Easier learning

1. Conceptual learner - Building a framework and filling in the blanks

Being this sort of learner, I tend to love absorbing information. I spend hours learning everything I can only to have most of it slip my mind. My knowledge is varied and full of holes. What I know works best for me is to memorize; to vigilantly patch up the holes before I can move on. In learning japanese, memorizing my favourite works; anime, manga, and music seems to work extremely well. It works better than a lot of the structured lesson plans I find all over the place. My mind builds a scaffold and leaves me to flesh it out.

If you learn like me, jumping from topic to topic and never really mastering anything in particular, you know how frustrating it can be never to have the words or details you need. I have spent hours memorizing my favourite songs; I can sing them without any music or mistakes. It is no surprise that I started doing this with my favourite j-pop. What really surprised me was how suddenly it made my ability to hear japanese improve. All I did was memorize my favourite song, line by line until I could keep up with it and still know what each word meant, but memorizing the song to the point that I could imitate it allowed me to hear other japanese words with a sudden ease while listening to the radio.

Thinking back, I do this with manga; when I had trouble reading it, I translated it and memorized and repeated it until I could pretend to read the page. In only a month, I noticed a huge difference in my reading speed, which went from maybe 0.75 words per minute almost to 10. In all likelihood, if I were to watch an anime and replay each sentence until I could remember what it means without pausing at all, my listening skill would take a sudden boost. Simply put, I can learn easily by breaking down a huge chunk of information into smaller pieces.

2. Sequential learner - Building from the ground up

These people are omnipresent throughout the academic system. They learn easily and rarely make mistakes and yet have a hard time understanding how things work. To me, the academic system favors these people by teaching in bite-sized portions in a logical order. It works well, but not for people like me. These people tend to learn best when they are guided step-by-step towards the next skill they need to master. They grow steadily, not in sudden leaps.

If you are one of these learners, my best advice is to find a good lesson plan that explains things clearly. I cannot give a miracle cure for problems, but sometimes, having things explained in a different way makes it easier for you to understand. Every time you understand something, you'll get a brick to build with. A solid foundation in the basics will get you very far. Look for every sort of resource that can explain what you don't understand; trying to memorize a whole piece of entertainment, no matter how entertaining will probably feel unfulfilling unless you really enjoy it. Find good teachers/tools and you will find learning easy.


Among students, it is easy to see that the conceptual learners tend to know theory but fail at the fine details. It is also easy to spot the sequential learners because they struggle to creatively apply their knowledge; they just don't get the essence of how something works. It may seem that I say you cannot succeed because you will never understand theory or details. This is false. Look at teachers and you will see that they excel in both the theory and detail. The only way you can tell them apart is in their teaching technique. A sequential learner will always tend to focus on explaining the 'method' one step at a time. A conceptual learner will always focus on trying to teach 'why' the method works, but always seem to neglect the method in favor of explaining what the idea is related to.

The two above 'styles' are indeed observable in people. You'll see people obsessed with details, and people obsessed with the bigger picture. These tendencies reflect how we come to understand new information. A conceptual learner will need to break large information down into more detailed chunks. A sequential learner merely needs to build ideas up piece-by-piece. Try my suggestions, see if they help. They are just a theory based upon my observations of people and my own learning. Sequential learning prevents mistakes and eventually rebuilds the concept. Conceptual already has the concept but needs to fill in the holes left behind in order to be practical. I have been as honest as possible, but bias is hard to avoid when I only know one side of the story.

Feel free to respond. If you happen to be a sequential learner, I would love to hear what made it easy for you to understand japanese easily.
posted by Aarowaim

Comments 1

  • Aarowaim
    Here's a diagram; sequential steadily learns japanese grammar and vocabulary, improving their ability. To me, it seems like vocabulary and grammar is the important part for sequential learners to focus on.

    A conceptual will jump everywhere, but needs a good source of grammar and vocabulary to fall back on when they don't know information. Best served by focusing on immersion and intense analysis of real japanese with the dictionary/grammar guide to refer to.

    Just referring to them defeats the purpose; MEMORIZE anything you don't know, as conceptual learning will need large amounts of correct information to correct their understanding. A sequential learner needs large amounts of correct explanation.