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Neil Kendall Languages

The language learning challenge

Linkword Languages: My thoughts on the Linkword method and my first week of learning Spanish with it

I recently became intrigued by a language learning method called Linkword and decided to give it a try. 

The main concept behind the Linkword Language method involves using memory techniques/visualisations to memorise words in foreign languages quickly and easily. Basically, you listen to a word in a foreign language and relate it to a word or phrase that it sounds like in English. You then create a visual image in your mind of this image along with the English word, which makes it quickly and easy to learn and remember lots of words.

For example, the Spanish word for bee is 'aveja'. This is pronounced 'a ve ha' (or, since the Spanish letter 'v' is pronounced more like a 'b', this word would be pronounced closer to 'a be ha), which sounds a bit like the English for 'a baker'. You therefore imagine in your mind a visual image involving a A BAKER and a BEE....so for example, a baker being chased by a bee and running away from it.

Although this memory technique isn't new, the way that it has been applied to language learning via the Linkword Languages courses was, and still is, very unique. This method really does work, and you can learn hundreds of words a day if you put in a bit of time.

However, Linkword isn't merely about memorising hundreds of words. You are also systematically taught grammar - how to actually USE the words you've learned to construct your own sentences and express your thoughts.

The background to Linkword

The founder of this method is a man named Dr Michael Gruneberg, who is a qualified and internationally recognised memory expert with numerous credentials, including authoring/co-authoring books on memory and involvement in various BBC broadcasts on the subject of memory. It appears he put together Linkword in the 1980s in book (and cassette) form, before releasing and expanding to more language courses in audio and software format in more recent years.

Studies have shown that Linkword can teach a language up to 3 times faster than conventional methods, and has even been shown to be be beneficial to people who are dyslexic too. The popularity of Linkword by language learners worldwide seems to further validate these points.

I contacted Dr Gruneberg to ask whether I might be able to try his Spanish course and then write about my experiences of using it, and to my surprise he said he would be delighted to let me do so. He was kind enough to send me the European Spanish course, which I will go into detail about and discuss how I got on during the first week with Level 1.

An overview of a Linkword Language course

The Linkword European Spanish course is split into 4 levels, each of which teaches over 400 words and lots of fundamental grammar. Each level contains 10 to 11 sections, which take around 45 minutes to an hour to complete. The course comes in audio format (as mp3s, or cds), as well as software format. The content is the same for the audio and software version, but the latter allows the learner to learn and practice the reading and writing aspect of the language.

The audio course is presented by a native Spanish speaker, which is good because you get to hear the correct pronunciation of the words. Each section covers a myriad of different topics, such as household items, animals, travel, clothing, types of foods, verbs, adjectives etc.

You are generally given ten words to learn at a time, and for each word you are given a memory visualisation based on the principles I discussed earlier in this post. You are given 10 seconds to visualise this image before moving on to the next word. Sometimes the foreign word will sound close to another word in English, other times it may sound like part of an English word or even a sentence. Either way, the memory hooks given are very clever, and often bizarre and witty (which helps them stick in your mind better).

Immediately after learning the 10 words, the presenter tests you on them, first by saying the words in Spanish (to which you have to answer in English), and then vice versa. 

Then after this, you are given some short grammar lessons followed by being prompted to translate sentences from English to Spanish and vice versa. This is great because it consolidates what you've learned and gets you used using it within the context of making real sentences.

Finally, at the end of each section of the audio course there is a glossary of all the words you've learned. 

Like I said, the software course has exactly the same content as the audio one, but you actually get to see the words written down and you have to answer the questions by writing (typing) them out. 

My personal experience with Linkword

I went through Level 1 during 5 to 6 days last week and found it a fascinating experience.

Mr Gruneberg told me there is no right or wrong way to go through the course, i.e. one can start with the software and then use the audio to revise, or vice versa, or even just choose one format instead of the other. For me personally, I decided to start with the audio lessons, 2 sections at a time, and then move onto the software equivalents of these, so I could consolidate what I'd just learned as well as work on my reading and writing in Spanish. I'm someone who needs to HEAR words before I get onto the reading and writing aspect, but I realise some people might be different.

I could've gone through the first level faster, but decided to stick to a steady 2 sections a day for 5 days, and use the 6th day to revise everything I'd learned.

Overall, I had no problem memorising the words taught in level 1, because the memory hooks were so good. 

I found the grammar points were explained clearly and concisely, and as such I had no problem understanding them.

Making sentences both from English to Spanish and vice versa wasn't too hard. I found that having to translate Spanish sentences back to English was good for developing my listening skills, i.e getting used to hearing the Spanish words spoken in sentences. A couple of times I had to listen again to help my ear 'tune in' to a few words, but I soon got the hang of it.

As for reading, I found this generally no problem at all, since Spanish is a very phonetic language and, unlike in English, each letter is always pronounced the same way. Once you've learned how each letter is pronounced, it's no problem to read Spanish after that.

Spelling some words was a little bit problematic, but I soon got used to how Spanish looks in written format and certain letter combinations. For example, where we might have a double 'l' in English, they generally have one 'l' in Spanish. Or where we use the 'qu' sound, in Spanish this sound is written with 'cu'. I soon got used to these differences after a while, though.

At the end of the level, I found it useful to go through the glossary to test myself on all the words I'd learned.

After the first week, I was amazed by how much I'd learned AND remembered. Because the visual hooks for each word are so strong, they tend to 'stick' in the mind really quickly and for a decent period of time afterwards. Although a few of the visual memory hook images given in the course are not exact replicas of how a word is pronounced, they are close enough to jog your memory, and you will hear the words repeated throughout the course anyway, which helps consolidate the pronunciation of them. 

I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could look around my room and go about my daily routine and know the Spanish word for a lot of everyday things I'd encounter, such as river, path, shop, bed, kitchen, shirt, trousers and a lot of other things such as foods, clothing, and that I could also make sentences too. Of course, I've still got a long way to go before I could live my whole day entirely in Spanish, but this is an amazing start.

I'd like to thank Mr Gruneberg for allowing me to try the course, and at the time of writing this blog post I'm almost through level 2 of the Spanish course, so I'll write another blog post on that soon.

Until then, adiós amigo!

And for anyone who would like to find out more about Linkword, please visit their website, www.linkwordlanguages.com

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