on September 12 2009 12:33 pm 1

Dealing with Interruptions in Your Language Studies

One of the biggest stumbling blocks on the road to fluency is the continual interruptions. Interruptions do more than slow your progress than just take time away from your studies; they also erode the progress you’ve already made.

Just like kids forget what they’ve learned over the academic year while they’re on summer vacation, you also start to forget vocabulary and grammar features you’ve learned about after a surprisingly short period of time.

The Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve

Hermann Ebbinghaus discovered that the brain starts to discard new information after just 20 minutes. Within 20 minutes of studying something, 40% of the material you just “learned” is gone. If you’ve just learned some new words, you may still be able to remember them, but they’ll be less securely fixed in your memory than they were 20 minutes ago.

After a day, 70% is gone. At this point, unless you’ve used some good mnemonics, you’ll probably have completely forgotten some of the words. This is why you need constant, regular review in order to retain what you learn, regardless of whether you’re learning fast or at a more relaxed pace.

Make Study and Review Convenient

If you feel like the only legitimate way to study is to sit down at a desk surrounded by your open textbook, workbook, vocab and grammar notebooks, and a tape player loaded with listening material, then of course you’re going to procrastinate. Who really has time to set all that up?

Fortunately, life is full of little blocks of down time that could be used as study and review time. Waiting in line is a good example. In order to take advantage of those micro-blocks of time, though, make sure you’re ready to review on a moment’s notice. It should take you just seconds to pull out your study material and start working.
Here are a few ways to do that:

  • Use a pocket-sized alphabetized phone directory as a dictionary. Carry it in your pocket or purse.
  • Keep a running list of useful phrases. Use them to write short dialogues.
  • Read at least one article of an online newspaper a day.
  • Keep a diary in your target language even if you only enter short paragraphs about what you did that day.
  • Use self-contained, audio-only lessons like Pimsleur you can turn on any time.

Redefine “Study”

When it comes to language learning, while detailed grammar and vocabulary study are valuable, they’re not the only way to learn. Let’s face it, we all have days when we’re just too mentally exhausted to learn much of anything.

What you really need every single day for at least six months is exposure to the language. The trick is to take something you do regularly in your native language and start doing it in the language you’re learning. Try one of these:

  • Listen to music
  • Read books or magazines
  • Watch TV or movies
  • Play games or do puzzles

Get a Motivational Partner

If you have trouble keeping up with your studies, pair up with another learner who can be your accountability partner. Set clearly defined, measurable goals for every week and hold each other to those goals.

Make this technique even more powerful by setting a consequence for not meeting the goal. For example, choose a small, yet significant amount of money, say $15, as a “fine” for not your goal. The one who doesn’t meet their personal goal for the week gives the money either to their partner or to a charity. You can even make bets with each on who can learn the most words or write a letter with the fewest grammatical errors.

Related posts:

  1. Four Surefire Tips to Supercharge Your Spanish Studies
  2. How to Stop Procrastinating and Start Learning: Five Techniques to Try
  3. How to Set Goals for Learning a Foreign Language
  4. Make and Keep your Language Learning New Year’s Resolutions
  5. Foreign Language Vocabulary Learning: Which Words to Learn First

Filed under Getting Organized,Grammar,Vocabulary

One Response to “Dealing with Interruptions in Your Language Studies”

  1. Mr WordPress says:

    Hi, this is a comment.
    To delete a comment, just log in and view the post's comments. There you will have the option to edit or delete them.

Leave a Reply