Can mind maps help you to learn a language? This article will explain why mind maps are useful to anyone wishing to learn a new language and will also show you how to use mind maps in language learning.
What are mind maps?
Quite simply, mind maps are a visual form of note-taking. Instead of writing in the traditional, linear way, a mind map starts in the middle of the page with a central idea with branches radiating outwards in all directions. The branches and sub-branches should contain related thoughts and ideas, hence making it easier to find and remember the information that has been recorded on the mind map. Mind maps are used a lot by business people for brainstorming and problem solving. Having something visual on paper or on screen stimulates the brain to look for new ideas.
Mind maps and learning English (or any language)??
Collecting new vocabulary in mind map form is more efficient than simply writing the words with a definition or a translation. Words that are grouped together in themes will be easier to remember. An isolated word that has no context will be forgotten very quickly. Let's take an example: If I asked you to learn the French word, 'navet', what would you do? I'm sure the first thing you would ask me would be, what does it mean? Of course, it's logical - why would you learn a word if you didn't know what it meant. So I tell you: 'navet' is the French word for turnip. And you write it down in your notebook : navet = turnip. If you were in a language class, you would end up with a couple of pages of new words, most of them unrelated. Even if the discussion sticks closely to the subject of vegetables, or food in general, it's still pretty hard to remember the word. But if I make a mind map with the central theme 'vegetable' (which is légume in French, by the way), I could then draw a branch with a picture of a root, then sub-branches with some root vegetables I know. By adding little images, it's easy for me to know what each word means without having to translate each time.
Here is what my mind map might look like if I were a student of English:
I would continue in the same way until I've got a reasonable collection of words:
I haven't added pictures to this one, but it really helps to do so. There's plenty of free clip art on the web that you can use for your mind maps.
Mind Maps can't help me to learn sentences
That's right. Mind maps are less effective if we try to write several words on a single branch. Mind maps are certainly not the be-all and end-all of learning skills. They can be useful , however for learning some sentence structure and grammatical rules. I'm told that the most-used word in English is "I". Makes sense, we all like talking about ourselves, and the people we like the most are the ones that will listen to us! A language learner often tries to memorise all the forms of a certain verb. What for? Most of the time the learner will use the verb with "I" a little less with "you" still less with "he" or "she" and even less with "we" and "they". So you could make a mind map starting with the stem of a sentence (or phrase), for example "I am":
You could try mind mapping grammatical rules. Here is a mind map that I made on the present perfect tense, you could do the same with French verb endings or Russian cases (which I don't know anything about, by the way).
For those of you who are learning English, I'm going to upload some of the mind maps that I've made with students, and I'll make some news. Remember that the best mind maps are the ones you make yourself. Test your knowledge by taking a blank page and drawing a mind map of all the words you know on given subject. Try it, it's fun!