Many English learners have come to me to ask the same questions over and over again.
“How can I remember English words effectively?”
“How can I memorize new vocabulary words and be able to keep it in my long-term memory?”
“What is the best technique to improve my knowledge of the English vocabulary?”
Of course, many ESL students would be asking questions on how to improve their English vocabulary. Learning vocabulary words is a big part of learning the language. It is true that remembering new words is a difficult chore. It could even get boring at times.
However, if you are serious about learning English as a second language, vocabulary exercises is simply a must.
Lucky for you because today, I am going to show you a technique that will surely improve your English vocabulary. Using this strategy will make it possible for you to never forget any English word again. This technique is known as the “Distributed Intervals technique” or the “Spaced Learning Technique”.
The name sounds fancy but it should not be too hard for an English learner who is dedicated to achieve great vocabulary knowledge.
Are you excited to know more about this method? If so, let’s start!
Do you study English vocabulary in the right way?
Learning a language is something that does not happen overnight. Learning English, specifically, takes a lot of effort and dedication. Many students also believe that time is crucial in learning a language which is totally right.
A fluent English speaker with rich vocabulary knowledge did not become highly proficient in the language after just one day of practice.
So the question is, do you study English vocabulary in the right way?
Do you manage your time effectively to reach your English learning goals?
You see, here’s the thing. Your brain can only retain so much information. It is natural for you to forget some of the things that you have already learned from last month or last week.
The problem is, learning English requires a lot of time and effort.
But here’s the good news. The spaced learning technique can help your brain retain new words and phrases for long periods of time. So if you are experiencing difficulties in remembering your English vocabulary, then this article is perfect for you!
What is the spaced learning? Why not just repetition?
The Spaced Learning Method is a technique that refreshes information before you forget it. It makes sure that it stays in your mind so it sticks to your long-term memory.
Basically, you have to review a word a few minutes after the first time, then a few days later, then a few weeks later and so on. Seeing the word again and again makes keeps you reminded making it easy for your brain to remember. Spaced learning produces better long-term retention than any other vocabulary exercises and techniques.
Before we go on, you need to know the history and meaning of the term “spaced learning”.
Back in 1885, Hermann Ebbinghaus came up with the Forgetting Curve theory in which we forget things over time unless we revisit them. This theory defines spaced learning as the splitting up of learning into many short sessions instead of a few long ones.
Also known as distributed practice, this technique focuses on the repetition of concepts and improves the long-term learning and memory of students.
This technique is simple. All you have to do is remember these things:
- Write down a new phrase in your notebook so that you can use it later during conversations.
- Avoid memorizing individual words as much as you can. Learning vocabulary does not work that way. The English language is built from phrases instead of separate words. Then it’s just a matter of speaking out the phrase you’re trying to memorize several times. You should then be able to memorize the new phrase easily after a few practice repetitions.
- Go back and review the words you have learned. There is a high chance you will forget these new phrases if you don’t go back to them, which is why we use the spaced learning technique. Whenever you learn new vocabulary for the first time, you repeat at least three times. Then you go back to it again on the same day, on following day, after one week, and the following month. By then you have already learned the new phrase, thanks to repeated learning at set time intervals.
The science of the spaced learning technique is based on studies about how the human brain creates long-term memories. Further readings on this subject can be accessed below:
(February 2005, DivisionAmerica)
Distributed Intervals technique – 3X Your English Vocabulary
The Distributed Intervals technique is one sure way to help improve your English vocabulary. If you do it the right way, you will surely achieve real results. This technique has three phases composed of very simple steps:
- Prepare one A4 sized bond paper
- Draw a colorized line to split each page into two equal halves
- Write English words (or word definitions) on the left, and your native language on the right
- With the help of the dictionary, write the stress mark for each English word (for example: recommen’dation)
- For each English word, write two words with the same meaning
- Apply acronyms for reference such as n for “noun”, v for “verb”, adj for “adjective”, adv for “adverb”, and so on
- Write the spelling of the word on the left side under the main word
- Write down at least 50 words for each page of the A4 paper
Learn and Check Phase
- On your A4 paper, start with the English word on the first row. Read the word definition on the left and the native language translation on the right.
- Test yourself by trying to identify the correct English word. Use a card to cover the Answer. Write and read the appropriate English word for each definition. Remove the card and check if you wrote the correct word. If wrong, go back to step one.
- Repeat step 2. This time, focus on the words you got wrong until you get them right.
- Repeat step 2. As long as you have not learned all the words on the list, repeat the process again and again.
- Repeat step 2 again until you get all your answers correct.
You must learn to write and read the English words on the left side using only the definitions on the right side. Once you can do this for all the words, proceed to the next phase.
Do the “learn and check phase” again with these distributed intervals
- 1st review: On day later
- 2nd review: 1 week later
- 3rd review: 1 month later
- 4th review: 3 month later
- 5th review: 6 month later
Set 30-Day challenge with the Spaced Learning
“30 days is enough time to build a habit”, that is what they say.
And indeed, they are right.
It’s like trying to achieve 50 squats by starting doing 5 on your first day. If you keep at it for thirty days, you will be able to maintain it probably for the entire year. The same goes with learning a language. 30 days is also enough to make Spaced Learning Technique a habit. All you have to do is set a 30-day challenge by following these steps:
- Write down your English learning goal for each day. You have to set a clear objective so you know what you have to accomplish or focus on.
- Set your Distributed Intervals for learning English vocabulary
- Put a mark on your checklist at the end of each distributed interval. Always keep track of your progress to keep organized.
- Do this for 30 days and your long-term memory will handle the rest!
Spaced Learning vs Massed Learning
Massed Learning is a study method wherein individuals practice a task continuously without rest.
On the other hand, as what we have discussed, Spaced Learning is a technique in which individuals are given breaks or rest intervals within the practice sessions.
Spaced learning is much more ideal because information that is repeated in a distributed fashion stays in our memory for a longer period of time.
Information acquisition might be slower compared to massed learning but it is much more effective when it comes to information retention.
Spaced learning is a great technique to increase your wealth of English words. It will give you the confidence to your ability to remember your vocabulary words. You will never have to worry about forgetting the English words you have learned ever again.
Did you enjoy reading this article? I hope we were able to help you learn another great technique to improve your knowledge of the English vocabulary.
If you have anything in mind that you would like to share, write a comment below and let us know what you think.
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See you in the next post! Bye!