Learning vs Memorization

So, I’m moving at a good clip with Polish, but I’m wondering if I’m actually learning or just memorizing. Obviously, there’s a memorization element with the flashcards, and I find I often get the card wrong the first time, but subsequent times are correct not because I’ve learned it, but because I recognize that it’s the only word in that particular set that looks/sounds like that, and it must mean X. And when it comes to listening to texts, I find if I’ve read it once or twice, then I know enough of what is being said that I can follow it, especially if I hear a few touch-stone words that I know well, like if I hear “zimno” I might remember “Oh, this is the bit where they talk about the weather,” and since I know the rest of the text, I can “pick out the words.” But if I hear those same words in a different context, I might not understand them.

Should I be worried about this? Should I shake up my approach? Is my progress largely illusory, or is this actually pretty normal. I do find I AM learning words (I’ll often see a word on a flashcard for the first time, sort of cock my head and just “guess” and I’ll guess correctly without really knowing why, despite it being a fairly obscure and non-intuitive answer), but I wonder if I’m learning as fast as I could be? Or if I’m tricking myself into thinking I’m learning faster than I actually am.


Learn or memorize - it doesn’t matter. Everthing is good if it helps you to improve your language skills.
The more words you know the more often you can guess the meaning of the new words.
I don’t almost learn new German or English words, I can guess them in 95%.
But I had to learn the first 2000 of them.
And it’s the same thing in each language.
Good luck with all your languages!


I wouldn’t worry about it. Keep moving through the materials, and after encountering the same words and phrases in various contexts, any bad or over specific associations will be lost as your familiarity with the language increases.

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