What is a Concept Map?
A Concept Map is a method of representing knowledge in a way that allows information to be gathered, represented and understood visually. Many people find it is easier to remember, understand and organize information when they can see it, and it is on account of this that Concept Maps are such a powerful idea. They have not traditionally been used for language learning but they can be extremely useful especially when trying to make sense of different parts of language, and tie them together.
What does a Concept Map look like ?
A Concept Map will generally have a central word or words. These are linked with arrows which can point in one or more directions to one or more additional concepts. The arrows can be annotated with descriptions which further describe the relationships between the concepts (or nodes). There is no right or wrong method of designing Concept Maps as long as they work for the purpose intended. In relation to language learning, as long as the Concept Map has facilitated understanding and/or retention of knowledge then it has worked.
Reasons for using Concept Maps in foreign language learning.
The very fact of organizing language helps in the memorization process. I believe that, in relation to language learning, the fact of organizing language, which forces you to think about words, their meanings and how they connect to each other, is the most valuable part of using concept maps.
Additionally, there is no reason why a Concept Map should remain static, rather over time it will tend to change as your understanding and knowledge progress.
It is easier to add to existing knowlegde than start from scratch. A Concept Map can start, especially when used in language learning, with one or two words or voncepts. These can be thoroughly learnt and tested. Next a word or phrase can be added linking the original concepts together and these can be learnt and tested (along with the original language). In this way a Concept Map can be built up bit by bit.
Reasons for not using concept maps.
They won't necessarily help you speak a language.
It is easy to get bogged down in details, which are irrelevant in day to day language use.
You can spend a lot of time designing, drawing and changing concept maps which could be more productively used in other ways.
Foreign language learning software.