Repetition is essential to remember words over the long run.

Posted on June 26, 2010

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See the term “spaced repetition” in a Wikipedia article:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spaced_repetition
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This technique is not easy to implement, but with a little discipline and organization you can make it work. If you are using flash cards for example, you can make it a rule to review the flash cards you mastered  after a week, or a couple of months. It is not a big deal to repeat those cards you are supposed to know, and check to see if you still remember most of the words as you test your confidence in your real knowledge of the language.

The thing you will achieve is reinforcement of your vocabulary skills. You certainly have experienced perfectly mastering perfectly a set of questions for a school exam and then forgetting most of them after a few weeks. The issue with language need not be passing another school exam on a specific day, but being ready to engage in an impromptu conversation.

What you really want to do when learning a foreign language is more than being ready for the next school test. If you learn new vocabulary with a newspaper and dictionary, it is a good idea to go back to last month’s articles with no dictionary and see how much you understand. If you are learning with another method like Pimsleur, the tape will take care of the repetition since it is a basic principle of their system which is called “timed interval repetition”. Words learned with spaced repetition usually stick to your memory, provided you do your homework on a regular basis, with discipline.

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Posted in: Education, Software