Have you heard of SuperMemo?

Hello everyone. There is a GREAT computer program called “Super Memo” which is excellent for language learning. I want to tell you all about it.

First of all, let me say that I have NO AFFILIATION with the makers or sellers of SuperMemo…none at all I am just a learner like you all. I found the program about 4 months ago and have been using it for my school work. I like it so much that I think you all should at least know about it.

It is pretty much a computer based data bank for “flash cards”, the little index cards which have been recommended for so long in almost any learning situation. You write some kind of question on one “side” and then put the answer on the other. Then when you have made the card set (you can make as many as you want) you click the “Learn” button. The question “side” will appear and you must ACTIVELY use your brain to produce the answer.

The best part is that the program was made based on scientific research. So after you answer a question, it asks you how well you think you answered. You choose “very good”, good, just passing, fail or very bad. The computer takes this rating and IT DECIDES when you should next be asked the question.

If you did well, then it may ask you again tomorow, or a few days, or a week. If you have consistently answered a certain question very well for weeks or months, it will ask you that question less and less frequently, to AID IN THE TRANSITION INTO LONG TERM MEMORY. (Of course, you can always quiz yourself on any question you want any time you want).

Here is just ONE example of how I have started using it for my Spanish learning:
-I have an email subscription to a “Spanish word of the day” (I am SURE you can find a “word of the day” for many languages, including English…maybe even Japanese, Russian, Arabic…who knows, just look around!) and everyday I get an email that has ONE Spanish word. They give the definition, and then like 3 or 4 example sentences and phrases, also the translations. So I look at the word and definition, then read the sentences and prhrases, and see how it fits in.
I then choose about 2 or 3 phrases, and then open SuperMemo and add them to my “Spanish Phrases Collection”. I do this by describing a situation in which I would have to communicate to my friend by using the phrase that I have just learned. For example…“you work for some company and you are evaluating applicants…your associate mentions one applicant who you think should have the job…tell your coworker that you think “he is very well PREPARED for this job””…Thats the question.
Then on the ANSWER side I write “este muy bien preparado para este trabajo” or “he is very well prepared for this job”.
I then add the other 1 or 2 sentences in a similar manner. I have about 22 phrases like this now (I have been doing this for about a WEEK or so). With each phrase you probably learn like 2 or 3 new vocab words because you see how things fit together well. Also, you learn the rythym of the language and grammar etc.

I will continue to keep this up on a daily basis, and the results are really, REALLY starting to pay off. I can only imagine how well I will be learning and doing in about 2 months or so.

If you have any questions or comments, post them here. I am glad to answer any questions you have.

The version I use, SuperMemo 2004, which is simple but good enough believe me, is only USD $20. There is also a free version, SuperMemo '98, which you can download and try out. But I recommend buying the 2004 version if you can afford it.

The website is http://www.supermemo.com/ , and please, ask any questions!!!

esta muy bien preparado… haha oops

I am not sure what motivates arjan to post this lengthy advertizement for Supermemo on our Forum.

I would just comment that my philosophy of language learning, and our approach at LingQ, is based on making language learning enjoyable. The premise is that if it is enjoyable, the learner will put in enough time to really improve. To me the most enjoyable activity and the easiest to do is listening, followed by reading. Then, after enough input, comes communicating either by speaking or writing. At LingQ we try to build our learning systems around these four basic and natural activities.

We do suggest that learners spend the time on vocabulary review required to help them really start to notice words and phrases that they are picking up in their reading and listening. We have a number of things planned to make the Vocabulary section even more effective, and we are aware of areas that can be improved. We have already received a number of suggestions from our learners, and look forward to more. We will be implementing these improvements as time permits.

I think the main point of language learning is to integrate the learning of the bits and pieces, the words and phrases, with an enjoyable exposure to the language, motivated by our interest in the language and culture. That way our emotion is engaged.

I have never been motivated to use Supermemo, since I am usually more motivated to listen to and read new content and quickly review my words and phrases. I am not convinced of the “scientific” basis of these memory systems. like Supermemo. I feel that language is simply something that starts out being a little fuzzy and indistinct, with a lot of strange words and structures and uncertainty, and that this just all gradually gets clearer over time. Perhaps paradoxically, enough exposure to the language through enjoyable listening and reading, to me, works faster than apparently more scientific or theoretical approaches.

Steve, I want to assure you that I only mean to present SuperMemo as a Supplement to the LingQ method. I probably should have made that clear, that I think your method is probably the best I have encountered thus far.

That being said, I am motivated by my appreciation of the program. It is simply fantastic. Easy to use, and straigtforward.

I have been using supermemo everyday for almost 2 years now… and i use it in a way that is very similar to the lingqs… i take what i read or listen to… and find something interesting i might want to remember and put it in. I agree with Steve that it needs to be something enjoyable and personal to you. I don’t recommend that you put stuff from word lists

Supermemo is a great tool, and love using it… but even the makers of the program say you should only use it for about 20 min a day or it can become a hassle, and thus it is ineffective.

my experiences is that it is great for keeping things in your memory, and you should use it in a similar way to the lingQ flashcards here… but don’t spend all your time with it… because even if you have the word in supermemo, you learn it a lot better by seeing it many times in real world content. Use it because it is a great tool, but don’t forget that reading and listening and the process of discovering the language is more essential than the review quiz. You still have to see/listen to a phrase 20-50 time or more in different places and situations before it sticks to your head

Yoshi, you are right there, that one should not use it for more than 20-25 mins a day. The LingQ method is ideal for LEARNING the language. This is the way you are actually going to learn. SuperMemo is just a good tool to be used to HELP REMEMBER what you have learned.

I tried real hard to use super memo on my palm after being sold on the idea of spaced repetition and the idea the decay curve in memory, but I always found that the reviews became boring. I made up thousands of phrases in Spanish, German and Dutch which in itself was grueling and didn’t seem really very productive in terms of helping my fluency in reading, writing, listening or speaking! And then, the reviews would pile up so I’d be reviewing hundred of goofy phrases that were so dislocated from their original context they actually became annoying. I do believe in spaced repetition in order to keep something fresh but unfortunately, the little cards on my palm were not interesting enough to keep my attention and do much good. I don’t want to discourage anyone with the type of learning style for which something like that might work, but for me, I think I wasted a lot of time and frustration typing up the Q & A’s and didn’t get much fun out of the reviews so the material wouldn’t stick. I like colorful, meaningful and emotional content with more depth than unrelated sentences on their own or words out of context; stuff that really grabs me with pictures in my head moving and people walking and talking and fighting and loving etc., etc., just like real life.

Anyway, after I left my palm Pilot in the back seat map pocket of a middle seat in the very back row of a Continental Airline Jet after a long, sweaty & uncomfortable ride home and I have now given up on it since I replaced the palm with a blackberry! I have been using Vtrain a little (which cost me 30 bucks) but I can add audio and pictures to the cards which is a little more multimedia than just text in supermemo.

Lately I have really enjoyed listening to audiolibros (I also have some luisterboeken in het nederlands! Harry Potter en de steen der wijzen iemand?) and I read along with the actual text in Spanish or Dutch like it has been suggested on this website. I am reading and listening through Angeles y Demonios right now by Dan Brown and I find I can listen to it over and over without getting bored, for now at least. (heh-heh!) I also like watching movies with the dubbed audio. Tonight I watched Ice Age with Spanish Audio. It was pretty fun actually although I missed John Leguizamo’s voice for the Sid the Sloth character and Denis Leary as Diego the Saber-toothed Tiger! (Maybe not a good sign of my mental condition when a 50 year old watches cartoons?!!!) I also picked up an audiolibro of “Pedro Paramo” read by the author Juan Rulfo which I am looking forward to listening to. It is my search for interesting content that has attracted me to this website. I am 50 years old and I just don’t have the time left in my lifespan, or the patience any more for long boring review sessions of vocabulary or hollow Q & A’s. It’s gotta GRAB me man!

Today I tried my first lingQ session reading Capitulo 1 & 2 of El Principito, (The Little Prince). So far the activity was relatively enjoyable and I think it was helpful. I Learned a few more new words and a couple of new idiomatic expressions and had some fun doing it.

P.S. Since I’m really new here, I hope it’s okay that I “advertised” all that stuff like airlines and popular authors’ books and cell phones/PIM’s etc. (And made such a long post too, heh-heh!) If not, please let me know and I will “cease and desist”.



Welcome aboard, and there is not problem mentioning anything here, as long as it is not a blatant ad, which I am satisified Arjan’s original was not.

Some deliberate vocab study is useful, and we hope to continue to improve how we do it here, so that people enjoy doing it.