It has been proven many times that photos and illustrations help people remember things quickly and easily. So why not use the power of visuals in improving your English communication skills? How? Write English captions on photos and drawings you have!
Start with your treasure box of old printed photos. You can write your captions lightly at the back of the photos. If it’s an event, try to remember when it was, what happened, and why that photo was taken. Who are in the photos? What are they doing? What are interesting objects did you notice in the photos? Answer these questions of course in English and write at the back of the photo paper.
Other sources of photos are your family photo albums. The good thing about photo albums is the space provided to put descriptions on.
If you don’t have many photos or drawings to write captions on, scour the internet for millions of them that other people have taken and drawn. Use these available masterpieces to practice on, which might actually turn out better as you don’t have emotional attachment to the work and your can write the English caption for the piece more objectively or creatively. Some sites where you can browse images are Flickr, Picasa Web Albums’ public photos, iStockphoto, and shutterstock. If you like to keep up with news worthy events, you will appreciate the editorial photos at gettyimages and describing these in English may really become a challenge for a non-native speaker.
What about illustrations? Drawings? Of course you can also use these in this type of learning activity. Photos and illustrations represent real world objects, events, or thoughts. So it does not matter if you are practicing your English language with a photo or a drawing as long as you can describe what it represents in your own words in English. Check out devianART for artworks other people have created and describe how the artworks captivate you .
Lastly, turn this English writing activity to a speech activity by finding a partner whom you can describe the photos and drawings aloud.
Growing up, I had a limited English word list to describe emotions, actions, or even people in certain ways. During the past three years, however, I’ve been adding new adjectives to my list more actively than before. One of the ways I’ve been doing to learn new adjectives is using images and charts.
Back when I was in high school in the Philippines, I looked at a facial expression chart posted inside our guidance counselor’s office. Drawn in the chart were faces showing different emotions, and below each face was the English word to describe the expression. I didn’t think of learning words from the chart that time. I just thought it was creative and cool. Now, I think of it as a learning tool as well.
Using the facial expression chart as a learning tool was probably the primary intention of the first person who created a chart like this. And it’s good that I found some charts online to show to you as examples.
The first facial expression chart is from Bardsville. Take a look at the “big” adjectives used in the chart such as incredulous and despondent.
The second facial expression chart, posted below, was created by Cedarseed to illustrate how to draw different faces. Cedarseed made it as a guide for artists, but it is also a very good chart to get familiarized with the faces and the words of facial expressions.
The last image is not a facial expression chart but a screenshot taken from EnchantedLearning.com’s Adjectives page.
Now, with the image samples displayed above, do you think it is easier to learn some adjectives using images with text rather than learning them from using words alone?
When learning new English nouns—the words that refer to people, places, things, or ideas—a visual dictionary will help you retain the words in your mind effectively. It’s just like when a child learns what the word apple means, a parent will show the child an apple or an image of an apple to help the child create a mental image of an apple, which is usually a red fruit (sometimes it’s green!). So next time the child sees the actual fruit, she will remember to call it apple.
There are more nouns that are uncommon than apple, however, and you will likely want to see images of these nouns to remember them. Thus, you may want to use a visual dictionary in this situation.
The highly-recommended visual dictionaries that you can look for copies in your library or bookstores are:
There is also an online visual dictionary from Merriam Webster, and you can access it here: http://visual.merriam-webster.com/. Their online dictionary has more than 6,000 images from different themes such as House, Arts, Clothing, and Society.
I actually owned a children visual dictionary when I was around 8 years old. And I really enjoyed learning the English words by looking at the pictures.
You can’t learn all the nouns conveniently from a visual dictionary though. The nouns that refer to ideas or concepts need more special attention; because in most cases, these nouns cannot be easily represented by one image and requires further explanation. Internet and freedom are two good examples of such nouns. A mind map, however, can do the trick to explain these words.