Learning strategies for foreign languages

 Tags: Spanish

Learning a second language can be an incredible experience, particularly when you get to a level that you are happy with and you can communicate without problems. And of course, learning strategies are key to the studying experience: without them it’s very difficult to master a language completely. Here you can discover what a learning strategy is and useful examples, as well as the advantages of putting these strategies into practice in the Costa del Sol - a wonderful place to learn Spanish among lovely people and a great atmosphere. The beautiful weather, tasty gastronomy, diverse enriching cultural influences on the language, and not to mention people’s friendly openness, are all reasons why it’s the best location to embark on your language learning journey. Enter the world of language learning in the province of Malaga today.


What are learning strategies and why are they useful? 

Learning strategies could be defined as a group of actions aiming to give you a good grasp of a foreign language. Thanks to these, you, the student, are bound to advance and enhance your proficiency in the language.  Without using these strategies, the process of learning risks being superficial and unhelpful.

Using learning strategies when studying a foreign language involves widespread methods, such as memorisation - essential for learning verbs in Spanish for example, or semantic analysis. But these are not the only strategies, and moreover, some of these could be seen as techniques more than strategies. Knowing and applying grammar rules and the wide range of idiomatic expressions that every language possesses is key to mastering it.   

what is a learning strategy and examples


Idiomatic expressions, the cultural side of language  

Idiomatic expressions and figurative phrases are an essential part of understanding the linguistics of another language. They are part of the country’s culture, meaning that knowing the grammar rules or meanings of words isn’t enough: the country’s cultural background also plays a key part in the learning journey.  

These types of expressions tend to permeate day-to-day conversations, and if you’re not in the know, you’ll find it difficult to understand and express yourself fluently. An example of an idiom in Spanish is ‘de uvas a peras’ (from grapes to pears), similar to the famous expression ‘de Pascuas a Ramos’ (the latter is related to Holy Week and refers to an important tradition in Malaga folklore). Do something or see someone ‘de uvas a peras’ means rarely, or every so often. These sorts of expressions also seem to vary from region to region. In the province of Malaga, common expressions include ‘esto está to’ perita’ (meaning something is awesome or cool), and ‘ser un encogío’ (referring to someone who is tight with money). There are heaps more typical expressions from the region, yet you’ll only master them by immersing yourself in the language, and using the appropriate learning strategies. One of the benefits of learning strategies is that you discover how to relate ideas and conventions of a culture in order to master its language.


From analysis to practice: strategies to help  

Learning strategies enable you to absorb a second language, making the learning process a piece of cake, or in Spanish ‘pan comido’ (eaten bread). In addition to the most common strategies, like intelligent memorisation (conscious memorising) or using analogies and relating concepts, there are many more out there that are equally as useful.

Florence Detry suggests a possible strategy for learning idioms in her paper ‘Estrategias memorísticas y aprendizaje de las expresiones idiomáticas en lengua extranjera: el papel cognitivo de la iconicidad fraseológica’ (‘Memory strategies and learning of idiomatic expressions in foreign languages: the cognitive role of phraseological iconicity’). She brings up the idea of thinking in the literal meaning of the words that make up the expression or idiom. This can help in some circumstances, however not always, since the unique nature of idioms is precisely what gives them their figurative meaning.           

In order to get over this difficulty, a good idea is to compare the expression with an equivalent saying in your own language. ‘De uvas a peras’ for example could be translated as ‘once in a blue moon’ in English. Another way is to apply a strategy based on giving context to the expression. Make note of real life situations when you could use the expression and try to understand its meaning in each case.

Another option and possible strategy, also suggested in Detry’s research, is to project a mental image from what the idiom conjures up. When you think of someone who ‘va pisando huevos’ (steps on eggs), can you imagine them travelling slowly? If so, that is the exact meaning. This visual strategy is probably one of the most useful in understanding the figurative meaning of idioms. Besides, our imagination is a force of power and we should make use of it.

Nevertheless, despite the importance of Spanish courses and studying the theory, few learning strategies are as effective as practising with native speakers. Learning the language structure is important, but so is putting it into practice by speaking in that language. 

Why are learning strategies useful


The Costa del Sol, an unrivalled destination for learning Spanish 

If there’s one thing that defines malagueños, it’s their openness and friendliness toward foreigners. These traits make the province of Malaga the perfect place to study Spanish and add it to your list of languages. There’s nothing quite like getting together with locals and learning their language - total immersion is the best way.

If you choose the Costa del Sol to improve your Spanish level, you will find the perfect learning environment where you can enjoy hours of study in some of the best language academies, while also discovering adventure sports and the natural paradise on the doorstep. For language lovers and people interested in architectural heritage, the province of Malaga is a museum with no entry fee.  From the west and north to the south of the region, you’ll come across many different towns, villages and historic areas, steeped in ancient tradition and historical civilisations that once ruled over the lands here. Roman roads, Arabic baths, megalithic dolmens, and many other sites that let you trace the historic evolution of the province. What better motivation to learn the language and learn even more about the Costa del Sol’s fascinating history.

Total immersion in the province of Malaga as part of your language learning mission has countless advantages. Make the most of the language academies or use typical malagueño expressions that you’ll learn first-hand on the streets. So what’s stopping you from doing a language exchange in and around Malaga? Come along to be seduced by the great weather and the incredible lifestyle. 

Guide to Spanish Schools Ebook - Costa del Sol



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