Using colour to learn multiple languages

We all learn in different ways. One line of thinking on the way we learn argues that there are seven different learning styles:

  • Visual (spatial): Learning using pictures, images, and spatial understanding.
  • Aural (auditory-musical): Learning using sounds and music.
  • Verbal (linguistic): Learning using spoken and written words.
  • Physical (kinesthetic): Learning using your body, through your sense of touch and the use of your hands.
  • Logical (mathematical): Learning using a logical approach, with an emphasis on reasoning and systems.
  • Social (interpersonal): Learning as part of a group.
  • Solitary (intrapersonal): Learning on your own.

Each of us learns in a way that blends elements of these learning styles. The topic we’re studying can also impact the learning styles that we use.

Understanding this and using it to our advantage can serve to unlock faster, more efficient learning. This is certainly true of learning languages (along with many other subjects).

Studies have also shown that the use of colour can have a significant impact on how effective learning is and how well we remember. The Influence of Colour on Memory Performance: A Review, published in the Malaysian Journal of Medical Sciences, cites colour as being one of “the most important visual experience to human beings.” Colour links with our cognitive processes, our emotions and our memories.

The psychology of colour is a fascinating (and extensive) topic. Colour can impact our likelihood of reading something, or remembering a piece of information. In addition, it can impact our mood, which can in turn affect the way we learn.

Colour preference changes with age. Younger learners prefer the warmer tones of yellow, orange and red. Older learners lean more towards the cooler colours of green, blue and mauve. The soothing tones of blue can work particularly well in an educational setting, helping students to achieve the calm they need to absorb more information.

When it comes to language learning, we can use colour to our advantage in several ways. Whether the goal is simply learning the basics before a holiday, or attaining fluency with a view to building a career in the professional translation industry, colour can help.

Using colour for single language learning

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Interview with Gabe Wyner from Fluent Forever

Today we are going to talk to Gabe Wyner from Fluent Forever about his app project.


1. Tell me a little about you.

I’m a 34-year-old author, living in Chicago with my wife and dog. I was born in Los Angeles and grew up as a nerdy kid obsessed with video games and science. I sang musical theater and classical music as a hobby, and in college, I got dual majors in opera and mechanical engineering. Eventually I decided to become an opera singer, and moved to Vienna, Austria to pursue masters degrees in that field.

I came into language learning because of my opera background; I was studying to become an opera singer and I needed to learn French, Italian, German and Russian for that reason. But engineering never left me. As much as I enjoyed singing, I was, and always will be an engineer at heart. I enjoy solving problems and looking for ways to maximize efficiency in everything I do. So as I started learning languages for my singing, I became obsessed with the process, looking for ways to make it go faster.

2. How did you learn languages?

Badly at first! 🙂 When I was a kid, I floundered for 7 years with Hebrew, then continued to flounder for 5.5 years with Russian. The first times I found any success were in strict immersion programs: I spent two summers learning German at the Middlebury immersion programs, and one summer over in Perugia, Italy to learn Italian. I came to my current methods while studying French; I started by learning pronunciation (for my opera degree), then used a Spaced Repetition System (the app ‘Anki’, to be specific) to teach myself the language, making flashcards that were 100% in French, with pictures. Using this method for 3 months, followed by a 2 month immersion, I ended up reaching C1 fluency in French in 5 months.

3. What is the difference between the Fluent Forever app and other flashcards apps like Anki or Memrise?

The Fluent Forever app is based on research about how we store information. It’s different from other methods in two central ways: it changes what you’re learning every day, and how you’re learning it.

In terms of what you’re learning, this app starts with training you in pronunciation, because if you can train your ears to hear your new language’s sounds, you’re going to have an easier time remembering words and grammar. Then it teaches the rest of your language without using translations: everything you see on a daily basis is exclusively in your target language, so you can focus on building fluency, rather than decoding skills.

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