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#21. Language learning is pattern spotting

Updated: Aug 28, 2023

Each language has its own logic and system and within each system, you will find many patterns – to do with conjugations, pronunciation, but also with grammar rules – which repeat over and over again.

For example, some of the irregular verbs in English follow this conjugation pattern:

bring / brought / brought

buy / bought/ bought

fight / fought / fought

That’s why you usually group them when learning them by heart, which you also do when learning irregular plurals in French, which follow this pattern:

un cheval / des chevaux (a horse / horses)

un journal / des journaux (a newspaper / newspapers)

un bocal / des bocaux (a jar / jars)

And a key pronunciation pattern in Italian involves putting the emphasis on the last syllable of nouns ending in ‘à’ or ‘é’, such as:

città (town)

perché (why/because)

sanità (health)

If you learn a specific pattern, the next time you recognise it, you will be able to seamlessly apply the rule, without even thinking about it. It’s far quicker and easier to learn a pattern and the reason for using it, rather than a series of words without any logic nor context attached to them.

Pattern learning is one of the many ways in which you acquire agency and confidence when learning a language.

My role as a teacher is to not only flag and explain those patterns, but to make sure my students learn them correctly, so they have reference points to fall back on, if in doubt. This way, even if they feel a bit anxious, at times, when using the language they're learning, they know they are never without a net.

Don't hesitate to send me your questions.

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