Publish Date: March 11, 2014      Author: melissa.bailey

Something very little and dangerous has entered my workplace recently. It crept in so quietly that no one really had their guard up. We were all working along just fine and then – BAM!- out of nowhere an adorable puppy started frolicking around. Let’s face it – when a puppy is around, there is very little work to be had!

For all of you kitten and puppy lovers there’s an app for purchase that actually incorporates pictures of kittens into the Spanish learning process. Memrise has released an app for called CatAcademy that flashes sweet pictures of kittens to deliver Spanish phrases. Ben Whately, the CEO of Memrise, explained the concept to ABC News:

What we’re actually competing for your attention with is Facebook and Instagram, so that if you’re sitting on the bus and you pull out your phone  and think, ‘What am I going to do for 10 minutes on the bus?’ the answer has to be learn Spanish, not look at Instagram. So how can we attract people’s attention to our app? The answer is very clearly cats.


More than the type of picture that is being shown, Memrise is playing off of the truth that our minds retain information the best when it is connected to a picture. A great example of this is the earliest childhood memory that you think you have. The majority of the time the memory is not a memory of an event, but a memory that comes from looking at a photo.

We see thousands of images every day. From labels in the supermarket to billboard signs along the highway as we drive home from work, we are bombarded with pictures, graphics and charts. Even though we are saturated in images, pictures are still an incredible tool to keep your language learning toolbox. They are also a free tool as there are images and pictures all around you!

If you are looking for ways to incorporate pictures into your language learning toolbox, here are a few ideas to get you thinking graphically:

1. When making flashcards, use free clipart instead of words.

2. To practice description, gather photos of friends and family throughout the years. Look at the photo and describe their physical features to someone else using the target language.

3. Meet with a friend who is learning the same language. Describe a picture to them and ask them to draw the picture according to your description.

4. Practice colors by looking at pictures and identifying objects in certain color groups.

5. Flip through a magazine and go through the foreign language alphabet by pointing out pictures.

6. Take out travel photos and describe the location in your target language.

7. When driving, translate words or pictures into your target language that you see on billboards or traffic signs.

These are just a few ideas to get the creative juices flowing as there are probably thousands of ways to use the images all around you to learn a foreign language. The important thing is giving your brain a reference point by connecting a phrase or word to a picture to move it along into your long-term memory.

Happy picture hunting!


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