easier than the one you learned before it.
You’ve probably heard other people say that before and if you’ve learned a few languages yourself then you’ll no doubt agree that as you become a more experienced language learner over time, the entire process of learning a new language gets a lot easier.
This is especially true for languages that are a part of the same family, e.g. going from Italian to Spanish to French.
If you’re a bit of an IT geek like me, going from Italian to Spanish is comparable to switching from C to C++. You’ve covered all the foundational stuff – it’s just a matter of learning a new syntax et voilà.
But even in a much more general way, once you’ve learned another language you start to become much more aware of what to look out for in another language, e.g. grammar and syntax differences, phonetics, certain high frequency vocabulary etc. I’m confident that if I wanted start learning Mongolian for example (a language that I haven’t got a clue about), I’d be able to jump straight in and know what to look for. It’d be easier for me to learn than for a monolingual person trying to learn their first foreign language.
After the second language the linguistic equivalent of culture shock is over and it all gets less daunting.
The main reason why your third and fourth languages are easier than your second
You start to learn more about yourself.
Languages like so many other pursuits reveal more about our own selves and this in turn helps us to grow and become more mature intellectually.
When I started out learning my first foreign language back in my teens I had no idea how to approach it or what to look for. I was a complete n00b (‘newbie’ in Old Geekish) and reliant on my teacher to guide and instruct me as so many adult learners of a second language are.
These days I’ve learned so much about my own personality, my learning style and what learner ‘type’ I am, and it’s all helped me to make adjustments in how I structure my studies and tackle new problems.
How being a visual-spatial learner affects language learning
One of the many things I’ve learned about myself over the years is that I’ve always been a visual-spatial learner which greatly disadvantaged me growing up.
I failed high school.
On my leaving certificate I had a fail mark on every single subject except music which I aced (I’m pretty good with music theory and I play a few instruments).
Because my school grades were so abysmal, no university would accept me so I had to start out at Diploma level and I failed the whole first year of my Diploma. Despite this I managed to barely convince the college to allow me into Bachelor level study (I was fortunate that intake was low at the time so they reluctantly let me try my luck).
I then failed nearly all of my subjects in the first year of my Bachelor.
You can probably imagine how discouraging all these bad grades were! Many times I nearly gave up study altogether to join a trade but a few supportive people convinced me to stick with it.
Long story short, years later I hit almost straight A’s in my Masters and became one of the top achievers in my university at the time (at this point I was so fed up with failure!).
The reason why I mention my failed grades like this is because like many other people I’m a visual-spatial learner and had to discover this through lots of trial and error and then work out how to use it to my advantage in learning.
Eventually I was able to structure my own self-learning in a way that was hugely advantageous to my studies.
A visual-spatial learner struggles immensely with syllabi and structured courses.
The majority of people are not visual-spatial but rather sequential learners and actually prefer to sit down and follow a course book from the first chapter through to the final chapter with a teacher directing them.
They also learn well with audio material. They generally take note of the minor details and work through problems in a proper sequence to arrive at an answer.
People like myself however either can’t, or find it very difficult to work like this. Although I have sat down and worked through books from start to finish in the past, I detest this way of learning and prefer to skip over the details for the whole answer immediately and then work it out my own way.
In school and then college I would often arrive at an understanding of a particular concept or the answer, but I’d work it out in a way that I couldn’t explain properly. This is one of the reasons why visual-spatial learners tend to be regarded as having a learning disorder.
I remember when I was working on a Hebrew exegetical project on Amos (Hebrew scriptures) with a friend in college (he was a sequential learner and thus we were very different learners). I quickly came up with a solution to a translation problem, but being a visual-spatial learner I couldn’t properly explain my reasoning. He worked out a much less innovative solution to the problem and received a high mark, whereas I got a low mark even though my answer was far better.
I just struggled like other visual-spatial learners to explain how I found my answer and this caused major problems for me in exams when trying to recall minor details and facts.
My mum’s always told me that as a young kid I used to destroy radios and anything electrical or mechanical because I wanted to know how they worked. She said I always wanted to see how the components fit together to work as a whole. I recently discovered that this is a fairly common trait with visual-spatial kids.
My approach to study even today is the same – I start with the conclusion or the complete concept and I break it down or disassemble it to piece it back together.
Languages actually turned me from an academic failure into a success story
You know it wasn’t until I took up Greek and Hebrew in college that things began to really change for me. I discovered that being a visual-spatial learner could actually be advantageous, especially in terms of memorization.
Remember when I talked about image association and attaching meaning to real, tangible things and experiences? When I was studying Greek I started visualizing everything that I learned – it was like I had a huge glass screen in front of me with words and pictures on it – it was a completely visual experience for me.
I struggle to recall stuff that I hear but if I actually see it or some representation, it sticks. I write it up on the imaginary glass wall in my mind and it helps me remember everything.
I aced Greek and Hebrew.
I then started to apply this to my other subjects and suddenly I started getting good grades. What also helped me was that most of my subjects were offered in either English, or Greek and Hebrew so I chose Greek and Hebrew which meant that I could continue to apply and use my languages for all my subjects.
When writing an essay I would write my conclusion out first and work backwards, disassembling the idea with lots of brain-mapping diagrams on paper and visual aids, and then piece it all back together coherently. I would arrive at a conclusion very early on (as visual-spatial learners tend to do), then I’d work in reverse (making changes to my conclusion along the way).
It’s not a very orthodox way to write and argue in academic papers but the good results and newly discovered passion for learning are all that matter at the end of the day!
These are some adjustments I’ve made to my language learning strategy as a visual-spatial learner:
- I don’t bother with step-by-step coursework.
- I ensure that all audio material I use is accompanied by something visual, e.g. transcripts or images.
- I guide my language teachers to teach me the areas that I know I need. I don’t rely on them for structure.
- I jump straight in to complex, natural language material even if I don’t understand anything and work backwards, breaking it down over time.
- I completely avoid rote memorization which is useless to me
- I use flashcards with whole sentences, phrases and pictures rather than single words
Are you a visual-spatial or sequential learner?
The majority of people reading this are probably sequential (normal) learners.
Generally speaking (and I know that many things exist on a spectrum so it’s not all black and white – apologies if I offend anyone), you will work best with structured material.
If you find that a language course book and an experienced teacher steering you in a set direction helps you then stick with it.
I’d love to hear your input on this topic in the comment section below. What are your experiences as either a sequential or visual-spatial learner?
I’m going to email out a quick survey soon with a few questions to help you work out what type of learner you are and how you can use that information to create an optimal language learning strategy. If you’re not on the mailing list, you can join it by entering your email in the ‘Join the Guild’ box at the top of this page.
If you found this post useful or interesting, please share it around. Thanks! 🙂
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I have been looking into learning the Korean language and have been so disheartened, before I even started; then I read your story and I am full of excitement that I can try to apply the “glass screen technique” to my learning style. I am a visual-spatial learner which was also always a problem for me; I also have hyperphantasia (very clear minds eye - like it’s really there) and chromesthesia which is a type of synesthesia and no inner voice which makes reading very difficult. I have been Googling to see if I should give up before I’ve started but you have encouraged me. I know I can master the Korean alphabet so maybe I’m half way there. Thank you for sharing your story, it’s meant so much to me xx
William Joseph Prophet
As someone who dropped out of a highly respected Engineering program at a highly respected University (University of Florida), this article resonates with me deeply. Since then, I did work a sh**** retail job for a year and a half. Now I’ve joined an indentured trade school program, and I’m slowly becoming an electrician. It kind of changed my life, going from such high aspirations and failing and then going into something simple and unimpressive (to some, no offense) and excelling greatly at it. I feel much more confident, and I feel much more encouraged to take another shot at engineering one day.
Furthermore, I self-taught myself some other skills along the way (I’m learning Hindi, I finally learned how to make music on a laptop, I fell in love with cooking, I’m currently also trying to learn some finance and economics). This has taught ME how I LEARN and also the reason why I failed in college.
Point is, i completely agree with this article. I had a terrible time in college, and I’ve learned a lot about myself after dropping out. As a visual/spatial learner, I have realized that the method in which I learn something is VITAL to actually mastering it. Learning from a course is useful, but it puts me at a HUGE disadvantage because of my learning style.
If this sounds familiar to you at all, or even if it doesn’t, but you are also slipping in your school work, I HIGHLY encourage you to take a 2 year break, and re-assess what is important to you, and what you need in your life. I used to get anxiety from school, because I thought I had no other choice (My parents made me go). I now realize that this anxiety goes away once I do not have the pressure of timelines, and familial expectations. I learn much better when I teach myself, and most importantly, when I WANT to learn something. Take a break from school if you feel you can’t do it. Take a sh**** job like I did if you need extra motivation.
The economy is about to go in the toilet, and only skilled workers and college graduates will be able to live comfortably in the future. I hope I’m wrong about that, but I highly doubt it. Either way, GO GET EDUCATED, MORE MONEY EQUALS MORE FREEDOM. (an unfortunate truth about our society).
Kia Ora Donovan,
I just discovered your website yesterday when looking for Glossika reviews. I am extremely interested in your method to learn languages for a VS learner. I am an English tutor and know at least one ex-client who like you struggled to learn via traditional sequential methods. She has done the rounds of several local ESL schools, including some time with me. She is highly VS as an interior designer, and I can now see her problem. She wants to achieve IELTS/PTE, for different reasons, including polytechnic study.
My Q: which of all the learning resources you have listed here would in your opinion be most beneficial to her? I know most of them, and will likely use Glossika myself, to get started with Chinese! On that note, where should I begin!?
Many thanks! Maureen
I happened upon your site because I am frustrated with my current language course. I am in Seminary (online) and our Greek class is just Mounce’s materials. Before learning biblical Greek, I have never struggled so much with a language. I studied German and French in both highs chool and college. In the workplace, I learned enough Spanish to communicate with my non-English speaking coworkers.
Several years ago I began learning Hebrew because we attended a Messianic assembly and it was integrated into the worship services. The majority of the Hebrew I knew was from music and repetitive speech (e.g., the Shema, blessings, etc). I would also submerge myself in Hebrew word studies and watch some of the plethora of videos online about Hebrew words and letters.
Needless to say, I was highly confident in my ability to learn Hebrew and to do well in my Seminal classes. Because I have always seen learning languages as not too difficult of a task, I expected to also do well in Greek, although with some reservations since I was unfamiliar with it for the most part. At first, I was positively surprised at how much I already could understand because of similarities to English and I was coming along nicely with the noun system.
Then I hit the pronoun system, prepositions, participles, and conjunctions and I began to flounder. Then we began the verbal system and I became totally lost. That was months ago. And did I mention that my school’s online classes cram a sixteen week program into eight? As you know, languages take time and having to do twice the amount of work each week in a foreign language leaves one’s mind swimming.
I have listened to the vocabulary cd so many times. I have tried using Mounce’s flashworks program (like flashcards - I have never benefited from flash cards so I don’t use them). I have to translate things and I miss the same words over, and over, and over. Because the verbs change form so much, I often don’t even recognize them.
So I decided to use my valuable time to search the internet for a solution, figuring that even if it takes up some of my time, if I find something that is helpful, it will put me on the fast track (or at least a faster one) and I came across your site (https://www.mezzoguild.com/koine-greek-isnt-hard/). Watching the video you have there was like a breath of fresh air. Even though I didn’t follow every word, it was so much easier to understand.
I think I must share characteristics of both styles of learning, because I can be both a “big picture” guy, and very detailed. That being said, reading nonfiction is soooo time consuming for me. I am such a slow reader when reading for information (even though I know methods to speed that up, I often unconsciously revert back when I try them). Fiction is easy to read, and I have no problem listening to audio. In fact, I have found a way to make my computer read my textbooks to me and it has helped so much. Videos are only helpful insofar as they incorporate images. In fact, I do much better with anything nonfiction that has pictures, charts, side-notes, graphs, or any other image material that breaks up the monotony of the pages and pages of material.
I think a lot of this points to visual-spatial learning. I can easily connect the dots between different concepts and can often remember things and make connections that others can’t. I can remember biblical concepts, and sometimes even quote word for word, but I struggle with remembering what chapter or verse something came from.
Although I can usually manage fairly well in the typical systematic approach, I think I probably lean more towards the visual-spatial learning style. Unlike you I didn’t fail high school, but I did become bored with it and focused more on “right brain” activities like art and video production.
So where do I go from here? I have seven more weeks of Beginning Greek II (the second half of Mounce’s BBG). How do I learn Greek in my strongest learning style and still do well in the course by completing the exercises they have us do?
If you have suggestions, I am all ears!
I am homeschooling my 10 year old son who is very visual-spatial. I knew this about him intrinsically, but it took a recent education evaluation for me to know how very visual he is. Not only is he very high VS on an IQ test, but he’s also quite low on the auditory side and has mild dysgraphia (so handwriting and fine motor skills are slow and frustating). I so appreciated your article. My son loves learning Latin and mathematics bc I have chosen curricula that is highly visual. He struggles with history, literature, etc. that requires lots of reading (he’s excellent at reading but has terrible comprehension). Any ideas on how to make history and lit more visual? Thanks!
I know I’ll probably get some negative feedback for this, but there’s no evidence to support the idea of “learning styles.” It’s a myth.
This is interesting.... I’ve always considered myself a visual person, but I also learn well through reading and writing. The thing is... reading and writing for me is very visual.
I learned to read Hindi in a few weeks because it’s easy for me to learn new symbols for concepts, aka, a letter represents a sound. But after 5+ years, I still strain to understand Hindi when spoken. This has been frustrating, and it dawned on me that the people I know who learned quickly are not only sequential learners, but simply more audial. They naturally learn through hearing and participating.
Even in my native English, people dumping a lot of verbal info on me is overwhelming. I just don’t process that way. As a kid, I drew a lot because visual expression was easier. Ironically, I also learned to love the written word and express myself better in writing than speaking, but there’s a big difference between written language and audial language. So as a kid, I did well in school because I tuned out the teacher and figured things out myself! I can relate to starting with the end or a whole concept, then dissecting it. That’s how I tend to think also. However, I am less hands-on and more comfortable with written language.
I can follow a typical language course and learn to read and write because of that. I can also learn coding languages. But coding languages aren’t spoken....and so just as if I was learning a coding language, traditional language learning teaches me a kind of VISUAL structure that represents concepts. I understand it logically, and I can blow through grammar lessons like they’re nothing, yet not understand any of it if I heard it. But this doesn’t teach me to speak or - possibly more importantly - to understand the spoken language.
I always have a gap with the written and spoken basically. It’s because they don’t teach you to connect a visual concept with a sound. Instead you connect a concept to a visual sentence structure or written word, and the you try to connect the written word to the sound, and now you’ve just missed half of what someone said because you’re trying to translate and comprehend their point at the same time.
I’ve always kinda known I need to cut out the middle step when it comes to spoken language, but most tools out there don’t connect visual straight to audio. The audio is usually connected to words, which are then connected to a concept in your native language. They teach you to translate, not understand a new sound for a concept you already know.
Anyway, this was helpful for me to articulate what’s been missing for me with language learning, but it’s also frustrating there aren’t more learning resources for visual people.
have you launched that survey as mentioned in the article? I would love to take one..as an English teacher, your article for extremely beneficial. But on contrary, mainly to realize, that I press visual-spacial approach during my lessons as believing this was the fastest way to mastering the language heaven for all...my poor step-by-step learners :-)
I think I learn language somewhat visually, and maybe even other things visually, although I didn’t see much in your post that really related so much to me.
I’m currently in the early stages of learning Indonesian using a popular website online that gives free MP3 lessons. When they pronounce a word on the MP3, I write it down phonetically and what it means. I’ve found when I speak words back, my mind automatically visualises where on the page the word is, and sometimes even the syllables as I have written them. When putting together a sentence to say in Indonesian, my mind “references” several different pages of my notebook back and forward as I’m talking.
It feels kind of weird, but it’s working. Saya bisa bicara Bahasa Indonesia.
In primary school, I saw the days of the week presented in the shape of an oval. Even today when I’m thinking of the days of the week, I see them presented in the same oval shape. I guess I’ve always learnt this way but it required me to learn another language in order to really realise this. That part of your post really spoke to me, in that I learnt more about the way I learn, by learning another language.
”In primary school, I saw the days of the week presented in the shape of an oval. Even today when I’m thinking of the days of the week, I see them presented in the same oval shape.”
I just thought I’d let you know that you probably have time-space synesthesia. You might want to look into it if you haven’t already.
Dimitris, thank you! I was in the same situation as you were, knowing that I’m smart but failed in two colleges(medicine and computer science), and trying to find my career path while I had the problem that you mentioned in your post.
You are a blessing, thank you!
Wow, thank you for this! FInally someone understands me lol. I like to believe that I am a fairly smart person, but on standardized tests...I’m an idiot! I will def incorporate your tips in learning Spanish.
Thanks Donovan for the post. While I am a visual-spatial learner when it comes to language learning, audio material is an effective way for me to learn a new language and to improve in a new language. Images are still created in my mind whether I listen to them or read them. Usually I think in images rather than in words. It’s only if I have to share the pictures with somebody else that I need to formulate a spoken or written sentence in some language or other in order to try to convey what I see in my mind.
Ugh, thank you! I’ve been beating myself up for being “not committed” to learning ASL (and other languages), because I tell myself that I’m going to do lessons 1-50, one lesson per week. But then I end up skipping out on lessons and instead picking a story or song I like and teaching myself how to sign it in ASL, gradually working out how to adjust for ASL’s unique grammar. I also write papers starting from the conclusion (and teach all my writing students to do the same...)
I’ve created a “bilingual” visual spatial keyboard that helps me translate words into unique visual patterns.
I’d love your feedback on it.
Send me a link to it and I’ll take a look.
I’m a visual learner and this article totally makes sense! Do you have any tips for speaking the language fluently without accent? I tried different methods for years but without apparent success. I have no problem reading/translating, but when it comes to speaking and expressing idea into words, real struggle!
Ron Moose Casey
Thanks for revealing all this man.... once again I must say you are inspiring, lad!
Gracias por la información.... eres y estás genial....
Love this post! I can relate to this and while currently learning Tajiki in Tajikistan I have been having great success with the GPA language learning method. It is learner-driven, works with pictures, videos, and relationships with local language helpers, usually not teachers so that you are working in a conversational and colloquial environment from the beginning. I will occasionally dip into a grammar book to look something up both in eight months (this is my first foreign language) I am speaking comfortably and teaching CrossFit classes at the new gym I opened here.
This was so immensely helpful. I have had a lifelong love of learning, and now I feel, no kidding, like I am no longer floating in the mist of “Dude, I absolutely love this material, why the hell can’t I remember it”. I can now confidently say, “I love this stuff, and it’s going to be within my conscious grasp for good”. Bam!!!
So much love for this blog.
Thank you so f’ing much!
I’m for certain a visual learner and I’m presently finding French a very hard language for me to learn. I’m not retaining what I’m learning and there are no classes available to take so all of my learning is self directed. Do you have any online sites that you would recommend for a visual learner? Or any specific strategies? I just found this site so I see I’m a few years late to the conversation.
I had no trouble with French in school and then later in life, funnily enough, but when learning Indonesian I’ve found I have good retention when I write the pronunciation of each word and its meaning into a notebook. This allows me to revise on-the-go, and as I’m recalling each word my mind’s eye sees the pages of the notebook and the position each word is on the page.
Thoroughly enjoyed your article. My grade 6 kidlet who is a VSL with APD (Auditory Processing Difficulty) aced Mandarin and Music this semester. The Mandarin grade was a total surprise so off to google I go trying to get some insight (is it the teaching or talent or both...) and find a local lad sharing his story of both VS learning and learning languages. Thank You!
I am a visual spatial learner and visual artist - not a surprise!
I would really like to learn a Gaelic language - but am worried as I was fairly terrible at languages in high school and subsequent efforts. How did you begin? I am also not a big book learner and do better figuring things out
This point is interesting to me: most of the considerations about language learning regards “standard people”. But that standard doesn’t exist. We are all, in a way, at least slightly affected by some “deviation” from the supposed standard.
So I think I have something to learn from all the person that can attest their own way they in which have faced life.
Recently I learnt of this figure, a swedish sailor, Sven Yrvind, that is affected by dyslexia, but he managed -I don’t know how- to learn a few foreign languages at a certain level (he claims to read very technical stuff).
In this article
he say: “ I’ll have lots of mathematics books, also books in French and German: books that will take me longer to read. “
in one of the threads of his blog, he says: “ I read books in the following languages Swedish, Danish, Norwegian, English, French, German “
I am amazed of how he could have managed to face similar challenges, due the fact that he is a dyslexic.
I do think I’m a visual learner. Would you please forward me the link for the survey you mentioned on the post?
I’m as audio-sequential as they come but my best friend is a VSL. She suffered throughout high school and was often branded a ‘slow learner’. In India, music and foreign languages are not offered as part of the curriculum ( unless you are the uber-rich public school going type) so she grew up believing she was incapable of learning. And I always knew that nothing is further from the truth.
I’m a research scholar now and I’m working to spread awareness about VSL in a country where language techniques introduced by the Brits during the colonial era are still practiced with religious zeal. Stumbling across this article has proven to be incredibly lucky and I thank you for being so candid about your experiences as a VSL.
Definitely joining the guild :-) Thank you once again.
I have just discovered that I am a Visual learner, but also dyslexic.
I am trying to learn Japanese and Chinese. I progressed rapidly for 2 years, but have been on a plateau for 10 years.
I realise now that I can’t get beyond the intermediate stage because I’m not very good at reading and writing English let alone another language.
Everywhere I look online says reading is the only way to increase vocabulary. Listening does even less for me. But it does nothing for me. Is there any other way?
Also. I have also started imagining pictures to help remember words. It works like magic!
But the majority of words are not imaginable. How do you image abstract academic words.
In order to imagine abstract concepts, I relate them to a bunch non-abstract concepts (or objects ). Everything is interconnected. Then, I may put these objects in a scene in my head and enter that scene whenever I encounter the abstract word. Hope that helps
Very Proud VSL
I am a proud VSL, And recently discovered that I am dyslexic and dyspraxia (just
Ike Einstein and Steve Jobs were and RIchard BRanson is now). These are labelled as “disabilities” under many countries equality acts of law. They are a different way of processing information in the brain which brings extreme strengths and some weaknesses. However, due to the “standard” structure which society follows, this learning difference can cause the person to be substantially disadvantaged. This is why it is recognized as a disability and both educational institutions and employers are required by the law in most countries to make “reasonable adjustments”. If you have a learning difference, stand up for your rights and make sure your teachers and employers comply with the law. Inspiring website and article. Thank you.
It is so so wonderful to read this. I have begun to suspect that my 9 year old is a visual spatial learner. When she was younger she really struggled with poor short term memory, learning to read was difficult and just remembering any kind of sequence was almost impossible for her - She is extremely unorganised and creates a crazy mess wherever she goes. She is amazingly creative and can make wonderful things from anything, she never follows instructions she can just see how things are meant to be. I have gone from worrying that she is maybe dyslexic to thinking she is just a visual spatial learner. She has been homeschooled/unschooled so has been able to learn in her own way at her own time so her learning style has never really hindered here but has now entered school in fact a French school which she does not speak yet, but is keen to learn. I have been worried about how she will do, so have been researching on ways I can help her and have been finding using picture associations has been helping greatly I am hoping the immersion will work for her, but we are also using linkword languages with her to help build her vocabulary up. It is wonderful to read of so many success stories with this style of learning that often is seen as a hindrance
I’m a visual spatial learner, too. I routinely miss things in instructions, and then people get angry with my because they think I’m not paying attention or am sloppy or careless. I did poorly in school. Because of the way they teach how to pronounce and spell words, their are words to this day I cannot pronounce right or spell right. I learned them wrong, and they stayed wrong. I also had problems with an algebra class where I jumped to the answer, got it right, but never got any of the formulas right. It was very frustrating, because I was trying so hard, and I kept getting the impression everyone thought I was not trying at all.
As an adult, I have a terrible time with anything list related. If I make a grocery list, I will miss getting at least one item on it and have to go back, and manage to miss another. Yet, I can walk into the story without a list, wander around, and not miss a single thing. Recipes were just as bad. I’d start making the recipe, and then suddenly realized I’d skipped an entire step -- and it was always the most important step. I don’t use recipes any more.
My writing has been the real challenge. I write fiction, and for years, I had no idea I was leaving out all the details. Hardest has been getting setting and visual details in. I often end up feeling like I have to do a checklist to get the basic five senses in, and it always feels like I’m shoehorning it into the story. Yet, I do better if I think of the setting as a character, where if you removed it, the story would not happen.
But at the moment, I’m frustrating a writing instructor because I can’t get any details into the workshop exercises, and the more I try, the more it distorts other elements. Plus, I keep missing things in the instructions. I think the most frustrating thing about being visual spatial is missing the details. I read things over 4-5 times, trying to catch what I might be missing. But if I don’t see it, I don’t see it. Yet, when people see the things I miss, they berate me like I didn’t bother to check my work. So it’s like I’m at war with details and the way my brain works.
I just typed in visual learner good languages music into google and found your site.
I am a VSL and so is my 10 year old daughter. Her best subjects at school are languages and music, which one would think are the only subjects that actually really require audio skills! Thank you so much for putting down your thoughts. I struggled through school and uni, knowing I was smart but always being average in tests. I am fine now, just like you I have learnt how to learn.
Thanks for sharing. I am also a Visual-Spatial learner. I understand completly about writting the conclusion and working backwards this has been the best way for me to get a paper done as long as I can remember. I remember first realizing this is what I did in about grade 9 when we were told we needed to hand in an outline for a paper the next week and then would have 3 weeks to write the paper. I really struggled to even start and then finally did what I normally did and wrote the paper and then made the outline at the end handed in the outline and 3 weeks later handed in the paper I had already completed. In college I would often research for a paper and then just sit there looking at my notes for a while then start circling things and drawing lines to match them up and then number them in the order they should go and just string them together into a paper because I already knew what the conclusion was I was just needing to get to it. . Another thing I find helpful esspecially when needing to study for a test is to go through my notes (and doodles) and make study notes and then colour coordinate them all with my set of highlighters. This is helpful when for example in the test we are needing the deffinition of a certain word as I visualize the page and know I am looking for the blue secions (I always use blue for deffinitions). Anyway it is helpful to me.
This was exactly me in my Greek class. I tried flash cards and rote learning, but once I tried matching the words up with images, I never looked back.
I also love using the service mural.ly which enables you to use imagery and post it notes and colour, online, to make a mural. Very useful in summarising information, and more visual than mind maps.
Nice to read this article.
I´ve been learning portuguese (spanish is my mother tongue) and I have been really frustrated with my latest teacher. He only uses the whiteboard when I specifically ask him.
Even though spanish and portuguese are very similar, the pronunciation of some letters is totally different. Today is “hoy” in spanish, “hoje” in portuguese and it is pronunced like the italian “oggi”. Words don´t stick until I see them. Then, I can “deduct” how they sound. No use in hearing them. When the teacher spells the word, it is a little more helpful.
Last week the subject was how to transform “Discurso direto” to “Discurso indireto”
I felt clueless. Not until I found myself a nice presentation in SlideShare, I began to understand how verbs should change tense in order to transform a dialog to indirect speech.
Must talk to my teacher! :D
I already heard before that I was a visual spatial learner, but I still need some help to learn new languages. I wouldn’t know how to do it by steps. I realized that I learn more by watching TV in a particular language than actually following a book. I really want to learn German, but there are so many rules I have no clue how to make that into a visual learning.
At least your post give me some hope I can make it someday
Wow, it’s neat that you wrote about this; and a coincidence that you mentioned Mongolian. I did learn Mongolian as a second language, and I struggled at first. I eventually figured out that if I saw the word written out, and how it is spelled, I could almost always remember it. Several of my friends could just pick up words from hearing them, but I never could, no matter how many times I heard it. I would always carry a piece of paper and a pen and ask someone to spell new words for me. When I started doing that, my vocabulary increased greatly. I’d write them all in my notebook later, and just a few times of looking at them would cement them in my head.
Hmmm that was an interesting read. Makes me wonder if I am somewhat Visual-Spatial. It might be that I just dislike structured A-B learning. I’d rather just pick whichever parts I feel like at the time and eventually I understand more.
Just turned 64 and last year I found out I was a visual-spatial learner. It explained so much to me and made me understand why I had so much trouble learning things in the traditional ways but seemed to be brilliant in figuring things out in my own way. One very disturbing thing happened to me a few days ago.... I inadvertently arranged the items on my desktop and instantly all the files and pictures I had so carefully placed in certain areas of my desktop were now “scattered” in a uniform, symetrical way either by alpha sorting or date sorting. It took me oaver 1/2 hr. to find everything and put it back (physically) where it was before.
I then remembered in childhood when my mother decided she was tired of waiting for me to clean my room and did it herself. I was furious and extremely disoriented and couldn’t explain that feeling, so all she saw was “mad”!
At this “late” age I’m a return college student and have some difficultly explaining to my instructors about my learning style. I just told my physical geology teacher that I’m a visual spatial learner and he said, “well, in my academia we look at that as kind of airy fairy.... so I really can’t accommodate that.” I hadn’t expected him to, but I was trying to get through to him that I just cannot ram things by rote into my brain. He shows us, (and I google) samples of various igneous, metamorphic, and sedentary rocks..... but the rocks I find never look exactly like the pictures so I feel very lost and stupid.
What kind of help can I hope to get and where should I seek such help so I can do well in classes that are very challenging, like this one? Would appreciated answers! thx, judy
Great article! Everything would be so much better if people stopped using previous language learning failures in high school as a reference for “the real world”. Schools cater to one or a few ways of learning, and, just as you point out, that doesn’t necessarily suit all students. Method does matter.
I also like how you worded this piece of advice: “I guide my language teachers to teach me the areas that I know I need. I don’t rely on them for structure.”
Almost no-one follows this advice, but everyone should. I’ve written about something similar here (taking responsibility yourself, even when enrolled in a language course).
Very true. It is a problem that schools only cater for specific types and this is a huge problem for visual-spatial kids because most teachers aren’t trained to recognize these kinds of issues.
Great post too :)
As you say there is a continuum of personality traits, but I definitely have a lot of visual-spacial in me.
I love languages, but not as you might expect to speak them, even though I am fluent in three and able to communicate in at least two more.
To learn the structure of Hebrew grammar I skimmed a couple of books and websites, and to learn the alefbet I made a parallel diagram of the Phoenician, the Hebrew, the Greek, the Latin, and the Russian alphabets, learning them all at once along with IPA pronunciation notes.
I remembering taking Latin in school, thinking everybody else was so slow in understanding the basic grammar. Sadly because of this we never made it to the advanced stuff.
I basically see a word once and remember the spelling for ever (basically!).
I can skim through a book at a speed of 5 sec per page and spot almost every spelling and punctuation error.
As you do, I learn a language by getting an advanced sample text and then working it out, often writing my own grammar (in my head or on paper) as I go.
I got immensely frustrated by university English grammar class when they didn’t separate discourse/transcription( broad, narrow) /text/thematic roles/syntax/parts of speech in a way that was easily absorbed by the other students. They ended up confusing subject and agent, noun phrase and noun and so forth, for no good reason at all. I had a mental hierarchy in my head so for me it wasn’t any problem.
As for music, my ability to enjoy it is closely related to my ability to visualise it. I tend to experience a song as a music video that remains the same even a decade later.
I find that people often don’t understand what I’m talking about since I can be highly speculative and theoretic, requiring for my friends to swiftly imagine nebulous concepts and structures.
I know some of my friends will drive the wrong way if not actively paying attention to every step of the road, loading info about where to turn next as they go. Myself I have no problem visualizing a 200 mile trip in a matter of seconds.
When I want to orient myself inside a large building I visualize the whole building as far as i know it with transparent walls and floors and zoom out until standing in the air outside the building seeing myself and the buildning in relation to the surrounding landscape.
I never liked school, finding the learning process slow and syrupy. I preferred to go home and teach whatever it was to myself.
For the same reason I quit art school (yes even art school). They required us to repeat repeat repeat. I would think about the task until undertanding the idea behind the challenge (perspective or whatever) and then draw it a couple of times until satisfied. Voilà! No, I could not draw a perfect circle, who can? But I could understand the transformation of 3D to 2D and eye-to-hand coordination. Easy, but while the rest of the class were still very much struggling with elipses I would grow bored and leave, eventually dropping out to become a freelance illustrator.
I very much enjoyed this article! Thank you for sharing. I hope I didn’t write too long a comment. :)
Thanks for sharing your own experience, Filip! :)
I am very much like you Filip, sounds have visual representations in my head. I can learn languages simultaneously (I prefer different language families when doing simultaneous study to avoid cognate exchange) because I experience them differently like eating a chunky salsa versus a soft cupcake. The internal rhythms of the language have acoustic patterns which translate to visual patterns in my head. I, at times, use mental imagery to secure words, but it is usually enough to simply hear the word because it adopts its own texture, shape, and mood. I definitely have a visual memory because i can see the spelling of words and even the spelling (regardless of phonetics) can tint the hue of a word...(so its more like recalling a moving painting than having to remember spelling). That being said, I feel that I might have some synesthetic (aural->visual) connections that enhance my ability with words. I understand where you are coming from Filip when you say, “I find that people often don’t understand what I’m talking about since I can be highly speculative and theoretic, requiring for my friends to swiftly imagine nebulous concepts and structures.” My rapturous discussion about the language cuisine available for tasting usually falls flat for them. They cannot see (imagine)how I got there or what I am experiencing.
This comment is quickly turning into a beast (what can i say, i was inspired by the article and filip’s comment), so I’ll hastily wrap up. Ultimately, I’m thrilled to hear discussion about language as a visual process. It’s quite refreshing to know that someone out there gets me! haha,
Talent don’t have any limit... From the whole -to the detail -to the whole is a main way to master of musical form... (Excuse for English).