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I Will Teach You A Language | Weekly Motivation and Language Learning Tips to Help You Become Fluent in Any Language

Learning a new language? Get your language learning questions answered by polyglot Olly Richards, who speaks 8 languages and runs the popular blog - I Will Teach You A Language. Whatever's holding you back on the path to fluency, tune in twice a week to get your regular dose of language learning motivation, with Olly and other polyglot guests, such as Luca Lampariello, Richard Simcott, Alex Rawlings, Benny Lewis, Anthony Metivier and Jonathan Levi. Learn Spanish, Learn French, Learn German, Learn Italian, Learn Portuguese, Learn Arabic, Learn Japanese, Learn Chinese
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Now displaying: Page 1
May 12, 2017

Charlotte asks: "What's your opinion on removing English from flashcards altogether?

Episode Summary:

  • Arguments for having flashcards entirely in the target language:
    • Avoid translation
    • Learn to think in the target language
    • Increased exposure to target language
    • "Learn like a child"
  • Arguments for having pictures on your flashcards:
    • Visual memory is stronger than auditory memory
    • Wyner: "It’s much easier to learn a word off of a picture card you’ve made yourself than off of a translation card you downloaded in someone else’s deck." = false equivalence

My response to this:

  • Translation is inevitable, and also very useful! (The more languages I acquire, the more I use contrastive analysis to learn faster.)
  • Parallels with learning like children are misguided - we're not children, we have study skills
  • Flashcards entirely in the target language are soon "learnt", thereby negating the benefit of any increased exposure.
  • Visuals are helpful, but are so time consuming as to make the creation of flashcards a burden.
  • Elaborate systems for flashcards misunderstand the purpose of SRS as a learning tool. Setting up flashcards with pictures and peripheral info in the target language, in an attempt to make them a kind of learning tool is not only highly inefficient, but also deprives you of time spent with the whole language

My thoughts on a smart approach to using flashcards:

  • Flashcards are for practising output, not input
  • In other words, flashcards are for practising the recall of stuff you've already learnt
  • The role of English in the flashcards is as a prompt - your task is then to recall the word or phrase in the target language.
  • Images are indeed powerful, but are best created in your mind (i.e. mnemonics)
  • It's vital for flashcards not to become burdensome - Keep it simple!
  • The potential for memory exists firmly within your mind - the extent to which you employ your brainpower and imagination when you attempt to learn new vocabulary determines how well you remember it.
  • To that extent - the spaced repetition build into flashcards offers you an opportunity to reinforce the associations you have already made, rather than the source of learning itself.

Resources Mentioned In Today's Episode:

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1 Comments
  • six and a half months ago
    Myles
    Along the lines of prompt-focussed flashcards as you mention, how do you feel about target-language prompts (e.g. a question in the target language with an answer also in the target language)? For example, I'm considering looking for materials aimed at German students to improve German vocabulary in specific subjects, or else creating flashcards from materials like that. Or should I keep word recall and semantic understanding separate?