How many repetitions are worth it?

I have seen a Video of a Youtuber called DFNS where he watched a Movie 50 Times. I wanted to try this out as well but a 2 hour long movie was to much of a comittment.
So I dicided do this challange with a 12 minute long youtube video instead. I have now listened to it (and often read along) 34.7 times for a total amount of 433:45.
The Video has 280 LingQs which out of which roughly 50 are at level 1 (so I don’t know them yet. I only move words to level 4 (known) if I open a lesson for the first time).
So it might be still valuable to listen to it a few more times but at this time I am quite bored to be honest. I will probably not listen to it anymore.

The question of all that is: How many times do you repeat the same content at max. ? Of cource thats only relevant for difficuilt content as something with less then 5% unkown words, where I only have 3 or 4 lingqs per page I don’t even listen to it twice.


@LuckieNoob as suggestion, a movie is not a very intelligent alternative to repeat so many times because the density of words is very low, so we waste a lot of time on nothing (if we want to maximise effectiveness).
A YT video might be better if the density of words is high.
Personally, I prefer a book/audiobook or podcast.

That’s said, I dialogue with my brain on this and I don’t repeat the same content over and over just right away. I prefer to let it sit there a bit and repeat it after a short/longer period of time. So, I jump from many different content all the time and when I want to, I have my content to repeat ready to go.

I don’t embrace the mini-stories philosophy (40 times or so), the way they have it here but repeating is a valuable technique to solidifying many things and convert yellow words.

How many times? I don’t think anyone can really say for sure because it depends on too many variables. If you see that it is productive, keep going, but if you can work on other more relevant content, just change it.



Personally I do not think that this kind of excessive repetition of the same content is very useful. If you, as you said, get bored by it, how likely is it that a lot of the content will last? You don’t learn you mother tongue like that either. Of course you hear and read the same words and phrases several times, but in different contexts. You don’t relive the same day over and over :wink:

Once I get the impression I basically understood the content I would continue on with different one. If there is a word or a phrase that I didn’t catch on first occurence, I may get it in a different context. Maybe it is even easier to grasp there.

Important words and phrases as well as grammatical structures come up over and over again in different sources, so it is unlikely you will miss them even without lots of repetition. And those who don’t occour all too often may not be so important at all that you HAVE to know them to be able to use the language properly.


In the beginner stages I think it makes sense to do it…a few times. Spread out over the course of a day or two. I think after that short timeframe it doesn’t make sense to repeat. Especially with the beginner content, which is short and you’ve already essentially memorized the story or lesson in your native language anyway. I think it could be beneficial at times to come back after some time to material you’ve seen before, but I still can’t see going to it that much more.

You don’t HAVE to repeat anything though. The most common words will appear over and over in other content that you don’t need to necessarily repeat previous content. This does change when you get to more advanced levels because of the infrequency of some words. Repeating then might make some sense then. However, I don’t personally. I’d prefer some “fresh” content and hopefully see those words in other contexts at some point again. You also may want to assess if some of these low frequency words are that important to you. They may be associated to topics you may never really find useful or important. Or maybe not important at this stage in your learning. If that’s the case, certainly don’t bother to repeat.


I repeat the same content until I know it. It should be pretty obvious when you know it: you can read it without looking anything up or getting confused, or you can listen to it and parse it on a word-for-word level, meaning you hear each word in its proper context and aren’t just fuzzily getting the gist.

At that point I move on to something else. I am making an exception right now in that I am taking content I like listening to and pushing the speed to see if I can get improvements in processing higher speed audio.

I think of language content like pieces of music. You study a piece of music until you master it. Sometimes you even learn a piece faster than you will need to perform it, and it makes the performance feel more secure. By taking individual pieces to mastery you are pushing the limits of what you can do. As you push the limits of what is possible for you, you leave behind territory - areas of activity at a certain level of difficulty - that are easier for you to effectively master on the first exposure. If you only ever learn pieces to a 70% level, you don’t expand your territory of mastery as effectively.

EDIT: I should also say that I generally keep a mix of difficulty level in my current study load. So I do process some language content that takes a listen or two with no assistance from a dictionary, some content that maybe takes three or four exposures with some dictionary usage but no intensive listening, and some content where I am repeatedly rewinding and re-listening to audio that is really challenging for me.


I watched so many teachers on youtube who said that repetition is not a good idea, because you need to expose the same word in different situations rather than repeat it again and again. The more you see the same word in different cases, the more you have confidence in it. And you could use it actively in your own speech. The standard interval repetition is more than enough.

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It’s excessive, that’s why I 1) read, and 2) listen & read to the first 2 pages (the 2 perspectives, but no questions) and ignore the rest.

As for converting the yellow words, it’s actually very easy to overestimate your skills within the context of one ministory. Your memory is very fresh and you’ll often recognize the word and its different forms when you see them few sentences later, and then questions/answers (if you do them). It’s very easy to make yourself believe that you know the word because you recognize it so easily & so many times in the story, but (if it’s a new word) you’re unlikely to recognize it later on, in a few days or weeks when you encounter it again.

The actual way to utilize the ministories in a way that is compatible with how our memory works is if we go back to them at appropriate intervals, utilizing spaced repetition.


Nice, then please ask these teachers about “low frequency words” .
Then you will see that repetition (esp. with SRS) is a good idea :slight_smile:

I think what’s meant was a repetition in the sense of the op, so excessively reviewing the same content within a short time frame. As written in Alu’s post by changing the source you repeat the words, too, even low frequency ones, if the sources are tied to topic within which the words are important. So if you want to practice physical terminology for example reading physics books will cause the repetition desired, too.

And if the words are even rare within a specific context the question remains if it is worth the hassle memorizing them if you don’t use them afterwards and will therefore most likely forget them anyways. :wink:

Personally I think repetion is most useful when you start learning a new language, so you can memorize a considerable amount of vocabulary to put yourself into the position of being able to understand simple texts. From there on you can improve your vocabulary by exposing yourself to more and more advanced content.

I think this is highly individual, though. For myself I think that the usefulness of repeating vocabulary is minor, mainly because I consider it to be very tedious and unrewarding. On the other hand I have never “learned” english vocabulary, but still am able to use the language at a basic level. However, what works for some doesn’t has to work for others. :slight_smile:


@GMelillo I think this philosophy is better applied to learning music, as opposed to language learning. I think the only time the ‘don’t move on until you master it’ philosophy would really be worth applying, maybe, is at the very high levels, when you are trying to perfect your pronunciation as a C2 or something.

Personally, I use diversity of content as a way to filter out rare words. Learning rare words has only marginal gains, while learning common and semi-common words are much more useful for me to know. So moving on before 100% mastery is my way of choosing to learn common and semi-common words first (plus seeing them in a wide range of contexts).

I agree that repetition can be very useful though. Personally, me doing more of it would be ideal, I think. Especially, if you are using LingQ, because whenever you repeat content, you faff around less with the definitions.

@LuckieNoob I think Lamont’s video of watching How to train your dragon 50x was half a personal challenge because he likes the movie. Personally, I wouldn’t go that far. As a beginner, I relistened to some of the Mini Stories 15x or so, but that’s because they were challenging for me. Then I got bored of the story, deleted it, and moved on.


Depends on what the low frequency words are imo. It doesn’t make sense to be working through a list of 30,000 (or more ) low frequency words, many of which you might see very rarely or maybe never again.


It could very well be that classical music being the first domain in which I experienced success at a long term project that required discipline and self-awareness, that I am over-analogizing. But this is still an accurate description of the way that at least one person - namely me! - works.

It’s important to understand that “mastery” is a zone, not a specific spot. It’s the interior subjective spot of: “ok, now I’ve got this.” And there is always an implicit, “Yes, it is worth it for me to get this.” There’s also always an implicit, “right now,” in that “I’ve got this right now.”

So, for example, I studied multiple pirate-themed adventure novels by Salgari. There was a time when I could absolutely pick up an novel of his, without a dictionary, and read it. I had worked over that text very well. I understand his style and his literary lexicon. Ok, so I was in a zone of mastery. I stayed long enough with Salgari to really internalize some things.

“I have mastered what I want from Salgari right now.”

At the same time, there was a ton of terminology related to the parts of early modern ship building. At one point I tried to find a nice Italian language image of a ship, with all the parts labeled, but unable to find exactly what I needed I made a decision to let that slide. I lazily categorized a bunch of super low-frequency Italian words related to different sails as “sails” and left it at that. I’d probably do the same thing in English.

When I came back to Salgari about six months later, a lot of that specifically nautical terminology was hazy, but I was happy to see that I had internalized enough of Salgari’s language to have a very enjoyable reading experience.

So the whole process is flexible, it requires a lot of self-awareness and prioritizing. But the through line of my personal process is that I stay with content long enough to really digest it, and I find that this gives me better results that just skimming over the surface. As you can tell from the theme of my posts, I tend not to think that my brain is a magic black box. I believe that the more effectively I internalize, the more effectively my brain can actually do some behind the scenes work to build understanding. For me, the whole process of studying is the process of optimizing the speed, resolution, and structure of what I feed my brain to digest.


@GMelillo honestly, I find lot of you wrote here very interesting to unpack. As @nfera and @ericb100 pointed out, I’m not sure this is a good method applied to @LuckieNoob question but I also perceive that there is something quite interesting and valuable along the line, where maybe we/I would need to know more. Certainly I would.

To avoid hijacking this thread, if and when you have time, I would appreciate you opening a dedicated thread on how you apply your mastering technique to language learning. I’m sure you have a lot more to say and we might have a lot more to ask.

Fun fact: I read Emilio Salgari when I was very young. He was one of my favorite writers. I was fantasizing about all those adventures with the pirates of Malaysia, Sandokan and all the other characters and stories. I don’t remember the stories anymore but I still remember the feelings and the fascination I had. Little I knew that he also lived in Turin (in “corso Casale”), my city, when he wrote some of those stories. I was very surprised when I read it somewhere. I didn’t even have the idea he was Italian (I was very young and didn’t pay attention to those things). Even worse, I had no clue that he didn’t go into those places at all. He was reading travel magazines and encyclopedias at the public library to get inspirations from his stories, specifically to the civic public library where I went too when I was a young adult!
Unbelievable! Unfortunately he had a very suffering life but that’s another story as well.
Here’s the wikipedia link:> Emilio Salgari - Wikipedia.

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It might be worth mentioning DFNS (now Days and Words on YouTube) actually made a cut of the movie(s) he was watching removing everything except dialogue. You could accomplish the same thing by just listening to a YouTube video or a podcast, but this solved the issue of word density.


To answer your question @LuckieNoob, you’re gaining value with each repeat listen until it’s “easy”. How many times are worth it is up to you. What I would recommend is you have some type of compelling “comfort food” content you can just listen to over and over again. It could be a short story, film, whatever, just something you can turn on whenever and listen to.

However, you should also have content that is novel as well.


Hi Eric,

Sure, “personal needs” come always first in language acquisition!
Low-frequency words are no exception to this (quasi-)rule.

However, this doesn’t change the point that trying to acquire
low-frequency words only by relying on more and more and
more Comprehensible Input (here: reading / listening) is
very “inefficient”.

Or to put it differently, Anki & Co are highly efficient in various use cases, esp.

  • at the beginning of the SLA journey
  • for learning specific grammar structures (e.g. conjugations)
  • for memorizing low-frequency words

and, in general, for collocations (which are more conventionalized
word groups and, therefore, less affected by context variations).

Nice Sunday,

PS -
The possible criticism that SRSing is “boring” / “unrewarding” (see, e.g., the comment of @Obsttorte) is IMO irrelevant bc.

  • Reading / listening to uninteresting podcasts, videos, texts, etc. is also boring. (That is: The important points in this context are: 1) sense of progress 2) control of what you want to learn. That’s usually sufficient).
  • This is primarily a problem of “fun first” learners. Ergo: a “self-generated problem”.
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That is obviously true, but can be circumvented by choosing content that is not uninteresting. :wink:

I never wrote that repetition is not useful, though. But the effectiveness of any learning method is tied to how much I can engage in said method. And if it becomes a tedious task first and foremost it might be worthwhile to question oneself on whether the approach is still useful.

The original question wasn’t about whether or not repetition is a good thing, but whether an extreme amount of repetion of the same content, though. If you can motivate yourself to go this way then yes, it may be beneficial for you. Otherwise it’s doubtful. In the example given the repeated content was a movie, btw. I am not sure what kind of low-frequency words are to be expected there.

You generally focus very much on this specific case and I am not sure how important this is to the average language learner (or learner in a more broad case, it doesn’t need to be language). In addition I don’t see any problem with trying to make the learning process a joyful experience, or as you put it, “fun-first”. From my experience this helps a lot in speeding up the whole process and is therefore efficient.

But as stated, it’s highly subjective.


@Obsttorte I agree. However, as usual, it is very difficult to find the right answer on these types of scenarios where there are always many variables in place.
I agree with the categories expressed by @noxialisrex before. Repeating the content until it becomes “easy” and find the content that is “comfort food” to repeat. I know exactly what he means but I have no idea how translate it in something more precise to someone that doesn’t have this perception capabilities. I don’t assume everybody have them.
I sometimes use the word “fun” when in reality I mean more the “comfort food” mentioned before.
At the end of the day, the technique needs to be effective and it takes knowledge and lots of trials and errors to get there.

“circumvented by choosing content that is not uninteresting.”
Sure However, my point is a bit different:
It’s not primarily about “interesting / uninteresting” or “fun / not fun”, but
to “have a sense of progress” and “to be able to control what you
want to digest (and how to proceed)” - at least when we’re talking
about “independent learners” (beyond the realm of SLA) in this context.

“nd if it becomes a tedious task first and foremost”
From what I’ve seen in hundreds and hundreds of learners (teaching
SLA, math and programming), the keywords are: unpleasant / uncom-

“Fun-first” is then an euphemism for “avoidance behavior reg.
unpleasant / uncomfortable things”. However, avoidance behavior
is almost never a good strategy: neither in learning nor in life in general.

I hope to complete a small e-book on this subject in the next few months
then maybe it will become clearer what I mean exactly…

“how important this is to the average language learner”
In general, I think the focus on individual words or even word families is too lopsided.
That’s not how native speakers usually operate. So my focus is on “collocations” (native
speakers tend to know tens of thousands of them).

In this use case, artificial SRS can be “very” helpful (Note: I don’t mean acontextual
1:1 equations "L1 <-> L2"here because that’s a terrible practice!) - and in this case,
that’s a topic that is highly relevant for each and every language learner
(at least beyond the beginner levels).

“It’s highly subjective”
There is a difference between “indifference” (everything is the same) and personal learning variation.
But anyway, in the end it boils down to this: “the truth is in the pudding”. So when (language) learners don’t succeed, their approaches/strategies were often wrong (even if they “subjectively” think they were right :slight_smile: ).

@PeterBormann What is your definition of low-frequency words? The definition I’ve seen in, say, some paper by Paul Nation is that he considers the top 3,000 word families as high frequency, the word families ranked 3,001 to 9,000 as mid-frequency, and the word families over a rank of 9,000 as low-frequency.

I don’t have the statistics, but at my level in Italian at B2+ (21k Known Words on LingQ), I would say there are still many mid-frequency word families, which I don’t know. Obviously, I also know many low-frequency words in Italian (for example, cognates are very easy to learn), but my focus is primarily on mid-frequency words. Therefore, if my level of B2+ is still not focusing on learning low-frequency words, it makes me think that you need to actually reach quite a high level, before you need to use Anki to deal with the low frequency of words. And let’s face it, the vast majority of language learners won’t reach such a level, i.e. the stage of going from C1 to C2+.