Mind maps: an alternative technique for learning English
By Hebe Adventures

Each student has their own study techniques, some learned at school and others developed independently. These techniques are used to better memorize information and can be applied in the study of any subject, including English.

Among the most effective in learning foreign languages are mind maps, which help to expand vocabulary, master grammar rules and improve reading and comprehension skills.

In fact, the biggest challenge that students are faced with is learning vocabulary well and expressing themselves fluently. It is not something that is acquired overnight, but it is a result that requires patience and constant study.

Teachers, encountering these difficulties, at school or in summer English courses, suggest using a notebook to write down the new words, adding phonetics and translation for each of them.

It is a more effective method than the simple study based on memory, which however can be boring and not particularly efficient in relating the notions learned.

In a notebook, the various words are transcribed in sequence, often in random order, according to the content of the lessons or the inputs received.

This unstructured order could be inefficient, especially in terms of time, because the transcription takes place on separate lines and to go back to a term you have to search by leafing through the various pages. And this is where mind maps make the difference.

What is a mind map and how does it work

Mind maps are diagrams in which there is a central node, which can be a concept or a topic. Around this, secondary nodes develop which in turn give life to others, and so on.

Thus a branched structure is built, made up of short sentences, colors and images that help to visualize the information. There are no limits and you can expand the schema indefinitely, depending on how much you want to delve into the topics.

They use the same system as the notebook, but according to a logic more similar to the mental one.

In fact, both techniques use the same expedient, i.e. the transcription of the content stored on a physical medium. But these diagrams allow you to arrange the notions in space, facilitating understanding, as the transcribed concepts can be recalled instantly and related to new ones.

By doing so, you don't lose the overview and you learn faster, without having to leaf through the notebook or try to remember. In essence, it is about compensating for the limitations of the mind with a particularly effective visualization tool.

Whether it's an Italian or an English course, mind maps are useful for learning a second language and represent a tool to try out in individual or group study sessions.

How to use mind maps to learn English

We've seen how these diagrams work in general, but now let's see how they can be used to study English. Let's start by saying that starting with a single node could lead to building a too branched structure, which would not help to organize the contents.

Therefore it would be better to create multiple maps, each of which is built around a macro-category, such as vocabulary and grammar.

Mind maps for vocabulary

Learning vocabulary is the first step towards knowing a foreign language. It is a process that develops by itself, by persevering in study, but above all by reading and speaking. To organize words and be able to recall them quickly and easily, a mind map can be used, which can help especially for those terms that represent exceptions. This is also useful for improving writing, as it broadens the knowledge of synonyms, making texts more natural and flowing.

Just divide the vocabulary into general categories and start creating subcategories in which to enter names, to which you can add phonetics and translation into your own language. This system is also suitable for learning several foreign languages, since it is sufficient to place the different translations side by side. For example, if you are taking an Italian and Spanish course, for the term "language" you could enter the respective translations "idioma" and "idiomas", doing the same for each word added.

Mind maps for grammar

If expanding your vocabulary already seems like a challenge, learning grammar rules might be even more challenging. English grammar is not very difficult, but it still has rules and exceptions that must be remembered. Especially if the goal is to learn to write and become fluent in conversations, knowing how to construct sentences in real time. After categorizing the vocabulary, we can apply the same principles to verbs and other parts of speech as well. For example, you can start with the verbs as a central node, from which to start the tenses as subcategories. It can't be exhaustive right away, but the ideal is to stick to the topics already covered during the English summer lessons or courses. For example, if you are learning the present tense, you can create a branch for this tense and divide it into its variants: present simple, present continuous, present perfect and so on. Each category can be further detailed by indicating some situations of use and providing examples to facilitate understanding.

How to create and update mind maps

Mind maps can be built a little at a time and can prove useful when used during school courses or summer English courses. They represent a valid support to a learning process that is built over the years and which in any case cannot be separated from the practice of the language, an essential aspect for becoming fluent. They can help to overcome difficulties in studying, but in the end it will be necessary to prove one's skills in the field, perhaps by organizing an English stay abroad.

To build these diagrams you can use pen and paper, with the help of felt-tip pens, sticky notes, images and anything that can help visualization. However, today there are applications dedicated to this purpose, to be installed on a computer or mobile device. So you don't have to worry about expansion limitations and space requirements, and you can make updates and changes anytime, anywhere. In this way you can take them with you on an English holiday or on any other occasion to practice and deepen your foreign language.

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