Spaced repetition – “natural approach” and what does toothpaste have to do with it?

Spaced repetition – “natural approach” and what does toothpaste have to do with it?

The mechanism behind spaced repetition (SR) is quite simple. Some software or application (Anki, Remnote and even Duolingo) gives you a test for your vocabulary again and again in certain intervals of time until you’ve learnt it. The principal is pretty straightforward: words or phrases that you can easily recall are presented to you less frequently, while those you struggle with are shown more often.

Spaced repetition can be really helpful for rapid vocabulary increase. Why I claim this:

  • first there is a solid science evidence behind (check this article if interested).
  • secondly my personal experience. After 6 month of learning German (almost from scratch) I am already able to dive into conversations with guys having B1 level and attend German speaking clubs.
  • And finally, if the most popular app for language learning (now I mean Duolingo) uses this technology, that should mean smth)))

But it’s not all so bright. In reallife still many language learners are sceptical about SR and majority even have not ever heard about it. How do you think why?

From my experience the main problem is about your routines, which you need to build around SR. Of course there are many approaches you can pick. They can be based on a specialized software (like Anki or Remnote), using just your Telegram messenger (as described here) or even just do it with a notebook (using Cornel notetaking approach).

Regardless of the approach you choose, it normally takes several months of experimenting to build your own frictionless process (as it was in my case). In particular – how you add new vocabulary to your SR system and how you review it. Normally you have to consider vast of small details, which depend on your particular lifestyle. That’s why SR rarely turns into a habit. And building a habit of SR is a key to get a significant boost to your vocabulary.

But again independently of the approach you choose, there is a nuance, that can drastically multiply your didactic effect from SR. It helps to achieve what I call “natural spaced repetition“. Keep reading to found out what it is and also finally understand what does toothpaste have to do with it)))

“Natural” spaced repetition

Ok, before reading further try to come up with your own ideas for the following question: are there any words or phrases (in a language you learn) that you you naturally encounter from time to time? (Just take your time to think before scrolling down)))🤔

I guess you have come up at least with several ideas. Of course, this is more likely if you live in a country where a foreign language is the main official language. For instance that could be words/phrases from ads on the billboards, traffic signs, inscriptions on items that you periodically buy, lyrics from your favorite songs (which you listen from time to time) in language your learn.

So have you already guessed the lifehack I wanna share? Yep exactly – when you add words to your SR system, give preference to those that you encounter regularly in your reality. There are several “bonuses” of this approach. Firstly you meet them more often, that’s why you are supposed to faster memorize them. Secondly (what is even more important) – they are usually context related. This in turn gives you more brain connections for the particular word (=better level of memorization). And even better if the context is related with people and ideally – filled with emotions.

Now lets check several examples from my reality. Ahah and finally we got to the toothpaste. I first got to the of natural spaced repetition, when was brushing tooth)). I noticed that each time when I put toothpaste on the brush, I was accidentally reading a large inscription on it. It was something about “Zahnreinigung” (teeth cleaning). And after several days these new words easily settled in my head almost without any effort. Actually it was an only one effort when I looked up the meaning of the phrase in a dictionary.

Yet there is one more tip. It is even better if these phrases are not just exposed to you but also generated (used by your own in verbal or written communication). I bet there are several phrases in a foreign language, which you periodically repeat in your reality, especially living in native speaking country. For instance in Austria the first phrases I fast memorized were: “Wie hast du geschlafen” (talking to my neighbors) and “Können Sie mir bitte ein Glas warmes Wasser geben?” (usually asking in Vienna cafes, since by default they mostly bring cold water))

The funniest thing that using this approach you can even get rid of any special SR system. Just check translation for words you meet periodically and there is big chance that they will be learned automatically.

I hope natural spaced repetition will help you to boost your vocabulary as fast as possible! Also join my channel where I share my lifehacks on natural and frictionless language learning😜.

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