Each of us are simultaneously auditory, visual, and kinesthetic learners. When learning hiragana/katakana (or anything for that matter) we must use all of these types of learning.
In their 1987 paper, Learning And Teaching Styles In Engineering Education, Richard M. Felder & Dr. Linda Silver talked about different types of learners requiring different styles of teaching particularly in the challenging field of engineering. To meet the challenges of a class full of diverse learners, they mention the importance of “teaching to address all learning styles.”
The same holds true of learning Japanese kana (hiragana & katakana). What Dr. Silver and Richard Felder were saying is true. Different types of learners should use different methods of learning.
Taken a step further each of us learn with all learning styles but at different levels information retention for each of the those styles. For example, you maybe by 10% kinesthetic, but 40% auditory and 50% visual. So you are not only an auditory learner that soaks up information on audiobooks, or just a visual learner who gets information with picture or simply a kinesthetic learner that needs an activity.. but you are all of these at different levels with each new set of information and/or skill set that will be learned. This means you must use all methods to learn new information. Use all senses to collect new data.
Visual Learning Techniques
あ is a hiragana letter (aka kana) that makes the “AH” sound. With visualization it helps to use shocking imagery such as violence or sex. For example, to memorize あ, imagine the letter “e” slapped so hard that if flips backward then stabbed with a sharp cruciform sword that looks like t. The stabbed and backward e makes a dying pitiful “Ahh” sound as it passes into the afterlife. Merging t and e is not exactly how あ looks but its close enough to help with memorization. The more shocking the visual the less likely you will forget it.
Auditory Learning Techniques
We used a little of auditory with the visual learning technique of our dying あ making the “Ahh” sound and you can used that with all of the letters of hiragana and katakana. Auditory works even better with words. Because you can use sound in Japanese that sounds like something your recognize. For example, the Japanese word for “you are welcome” is “dou itashimashite”. This sounds like “Don’t Touch My Mustache” in English. Sound association is a good way to remember entire Japanese hiragana, words and even phrases.
Kinesthetic Learning Techniques
Kinesthetic includes some sort of movement or activity. So including flash cards, or writing or mouthing the words are all examples of kinesthetic (aka tactile) learning. You can also merge is with our first visualization of あ. We imagined the shock of e being stabbed, but if we included kinesthetic we might imagine what it would feel like to do stab “e” ourselves. Kinesthetic is best for learning to write hiragana and katakana.
Above are just a few examples of using visual, auditory and kinesthetic learning to memorize and retain hiragana and katakana. Don’t be restricted in any one style of memorization because we are all visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners. Merge them all together using all the senses to capture the language. Don’t be fooled by the dominance of one of your learning styles and don’t down play the effectiveness of your weakest.
We have developed a Hiragana practice game called Moji Master http://mojimaster.com for the iPhone that incorporates the combination of these learning hiragana and katakana with visual, auditory, and kinesthetic.
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