One hundred words learned and banked this week! We all feel a great sense of achievement as we get to the end of a week having learned a clutch of new words. Then we go through the weekend and start the following batch as Monday rolls around. By the late stages of the second week, however, as we try to recall those 100 words that we just mastered...our minds are blank.
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The Pitfalls of Skipping Review
What happened to us in the scenario described in the introduction? The better question is, "what didn't happen?" The answer, of course, is there was no proper review of the material studied. In today's blog, we're sharing tips on how to make your language review more effective, thus improving your retention and speeding up the pace at which you can move from lower to higher levels.
When we focus our attention, we can appear to learn huge amounts of information in a short time. The problem is that we have to find ways to review it otherwise we will ultimately forget it. It's a bit like how many adult learners will appreciate the fact that they can't remember probably even half of what they studied in high school. The reason? You haven't reviewed any of that material in years.
Tips for Mastering Review
Here is some of our best advice on how to ensure that your review works as well for you as your regular study time does:
Tip #1: Split Review into Manageable Chunks
Small amounts of content reviewed regularly will prove more effective over time when you try to recall things you've learned in the past. It does take more time, but the steady accumulation of knowledge will always be more easily retained than an avalanche of information you cram in over the weekend.
Small but regular and frequent review periods should be built into your regular study schedule. If you have a good teacher, they will integrate review into your classes, but in your self-study time you should also set aside at least 15 minutes to review previous work.
Tip #2: Diversify Your Materials
Very often, a problem that students have is thinking that they know words, phrases or other language knowledge because they become very familiar with it in a certain specific context. This means that if and when they see a word used elsewhere, they may actually not recognize it because they have only come to know it within that specific reference frame.
This can work in other ways, too. If you're practicing vocabulary with flashcards, for instance, then it's easy to start getting familiar with the cards based on their order. That's why it's imperative that you shuffle flashcards as much as possible before every review session. Over time, however, the order may become less relevant, but you start to know which words are which simply by process of elimination based on your knowledge of what's in the deck.
All of this means learners need to diversify their review materials as much as possible so that they can see and hear new words, phrases and other expressions spoken and used in different settings. This will better help solidify that knowledge in your mind.
Tip #3: Build Systems Where Possible
As you get deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole of learning a foreign language, it's easy for things to get rather chaotic. There are so many words, so many sentence structures and grammar rules to remember. It's important that at least your review can remain as organized and systematic as possible. To that end, consider using methods like the Leitner method for organizing your flashcards to help separate words that need learning every day from those you could practice just once or twice a week.
Remember what they say ¨don't always try to learn more, just try to learn smarter!" Build your own innovative systems of time and content management and watch the effectiveness of your review grow exponentially.
Tip #4: Use What You Learn
This tip is perhaps the most valuable in our list here. The best and surest way to secure in your mind the things that you learn in language classes is to find opportunities to use them in real-life situations. Now, if you're living in Berlin and studying Cantonese, it might be hard to do that, but you can at least try to weave them into conversations with your online tutor, or find an online channel through which to try and apply the knowledge. It doesn't always have to be a face-to-face encounter. In any event, using the language knowledge is absolutely the best way to both review and retain it.
Tip #5: Review with a Partner
Finally, another great review strategy is to join forces with another language learner and bounce ideas off each other. By quizzing each other, you introduce a kind of competitive element that can be very productive to many learners. In addition, an effective study partnership can help two learners to make up for any deficit in the other's learning. One learner's strength bolsters the other.
Follow these tips for what will hopefully be a more enjoyable and productive review of your studied material. The greater result should be a more successful traversing of the path of language learning in the long term.
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