Master German faster with spaced repetition! Our blog explains how this powerful technique works and offers tips to incorporate it into your learning routine.
What has spaced repetition?
Learning a new language can be a challenging task but with the right techniques, it can be an enjoyable experience. One such technique that has gained popularity in recent years is spaced repetition. Spaced repetition is a learning technique that involves reviewing material at increasing intervals to improve long-term memory retention.
This method has proven to be particularly effective for language learning and German in particular is a language that benefits greatly from this technique. In this blog, we’ll take a closer look at spaced repetition and how it can be applied to learning the German language.
Spaced repetition is a learning technique based on the idea that the most effective way to retain information in long-term memory is to review it at intervals that are spaced out over time. The technique is based on the “forgetting curve” – a graph that shows how we forget information over time if we don’t review it.
By reviewing information at increasing intervals, spaced repetition aims to counteract the forgetting curve and improve long-term memory retention.
How does spaced repetition work?
Spaced repetition works by presenting information to learners at gradually increasing intervals. The intervals are determined by a spaced repetition algorithm that takes into account the difficulty of the material, the learner’s performance, and other factors.
The algorithm determines when the material should be presented again based on how well the learner remembers it. For example, if a learner is presented with a new German vocabulary word and can recall it after a few seconds the algorithm will schedule the word to be reviewed in a few hours.
If the learner is still able to recall the word after a few hours, the algorithm will schedule it to be reviewed in a day. If the learner forgets the word after a few hours, the algorithm will schedule it to be reviewed again in a shorter interval such as 30 minutes.
The intervals between reviews continue to increase as the learner’s memory of the material improves. This ensures that the learner is reviewing the material at the optimal time to improve memory retention.
Why is spaced repetition effective for language learning?
Spaced repetition is particularly effective for language learning because it helps learners retain large amounts of vocabulary and grammar rules over the long term. German language, in particular, is a language with complex grammar rules and a large vocabulary making it difficult to learn without effective techniques like spaced repetition.
By using spaced repetition to review German vocabulary and grammar rules, learners can ensure that they are consistently reinforcing their knowledge over time. This not only helps them remember the material for longer periods but also helps them use the language more effectively in real-world situations.
How can you use spaced repetition for learning German?
There are several tools and techniques that you can use to apply spaced repetition to learning German. Here are a few examples:
- Flashcard apps: Flashcard apps like Anki, Quizlet, and Memrise are popular tools for using spaced repetition to learn vocabulary. These apps use algorithms to determine when to present flashcards for review, based on the learner’s performance.
- Language learning software: Language learning software like Duolingo and Babbel also incorporate spaced repetition into their courses. These programs use spaced repetition algorithms to present new material and review old material at optimal intervals.
- Self-made flashcards: If you prefer a more traditional approach, you can create your flashcards for German vocabulary and grammar rules. By reviewing these flashcards at increasing intervals, you can use spaced repetition to improve your memory retention.
- Writing exercises: Writing exercises can also be a useful tool for spaced repetition in language learning. By writing sentences and paragraphs in German, you can reinforce your knowledge of vocabulary and grammar rules while also improving your writing skills.
The forgetting curve
In the process of learning, it’s important to keep in mind the concept of the forgetting curve. The forgetting curve is a theory developed by psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus, which describes how quickly we forget newly acquired information over time.
According to the forgetting curve, we tend to forget up to 50% of new information within the first hour of learning it, and up to 70% within the first 24 hours. This makes it crucial to review and reinforce what we’ve learned to retain it in the long term.
One effective method to combat the forgetting curve is spaced repetition. Spaced repetition involves reviewing information at increasing intervals to strengthen memory retention. This technique works by spacing out review sessions over time so that each review builds on the previous one and strengthens the neural connections associated with the information.
As a result, spaced repetition can lead to better long-term retention of information. Another way to combat the forgetting curve is to actively engage with the material. This means actively reviewing and reflecting on what you’ve learned, rather than simply memorizing information without deeper understanding.
Some effective techniques for active engagement include summarizing information in your own words, creating visual aids like mind maps or diagrams, and practicing applying the information to real-world scenarios.
Finding the time to study
One of the biggest challenges for language learners is finding the time to study. With busy schedules and competing demands, it can be difficult to carve out dedicated time for language learning. However, with some planning and creativity, it is possible to make language learning a regular part of your routine.
In this blog post, we’ll explore some tips for finding the time to study German.
- Set a schedule – One of the most effective ways to find time for language learning is to set a regular study schedule. This could mean dedicating a certain amount of time each day, such as 30 minutes before bed, or setting aside specific days and times for longer study sessions. By committing to a schedule, you’ll be more likely to stick to your language learning goals and make progress over time.
- Integrate language learning into your daily life – Another way to find time for language learning is to integrate it into your daily routine. For example, you could listen to German-language music or podcasts during your daily commute, or practice vocabulary while waiting in line or doing household chores. By finding ways to incorporate language learning into your existing routines, you’ll be able to make progress without adding extra time commitments.
- Take advantage of downtime – In addition to integrating language learning into your daily routine, you can also take advantage of downtime throughout the day. This could mean using language learning apps during your lunch break, reviewing flashcards while on the bus or train, or practicing speaking with a language exchange partner during your free time. By using even small pockets of time to study, you can make significant progress over time.
- Make language learning a priority – Finally, it’s important to prioritize language learning in your life. This may mean making sacrifices in other areas, such as reducing screen time or cutting back on social activities. By prioritizing language learning and making it a non-negotiable part of your routine, you’ll be more likely to find the time and energy to make progress.
Anki’s flashcards: do they work?
Anki is a popular flashcard app that uses spaced repetition to help users learn and retain new information, including vocabulary, grammar rules, and other language-learning concepts. The app allows users to create flashcards or download pre-made decks and offers a range of customization options to suit individual learning needs.
So, do Anki’s flashcards work? The answer is yes, but with some caveats.
Like any language learning tool, the effectiveness of Anki’s flashcards depends on how they are used and whether they are used in combination with other language learning methods. Anki’s spaced repetition algorithm is based on the principles of the forgetting curve, which we discussed earlier in this post.
By spacing out review sessions over time, Anki’s algorithm helps reinforce memory retention and increase the likelihood of long-term retention. This means that if used consistently and effectively, Anki’s flashcards can be an effective tool for language learning.
However, it’s important to note that Anki’s flashcards are just one tool in a larger language-learning toolkit. While flashcards can be a useful way to memorize new vocabulary words or grammar rules, they do not necessarily develop other language skills like speaking and listening.
Therefore, it’s important to use Anki’s flashcards in combination with other language learning methods, such as practicing speaking with a language exchange partner, listening to podcasts or music, or reading books and articles in the target language. Another potential downside of Anki’s flashcards is that they can be time-consuming to create and review.
Creating effective flashcards requires careful attention to detail, and reviewing flashcards can become tedious over time. It’s important to strike a balance between using Anki’s flashcards as a valuable learning tool and avoiding burnout from too much repetition.
The problem with flashcards
While flashcards can be a useful tool for language learning, they are not without their limitations. Here are some of the potential problems with flashcards:
- Limited context – Flashcards typically focus on individual vocabulary words or grammar rules, which can be helpful for memorization but do not provide much context for how these words or rules are used in real-life situations. This can make it difficult to apply what you’ve learned in practical situations, such as speaking or writing in the target language.
- Lack of engagement – Reviewing flashcards can become monotonous and boring over time, which can lead to a lack of motivation and interest in language learning. This is especially true if flashcards are the sole method of language learning being used.
- Passive learning – Although memorizing is a passive method of learning, flashcards mostly rely on it. Although it’s crucial for language learning, memory is not the only talent needed to be a fluent speaker of the target language. Active participation and communication skills are needed, for instance, when speaking and listening.
- Time-consuming – It can take a while to make and review flashcards, especially if many cards are being utilized. For people with hectic schedules in particular, this may be an obstacle to sustained language learning.
- Limited range of language skills – Flashcards primarily focus on vocabulary and grammar but do not necessarily develop other language skills such as listening, speaking, and reading comprehension.
The problem with Anki, Quizlet, Memrise…
While spaced repetition apps like Anki, Quizlet, and Memrise can be helpful for language learning, there are some potential problems associated with these apps:
- Dependence on technology – Spaced repetition apps are dependent on technology and internet connectivity, which can be a problem for learners in areas with limited access to these resources. Additionally, learners may become overly reliant on technology to the detriment of other language learning methods.
- Limited range of language skills – Like flashcards, spaced repetition apps primarily focus on vocabulary and grammar, but do not necessarily develop other language skills such as listening, speaking, and reading comprehension.
- Limited cultural context – Apps for spaced repetition might not give students a thorough cultural background for the language they are learning. For instance, studying the terminology for food items does not always provide knowledge to students about the cultural value of various cuisines.
- Over-reliance on memorization – Spaced repetition apps can encourage over-reliance on memorization, which is a passive form of learning. While memorization is important for language learning, it is not the only skill required for language proficiency.
- Limited personalization – While spaced repetition apps often allow for customization, they may not be able to provide the same level of personalization as a language tutor or teacher. This can be a problem for learners with unique learning styles or needs.
Spaced repetition needs a context
One potential issue with spaced repetition is that it can be too focused on rote memorization without taking into account the context in which language is used. To truly learn a language, it is important to understand the cultural and social context in which it is used as well as the nuances of language that may not be immediately obvious through vocabulary or grammar exercises.
For example, understanding the context in which certain words or phrases are used can help learners to use language more naturally and effectively. This can involve not only memorizing vocabulary and grammar rules but also developing an understanding of the cultural references and social norms that shape language use.
To address this issue, spaced repetition exercises should be designed to include context and real-world examples of language use. This can involve using authentic materials such as news articles, TV shows, and movies to expose learners to a variety of language contexts.
Additionally, language tutors or teachers can help learners to contextualize language use and provide guidance on how to use language in different social and cultural settings. Focusing on language tasks rather than specific words or phrases is another technique to introduce context into spaced repetition exercises.
Instead of simply memorizing vocabulary or grammar rules, learners can be challenged to participate in conversation or writing tasks that demand the application of a variety of language abilities. This can assist students in developing more extensive language skills and applying their knowledge more naturally and effectively.
For spaced repetition, a course is better than an app
While spaced repetition applications can be effective for language learning, a structured language course is frequently a superior choice for students who wish to develop a whole range of language skills. Many exercises and activities that are intended to aid students in developing their speaking, listening, reading and writing skills are frequently included in language classes.
Language course participants may also connect with a tutor or teacher who can offer direction and support for the duration of the learning process. This is especially useful for learners who are struggling with specific parts of language learning or who require additional assistance to attain their language learning objectives.
An organized and thorough curriculum that is created to advance students from beginning to advanced levels of language ability is also provided to students taking language courses. This can be very beneficial for language learners who are just getting started with a new language and may not know where to start.
Choose a course based on spaced repetition and use it the right way
Spaced repetition is a powerful tool for language learning that can help learners to memorize and retain new vocabulary and grammar concepts more effectively. However, it is important to use spaced repetition in a way that incorporates context and real-world examples of language use, rather than just focusing on rote memorization of individual words and phrases.
Ultimately, the key to successful language learning with spaced repetition is to choose a course that incorporates this approach and use it in the right way. By doing so, learners can develop a more comprehensive understanding of the language they are studying and use it more naturally and effectively ultimately achieving their language learning goals more quickly and effectively.