Posted on | March 3, 2009 | 19 Comments
The key to language acquisition is vocabulary-building. The best way to build your vocabulary is through comprehensive input (i.e., reading and listening). An efficient way to maintain your vocabulary is to use an Spaced Repetition System (SRS). There is no doubt about it. Look around and you will see everybody in the language-learning circle talks about SRS. I myself have also experienced the power of it.
I would like to share with you a few of my SRS tips in this post. “Best practices” here simply refer to my own best practices I have discovered so far. Feel free to share with me your own best practices.
DO – Review new vocabulary right away
I did not realize the importance of immediate review of new vocabulary until someone gave me this advice. After you read something and encounter some new vocabulary, input them into your SRS and review them right away. This way, you review the new vocabulary when they are still fresh in your memory, thus reinforcing retention. More importantly, the context of the new vocabulary is also fresh in your memory. Remember, the best way to remember new vocabulary is through context. Without context, we go back to rote memorization.
DO – Review new vocabulary first
At any point in time when you are working on your SRS, you face with 3 types of cards: new ones, old ones, and failed ones. New cards should always be reviewed first, because you want to start the scheduling as early as possible. Then comes the old cards. I always review the failed cards last, because they tend to be more difficult and often give me a strong sense of discouragement.
DON’T – Try to remember everything
An earlier misconception I had with SRS was that I thought SRS would help me to remember all of my vocabulary. When I failed to remember a word, I would become really frustrated. I later learned that forgetting is just part of the remembering process. It is alright to forget. I should not feel bad when I fail to remember a word. Often when the difficult words reappear in another context, they begin to stick. The beauty of SRS is that it tracks all your forgotten vocabulary. When time comes, you will remember them.
DON’T – Replace comprehensive input activities with SRS
SRS is quite addicting. You may find yourself spending hours everyday working on your SRS. However, you should only build your vocabulary through comprehensive input activities. You should only add new vocabulary you have encountered from your reading and listening, and not from dictionaries or other people’s decks. Therefore, do not bury yourself too much in SRS. Spend more time reading and listening in your target language.