LEARN A FOREIGN LANGUAGE

Spaced Repetition to Learn a Foreign Language

Alexis Fishbaugh, Kids’ Club Spanish School, Spain

17  March 2020

We have all experienced certain late-night cram sessions with hefty textbooks, academic notes and a steaming cup of coffee, trying to review a large amount of coursework in the hopes of retaining at least some of the information for the morning exam. From students to professionals, we often go through certain situations that require us to learn a lot of information in a limited period of time.

These cram sessions, many times, prove to be a disaster when it comes to actually retaining the information for any decent period of time. This age-old practice is not only monotonous and redundant, it is also highly inefficient and it is far from being aligned with how our brains actually perform in accordance to the primary research in the fields of psychology and neuroscience. An efficient tactic to memorizing or learning new information has to be cultivated with the brain’s intrinsic restrictions in mind. We need to understand that our mind cannot successfully store and remember a lot of information in a limited period of time.

Garto Kids' Club Spanish School

“Successful and unsuccessful people do not vary greatly in their abilities. They vary in their desires to reach their potential.

– John Maxwell

A new-age learning technique, called Spaced Repetition, comes to the rescue to effectively assist you in the learning process, whether it be your extensive coursework for an exam at school or learning new information for your new job and actually retaining this information over a long period of time.

Spaced repetition is a new learning technique that should replace regular cram sessions in order to ensure long retention periods for new information. It is especially useful when learning a foreign language, such as Spanish, since this requires the recollection of many new vocabulary words and grammatical structures and rules. Kids’ Club Spanish School’s classroom curriculum incorporates this method so that the students are learning and actually retaining the foreign language without even realizing it. Below we will discuss how we did this and how to incorporate this information into your child’s daily routine so that they can take full advantage of the new language learned in their classes with Kids’ Club Spanish School.

 

What is Spaced Repetition?

In a cram session, information is committed to a very short term memory mechanism, since our brains are not wired to store so much information in a short amount of time in our long term memory, whereas with Spaced Repetition, the idea is that things are better learned, long term, if you repeatedly see the information, or review it, over a long (longish) periods of time, leaving increasing space intervals in between each review session.

Spaced repetition is a learning technique that works by presenting you with the information again right before you had a chance to forget it, allowing you to continuously review previously learned information after increasing intervals of time, helping create an everlasting effect. This means that you might be presented with a new word, in the case of learning a foreign language, right after having learned it, and then more times subsequently. However, little by little, the time between seeing the new word will be increased.  This ensures that the word maintains its freshness in your mind.

Spaced repetition is a learning technique that works by presenting you with the information again right before you had a chance to forget it, allowing you to continuously review previously learned information after increasing intervals of time, helping create an everlasting effect.

When you learn a foreign language, it is extremely important to review everything learned in depth, a few times soon after class. This is important in any type of learning method. However, with spaced repetition, the key is to let some time go by and then go over the same material again a few more times in the following days. And lastly, space out the time even more and review again.

When you initially start reviewing the material, you will forget more and more as time goes by, however when you go over it repeatedly, letting time pass, it makes it much easier to retain because your brain recognizes it as more important since it is seeing it over a long period of time. Returning to this material in increasing intervals of time makes sure your brain considers this information important enough to be imprinted in your child’s longterm memory.

 

Kids’ Club Spanish School Curriculum and Spaced Repetition

Kids’ Club Spanish School uses Spaced Repetition throughout their curriculum to ensure the students learn the material and actually deeply internalize it. Students are presented with target vocabulary and target grammar in a unit and study it for 8 classes. The 9th class is an oral exam and the 10th class is the unit exam. The students then begin a new unit with new target vocabulary and target grammar to learn. However this does not mean that the target material from the previous unit is to be forgotten. In the following classes, the curriculum will recycle words and grammar structure previously learned putting it in front of the students again and again, mixed in with the new unit’s “target vocabulary” and “target grammar” allowing for increased spaced intervals, in order to ensure the students have this information constantly fresh in their minds.

A Great Way to Add Spaced Repetition for Study Between Classes

To further ensure that your child is studying Spanish for long term learning learning and not short-term, here is a simple guide to using spaced repetition in between classes:

Flashcard review

  1. First review 24 hours after class
  2. Second review 48 hours after class
  3. Third review 5 days after class
  4. Forth review of ½ of the flash cards 2 weeks after class, mixing them in with the new material
  5. Fifth review of the other ½ of the flashcards one month after class mixing them in with new material.
  6. Once a month quick review all flashcards from the unit.

A great way to really review flashcards is, when a word is forgotten to write it and the English meaning 5 times. Then go back and try to review again. If that word is still forgotten write it again 5 times. Pretty soon that word won’t be forgotten again.

Homework Worksheets

These should be completed after class 5 and class 9 in the unit. This way some time has passed between having first learned the material and having practiced it outside of class.

Speedy Recollect

It can also be helpful to try to do what is called a “speedy recollect” of the words while doing everyday activities like taking a bath, getting dressed or eating a meal every once a week.

 

Everyday environments to avoid blanking out

Once you have gone through new words when you learn a foreign language such as Spanish and you keep reviewing them from time to time during your day to day activities, your memory of them will be quite high.  Your brain will recognize this language as something normal, since you are thinking about it while doing normal everyday activities and not only when you are sitting in a “study environment” such as a desk or library. This will allow the student to pull from this information when at a store or restaurant and wanting to speak in Spanish. Sometimes, when learning a foreign language and not having ever used it in an everyday environment, one can come up blank, even when they had received an “A” on their last Spanish exam. Training your brain to think about this language in every day routine environments avoids this “blanking out”.  Returning to this material in increasing intervals of time makes sure your brain considers this information important enough to be imprinted in your child’s longterm memory.

Garto Kids' Club Spanish School

Once you have gone through new words when you learn a foreign language such as Spanish and you keep reviewing them from time to time during your day to day activities, your memory of them will be quite high.

Work Smart, Not Hard

This popular learning technique is especially useful when it comes to learning foreign languages such as Spanish. Although this method can be practiced by people of all ages it can be especially useful for children because it is much less monotonous than cram sessions and makes learning Spanish for kids much less of a chore.

Most of us approach learning the same as it has for centuries and cramming has been the accepted method of study. Spaced repetition is a better way to learn because it ensures long term learning and is less monotonous, so go ahead and retire those late night coffee cups and get ready to really learn.

In conclusion, if you would like your child to learn Spanish, in an immersion environment using the spaced repetition method, sign them up for a free trial class with Kids’ Club Spanish School.

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