Language On Your Own: Self-Study Tips – Part 4

Less Repetition, More Learning

Would you really learn a Native American language more easily if you didn’t have to recite words so much?

Would you believe the answer is “Yes?”

In the early 1970’s, self-study learning became easier with a system that connected the dots about how short and long-term memory work in learning. The system is called Spaced Repetition.

Basically, each item to be learned – like a word or a verb form — is reviewed less often over time: first twice in every session, then once in every session, then once a day, once every three days, etc. The time between review sessions is lengthened only when the student feels ready.

The great advantage of Spaced Repetition is that you don’t have to go over and over the words you already know. You touch base with words you have already mastered, and then you spend more time with new words. This increases your capacity for absorbing new words.

There’s an important tool for this method: flashcards.

Flashcards2LSI2014Your new words and phrases become physical pictures, stacked and shuffled.

Click here to see an animation of how the Deck system works. Deck 1 has the words you review every day.  The words you get correct get put forward into the next Deck up, that you will review less often.

The Wikipedia Page about the Spaced Repetition study method explains it this way:

Suppose you have 3 boxes of cards called Box 1Box 2 and Box 3. The cards in Box 1 are the ones that you often make mistakes with, and Box 3 contains the cards that you know very well. You might choose to study the Box 1 cards once a day, Box 2 every 3 days, and the Box 3 cards every 5 days. If you look at a card in Box 1 and get the correct answer, you "promote" it to Box 2. A correct answer with a card in Box 2 "promotes" that card to Box 3. If you make a mistake with a card in Box 2 or Box 3, it gets "demoted" to the first box, which forces you to study that card more often. The advantage of this method is that you can focus on the most difficult flashcards, which remain in the first few groups. The result is, ideally, a reduction in the amount of study time needed.

One cautionary note – Spaced Repetition is no magic formula, either!  It takes time, effort, discipline … and flashcards.

Cherokee Languge-Susie for SliderMore on flashcards in Part 5.

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