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Learning vocabulary
Success in memorising word translations using four different methods.
Learning vocabulary
Taken from an article that considers memorising techniques - The Art and Science of Remembering - this particular example considers recalling the translations of foreign words flashed on a computer screen. Four groups used different methods and were tested a week later.

  • One group simply studied each word and translation once, with no quizzes.
  • A second group was quizzed until they could recall each translation.
  • A third group was quizzed until they could recall each translation three times in a row after initial success.
  • The fourth group did the same as the third, but their quizzes were spaced out in time.

The results are shown in the image at the head of this post, which show that by far the best approach is to space out the learning. In this case it was quizzes, but one imagines that the philosophy applies equally to other self-learning techniques.

Personally I find that exposure to new vocabulary over a period of time is a far more effective for retention than trying to learn a list of new words in one sitting. In fact, many language teaching applications apply this form of repetition over time to reinforce learning and improve retention.
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