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Know Thyself: Are You an Auditory or Visual Learner

We human beings are not born equal, some are good at making things with their hands, while others are quicker in picking up a new language. I have come to appreciate this much more after the birth of my daughter two years ago. So that is why we have the division of labor in our modern society: some are engineers and plumbers, and others are writers, teachers and lawyers, and I myself have become a translator. In addition, we have individual hobbies we have besides our field of work.

Over the last 15 years that I have been practicing as a Chinese interpreter in business, medical and legal settings, I have also come to know myself as an auditory learner. Very often I can start interpreting before my clients finish their sentences. But if I am performing sight translation, that is reading something on a document, and then interpret it into Mandarin or Cantonese, my clients tend to have to wait for me. Sometimes English words rush out of me before I have time to think about what they mean or whether I am using a right word, as these words are stored in my brain as a sound bite, not a written form. Some of my colleagues are the opposite.

Armed with that self knowledge, nowadays I find myself listening to ABC podcast programs more than reading newspaper to find out what is going on in the world, as it is a lot quicker for me to absorb information this way. 

So for learners of a new language, it is important to first know thyself before setting up a learning regime. Ask yourself these questions: Are you an auditory person or a visual person? What are the subject matters that interest you? If you are like me, an auditory person, you may  find yourself listening to a program first before reading its online transcript, so you can zoom into specific segments or vocabularies to study them in more details. If you are a visual person, you may like to read the transcript first before listening to it. 

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