Spaced repetition – The answer to how often you should review your Danish

Simple Danish Newsletter #3

Hi friends,

We hope you are having a great week so far 😊

This week, we thought we’d dive a bit into details on some evidence based techniques for learning a language that we have used ourselves for learning a new language, and today we’ll be looking at how often you should review your materials. We’ll be talking about Spaced Repetition.

We all know that repetition is important for learning new things. You can easily memorize a number at the moment, but not so much the next day.

What is Spaced Repetition and How does it work?

Spaced Repetition is a method to determine how often you should revise the material you have learned to make sure it sticks in your brain for good!

It is actually rather simple, although the devil is (as always) in the details.

Simply put, Spaced Repetition is a way of spacing your revisions of material, such that newly introduced topics and difficult topics are revised more frequently than older or easy topics.

The science behind this is something called the forgetting curve which is the fact that the more often you review materials, the better your retention of that material becomes as seen in the figure below. Each time you review a topic, you retain more of that information over time. That is your brain saying “They keeps thinking about that stuff, it must be pretty important. Let’s keep it nearby in case they need it again!”

Spaced Repetition is what you get when you apply the forgetting curve to how often you revise topics.

The more often you have reviewed a topic, the more information you retain, and so you can space your repetitions further apart in time while still retaining the information.

On the other hand, materials that are new, or difficult should be reviewed more frequently to ensure that your retention of the information doesn’t drop too low.

A very illustrative way to show what this can look like in practice is by using flashcards as an example. If you use flashcards (which we do, and highly recommend) then you can apply Spaced Repetition to your studies by having multiple piles of flashcards.

New words go in the first pile, and if you answer them correctly you move them up a pile to the next one, incorrectly answered cards either go all the way back to the first pile or they move down one pile.

This is also known as the Leitner System. In this system you would review each pile, when a box was full and that way you would make sure you review difficult words more often than easy ones.

Alternatively, you can use apps or websites to help you with your revision. I (Rasmus) personally use Anki for my flashcards. Anki is a free flashcard app that automatically incorporates spaced repetition in your revision of words. You even have the option to mark words you get right as hard, medium or easy to help it make smarter decisions for when you review it again.

We have no affiliation with Anki, we just really like their software! It’s quite popular, and that also means that there’s a bunch of free flashcard decks available online that you can get started with.

Duolingo actually also utilizes Spaced Repetition. We are not going to get into whether Duolingo is a good tool for learning Danish, but if you make use of their “personalized practice” feature, then that is built on Spaced Repetition.

So if we had to end this block of text with a few recommendations, it would be to:

1) Give your learning some space.

Instead of cramming or doing huge study sessions, space it out over time. Let those connections in your brain get stronger!

2) Increase the spacing over time.

Remember to review new or difficult topics more often than older or easy topics. You can use tools like the Leitner System, Anki or Duolingo to help you with the structure, or you can come up with your own ranking and scheduling system.

3) Do the hard stuff first.

By that we mean, review the topic you know you suck at first. Or do the topic you keep putting off because you know it will not be easy. That is exactly the revision that will be worth the effort and over time it will get easier.

❤️ Things we liked this week

1. Idiom of the week – Der er ugler i mosen.

This one is by far one of our favourite idioms, and it has certainly been the most fun one to illustrate so far.

At der er ugler i mosen, (litterally; there are owls in the swamp), means that something is suspicious or not quite right. From that you can also maybe imagine that it is not a phrase you get to use very often, but it is nonetheless very well worth knowing.

We looked up the etymology of the phrase, and it is a degeneration of “der er uller i mosen” which used to mean there’s wolves in the swamp when spoken with a jutlandish dialect. I do realise why wolves would be suspicious, but I think owls (as illustrated) would leave me much more suspicious.

2. Did you know we moderate our own Community on Reddit?

Well we do, it is called LearnDanish and it can be found at reddit.com/r/learndanish. We try to keep the Denmark&Me stuff to a minimum, and really it is a place where you can ask any question, big or small, about learning Danish. So far, we are almost 1,200 Redditors that can help you with your questions, all for free. Come join us!

3. News in Simple Danish

This one is a good one. If you want to follow Danish News and learn some Danish at the same time, then the national broadcaster (Danmarks Radio = DR) publishes their news in a simple language that can be found at dr.dk/ligetil

That’s all from us for this week. We hope you have enjoyed this slightly longer newsletter, and that you took away something valuable.

Have a great week 😊

Best regards,
Antonina & Rasmus

Denmark&Me

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