Do you guys have short memory in your tl?

I find myself understanding a video or an audio the first time and then when I get to the end I remember a few things and then a couple minutes go by and I tend to forget more and more of what I’ve listened or read to

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Yes. I have a very short memory in my target language. It gets better over time but none of my languages are near the level of my English. If you’re curious there’s some videos on YouTube regarding short term memory. the ones I saw don’t mention 2nd languages per se but it should still be helpful and interesting.

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but are you fluent in your tl ?

In German and Japanese yes. I remember those way better than Korean which I’m focusing on now. But they’re still not on a level with English.


Yes. It happens more when what I’ve listened to was a little bit hard to fully understand in the first place. I feel like the more comfortable the material is, the more we retain from it.

We sometimes feel like something was real easy and we don’t even realise we missed parts of it. If it felt easy for you, and you found yourself forgetting what you just listened to, then maybe it wasn’t quite the breeze you thought it was. Personally, I’ve found that to be the case. Or else maybe the material wasn’t all that engaging to you, or a mix of both.

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I assume it’s not a short memory what you’re talking about. Pretty regular. The more complex or difficult the content is, the more times we need to go over it. If the subject of the content would be of what you already know well, something you’re profficient in, you’d be able to remember like all of it, even if you haven’t seen the particular article or pocast before.

Try to compare, in your native language, a story for kids of about 3 minutes and an overview of Abstract Syntax Trees in programming or something like that of the same 3 minutes. The result will be the same. I mean, the difficult one will stick much worse.

Our memory isn’t some kind of shelf where, once we’ve heard something, we put it and then it rests there until we need it. It’s connections between connections between connections. They need to be built. They’re constantly getting stronger or weaker, back and forth.

To do so, our brain have either to figure out what those connections are (that is, you need to stress the important parts of the content for you) and give them a time to become strong and distinguishable from the other mess of connections. Or it needs an outstanding stimulus, utter importance of a message for your kind of survival mechanism, in which case the connections would form more quickly. Strong emotions also could help with building connections, because they’re a part of the survival mechanism.

yeah. these strong connections come to me as a visual form. So If I see something i’m more likely to recall it than just hearing it.

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  • If I see something i’m more likely to recall it than just hearing it.

The stimulus is more complete in that case. It’s a good thing, but not critical.

You can imagine a situation, when you’re happend to overhear two of your friends/colleagues/whoever speaking bs about you behind the closed door. It would be interesting and important to you even if it’s not visual. And it would be hard to forget. On the contrary, such situations haunt us for years even if we would be happy to forget this shit, but no, we remember every *****n’ word :smiley:

This is the beauty of the comprehensible input approach + when we’re following our natural interests and/or importance while learning TL.

A word of caution. As strong feelings and emotions arise we may not actually remember every fecking word, We may protect ourselves with a number of different defence mechanisms, misremember, mishear, and ultimately get the situation all wrong.

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I agree, emotions too strong could cause PTSD-like symptomatic. The thousand-yard stare isn’t what we want after we’ve learnt the TL :slight_smile:

S.I. are you here

Dear Thebg, sorry to say this, but you need to know that this isn’t our personal chat or something. It’s a language learning forum where learners (mostly adult learners) discuss things about languages or about the LingQ app in particular.

If you want to ask me something, you better click on my nickname, get into my account page, then opt for “Private” under the comment field and after that write me a massage.

@ericktolu; How easy or difficult is it for you to understand the audio? If it takes much effort, and especially if you are still translating in your head, then it will be harder to remember. That is because you are paying more attention to the language and less to the message. Keep listening, and as you understand more with less effort, you’ll probably find yourself remembering more.

Most learners begin by translating in their heads, I’m sure. But it is impossible to follow the speed of natural speech when doing that. Maybe you’re already past that stage. But if you still need to concentrate on specifics of grammar and sentence structure, e.g., then you will still be distracted from the meaning.

I got past the translate-in-head phase by watching lots of YouTube videos and listening to lots of audio-only material. Videos are good, I think, because the visual clues help you follow along even if you don’t understand each word. With audio-only material I used two approaches. First, I’d listen and try to catch words and phrases without trying too hard to understand. Secondly, I’d try to follow the meaning but concentrate more on anticipating the next word than on thinking about the words just spoken.

With lots and lots of listening and watching, it takes less and less effort to understand. I still do, and probably always will, encounter material that’s not easy to understand. But I spend a large part of my evenings watching YouTube in my target language, and much of it is just talking heads. I understand most of it effortlessly, even at increased speeds. I do remember what I listen to – I’m now doing it more for entertainment and for learning the subject material of the videos rather than strictly for language study.

I usually cannot repeat afterwards word-for-word what was said, but that’s because I’m ingesting the message more so than the language itself. And, to be honest, my ability to produce the language is far behind my ability to understand it. I have no regular opportunities to speak. That is a problem, and it impedes my ability to parrot what I heard. But it does not mean that I did not understand and do not remember the content of what I heard.


awesome🫶 thanks a bunch

This! When processing vocabulary and grammar, the actual content is easily forgotten. I used to work as a professional interpreter, and afterwards, if a client asked me details about the recent interaction, when possible I would suggest that we go ask the other party, and I’d gladly interpret again for them, not just because it was of course the right thing to do, but also because honestly I was afraid I could not remember accurately enough. The process of converting a message from one language to another is not the same as committing the content to long-term memory; it’s all in very-short-term working memory, which can’t hold much at a time, and you have to let things go as soon as you don’t need them any more so that you can focus on the next batch of information that needs processing.


When I struggle to understand everything in my target language, I console myself with the knowledge that when I watch an American film, such as Dune, I miss some of the dialogue because it is too fast and unintelligible to my ear. I’m a native British English speaker. I never noticed this until I started learning two languages, probably because missing a few words or a phrase was not detrimental to the enjoyment of the film. So perhaps we should not be too self critical.


Short memory would be more accurately called working memory and it’s not that effective. For me it affects even in my native language. I had one test where I was told short stories and after each I was supposed to tell as much as I could right after I heard them. I went almost completely mute after that. Out of something like 100 words I could tell like 5 key words or terms. It’s not that I didn’t remember what I had heard, but I couldn’t express it in words. If I do working memory tests with pictures for example I get excelent scores. And I don’t have any trouble picking up vocabulario and phrases with comprensible input. It’s only once it get’s into your long term memory that you will remember words so you don’t need to concern yourself with it even if it feels like you can’t remember what you just heard. Your brain will proces information it has received and see if there are something useful that it wants to move to your long term memory.