10 Reasons for DECODING, instead of cramming vocabulary
Feb 26, 2018
What does DECODING mean?
To decode means to “decipher”: a text is translated word for word into a foreign language. Then you can understand the meaning of every single word as well as the context. Example:
A French sentence has been translated word for word into English. Vera F. Birkenbihl drew attention to this language acquisition method decades ago. Back then, a text was strictly translated word for word – almost 1:1 to the word’s stem. Brain-friendly, however, worked on developing this method further. Today decoding has been adapted to the mother tongue, but to understand the meaning of the full sentence is most important, because our brain only memorises what has been understood.
What a decoded sentence looks like:
J’ai été à l’école en Allemagne.
I-have (am) been at the-school in Germany.
Decoding helps us to understand two different aspects at the same time, which would have been two different learning strategies in traditional learning methods:
1. The meaning of every single word (instead of vocabulary cramming).
2. The sentence structure and the use of words, meaning the language’s grammar.
Decoding allows us to explore a foreign language where learning becomes an interesting and exciting task. This is how brain-friendly learning should be: because we only remember what we’re really interested in.
Here are the top ten reasons for decoding:
- Things that can be explored by ourselves, are the easiest things to remember. Using the decoding method, you look up words that are unknown to you using dictionaries, textbooks or online sources, etc. You can then discover new things on your own, instead of learning new things from teachers or by doing homework.
- The vertical structure (from top to bottom) helps you learn the word’s meanings. The first line shows your foreign language. The second line shows the word for word translation. Following this strategy, you can intuitively use ambiguous words by knowing the whole context, such as the Spanish word “que” which has different meanings: that, what, how, etc.
- The horizontal structure (from left to right) helps you learn the language structure – the grammar so-to-speak. And this is done completely automatically without studying any rules. Using the decoding method, you offer your brain a view of the foreign language’s rules. Coming back to the example above: you’ll be able to use the Spanish “que” intuitively.
- It’s not important to understand every single word of a text: some gaps may remain. You will understand the sentence’s meaning anyway. If you have difficulties in remembering one word, just continue with a gap – you’ll fill that gap at a later time.
- Words that can’t be translated should be written down in the line below – e. g. The Chinese 个 „gè“ is added after a number. You’re going to use words in context intuitively. At a later point, you’ll use those words without even thinking.
- You learn how to write in a foreign language at the same time. Reading in a foreign language enables you to write in that language automatically. You can quickly learn how to write languages that use other characters, instead of learning how to “draw” those signs, as you have read and seen those characters many times.
- You can use all kinds of texts! Therefore we recommend choosing a text that you are really interested in. Topics about your hobbies, travel destinations, etc.
- Learn a new language by using the decoding method on your own or in groups. Student groups can be motivated by seeing decoding as solving a puzzle. Learning in groups can be a very efficient way (IF you stay focused!) because interactive discussion and analysis support the learning process.
- In contrast to cramming vocabulary, decoding acts as the bridge between your mother tongue and the foreign language until every word is understood. As a result, you get more and more motivated.
- Reverse decoding can be used for a self-check. Re-translate your word for word translation into the foreign language. Then you’ll know your current vocabulary – the vocabulary you understand and use.
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