Have you ever had the experience when you’re sat in class, you want to express your opinion, but you can’t find the specific word to say? You learnt it before and it’s right there, on the tip of your tongue, at the edge of your mind, but it just won’t come out no matter how hard you try to remember it. Finally, despite your best efforts, you let out an exasperated sigh and give up. “Sorry, I can’t remember the word” you utter in defeat.
Now, luckily you have a fantastic Art Lingual teacher, and they are able to pick up on the general gist of where your idea was going – They offer a word in suggestion – “Yes! That’s the one! How couldn’t I remember it, I must be getting older. My brain isn’t working how it used to when I was younger, I would have definitely remembered that if I was still a teenager.
Be it in the classroom or on the street talking to a foreigner, all language learners have had a similar experience. In order to combat this, I would like to introduce a concept that, although I’m sure many are familiar with, is a fantastic tool to aid you in the retention of vocabulary.
It’s called spaced repetition and like most effective solutions to complex problems, its elegance comes from its simplicity.
The idea beyond spaced repetition learning is that after learning a new word it’s best to review the word periodically over the course of a given time frame – This can be over weeks or even months. This has been shown to be more effective than repeating something over and over again in a smaller time frame, for example in the space of 1 class.
After learning a new word one day it should be reviewed first within 3 days. After that another 3 days, after that 5, after that 7. The schedule and frequency can vary depending on individual tastes and preferences.
If you are able to review the words in this manner then it will be much easier to actually retain, and thus use in a meaningful way, the vocabulary that you have learned in the classroom. Check out the chart below to get an idea of how something learned will gradually disappear from your brain box over time!
For me personally, another method that has supplemented spaced repetition well is by putting the learned word into a sentence – This context for the word helps to further reinforce it and ingrain it into the brain so that when the time comes for recall everything goes smoothly.