What process do you go through to learn a new word in your target language?
Do you write it down? If so, where?
How do you revise it later? How long does it take you to learn it?
How many times do you have to see it before you know it? And how do you know when you really have learnt it?
All relevant questions if you want to get the bottom of vocabulary learning. Alternatively, if you just want to get the damn words learnt and leave the science to another day, just use a well-endowed piece of software to set it all up for you!
This article will show you how.
What follows is a review of my favourite spaced-repetition flashcard app, which I've used to help me learn eight languages.
You'll discover what's so great about spaced repetition software in general. And you'll also see inside my process for learning and remembering vocabulary with my flashcard app of choice.
Ready to turbo charge your vocabulary learning? Let's get into it.
They are, of course, one of the most basic study tools there are. Write the known information on one side of a piece of card, and the unknown information on the other.
For example, the word “sleet” on one side, and the Chinese character “霙” on the other. You can then test yourself on everything by flipping the cards until you know them well.
Physical flashcards have worked for centuries, and naturally still do. However, they're cumbersome to use as you have to manually determine the order of the cards yourself.
What technology has brought to the table is SRS – Spaced Repetition System. What SRS does, in a nutshell, is to control the frequency that certain cards appear and reappear.
As one proponent puts it:
A technique that ensures nearly perfect recall with minimum possible investment of time via computing optimum inter-repetition intervals.
In other words, you learn stuff quickly and save time. Manifest this in an iPhone and a killer app, and you've got a portable learning machine. An no excuses left!
There are an awful lot of features on this app, most of which you probably won't need. Here are the most important features to get you up and running:
Here are some tips for getting the most out of the features such an app has to offer, based on what has worked for me.
For the price of an espresso, you get a very powerful learning tool indeed.
Transform all those spare 5-minute slots in your day into power study sessions by digging your phone out of your pocket and reviewing that vocab that just won't stick.
You might be too busy studying to remember to enjoy all the progress!
Flashcards are hugely powerful, but you need a good language learning strategy to make the most of them.
You can learn more about my complete method for learning and memorising vocabulary, Bulletproof Memory, by clicking here.
Do you use flashcard apps? What are some of your favourite strategies and techniques for learning vocabulary when learning a language? Share your thoughts in the comments below.