Re-reading vs drilling vocabulary using spaced repetition

Steve tells us that when he is a beginner in a language, he will read and reread the mini-stories many times, taking in and practicing the vocabulary naturally that way as he goes. He spends almost no time drilling vocabulary (lingqs) using the SRS.

For my part, first of all, I do agree that early-stage language learners need repetition and practice of some of the same material. If you were constantly reading new material, the number of new elements coming at you would feel too overwhelming.

But personally I don’t find rereading and rereading the same story again and again to be at all interesting or enjoyable. I can manage twice, maybe three times, but after that…zzzzz.

While drilling vocabulary isn’t the most scintillating activity in the world, I definitely prefer it to rereading the same piece multiple times!

What do other people think of this?


I reread only a few times, more times soon becomes boring. But rereading a few months later is less boring.
And as for repeating vocabulary : I prefer repeating the yellow words in a lesson, because I then have the context.


It’s still something that I need to understand for myself. And I also think it’s personal and on how much able you are to deal with boredom or consistence.

Based on my experience and on how I work now, I dropped spaced repetition because it doesn’t help me. I never liked Assimil even if I’ve used it for every language and I wasn’t able to well repeat any lesson.

However, I’ve been starting to repeat content now that I’m not at A0 level and I can focus on more things at the same time.

The fact is that LingQ offers many different texts and you can choose by percentage of the words you know. So if you choose texts with 1%, 2% and so on, basically you are repeating the same words you know but in a different context. I believe this is way more effective at the very very beginning. Once you know a little more you can start adding playlists and repeating the same text because you can handle it.

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I’m always surprised at how words pop up again in different contexts. I recall reading a translation of T.S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland” (just the first bit, not the whole thing), it was so difficult, so many unknown words, but I liked the sound of it and love that poem, and then a month or so later I ran into one of the unknown, “difficult” words, in another reading, and understood it immediately. At first I couldn’t recall where I had learned it until I saw in Lingq that it came for that poem. So it goes.
All of which is to say, I repeat sometimes, at longer intervals, but generally keep moving forward. I’m presently watching videos (in my target language) to help students in grade 1 math! It’s great because they repeat a lot of useful words, and the videos are short and actually rather engaging.

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It’s really personal preference…keep doing the things that are useful, but that also keep you motivated to keep learning every day.

I do personally feel that re-reading a text is more beneficial than drillling SRS. You are getting further repetition of things you know (but you also need to speed up your comprehension) and of course things you don’t know. All in context. SRS on single words can help, but I think it would be more beneficial to SRS on important sentences or phrases. The problem also with SRS is that you get to a point where it’s unmanageable because you’ll have too many words you need to review.

In regards to re-reading texts…When I first discovered LingQ I was still a beginner. Maybe beginning A2-ish level. I imported Assimil which has very short dialogues. Similar to mini stories. I would repeat these a few times…repeat listen to them probably around 15 times as they were so short. When re-reading texts…I think there is a limit to how much one should repeat them. After a few times I think you’ve gotten all you can out of that text for that timeframe (for me it was over the course of a couple of days). One should move on if they haven’t acquired ALL the words. There are simply going to be words that are going to be difficult, and they will be difficult for a long time and MANY repetitions in different contexts. One shouldn’t get hung up on these.

I think after a certain point, when texts get longer as the learner progresses their skills, then repetition is a little burdensome. i.e. if the text is more than a few minutes.

So my preference, in the beginning is to repeat short texts. Once I reach intermediate level then repeating is too tedious and I feel it’s more beneficial to move on to different inputs.

Some here don’t repeat anything at all. So that’s certainly another strategy. It will still work, and if it helps with motivation go for it.


The mini-stories weren’t here when I was new to to the site, but I have been meaning to go through some of those mini-stories for several languages. I’m not afraid of a little repetition early on so I can get to reading at a higher level as quickly as possible.

I do a combo of this. I drill vocab hard in the first 3 months to hit the “threshold” of 2,000-3,000 words then slow down on the vocab drilling. At the threshold I start watching a ton of videos and focus hard on the mini-stories.

Thanks, interesting ideas everyone!! The thing with rereading is that just remembering the meaning of vocabulary within a context you’ve already seen is in fact setting the bar quite low.

The way I’ve so far handled the problem of the quantity of lingqs to review getting out of hand is by limiting the number I create. I‘ve deliberately only been doing a little more than the minimum every day…(Note that I also spend a fair bit of time outside of lingq doing other activities such as using high-quality language books to self-teach and doing lessons I carefully prepare in advance on italki)

Maybe on lingq it would be an idea to push myself a bit out of my comfort zone and try to cover more material and put less emphasis on reviewing….

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Interesting, thanks. Unfortunately the language I’m working on, Hungarian, is in beta and there’s basically no material at my level in lingq. so I can’t just select from among a rich collection! I have to find and import material myself and there’s less to choose from out there on the internet than for more popular languages in terms of simple but not total beginner material… But there is some stuff for sure and I could put more energy into finding it!

That is true. If a language is less popular in LingQ you have less material but at the beginning I was importing a lot of stuff anyway because I was searching for more interesting things. Now I don’t care, I’m just practical.

I would import a few books and lots of articles and then pick up the material that have the right percentage on it (it’s automatically calculated by LingQ) and so on. When you have more energy you tackle more difficult texts and when you have less energy you read easier stuff. I do like this to manage my focus now.

I would choose very few sources instead of many and just import a lot of stuff from them. So you don’t waste time continuously searching stuff around.

The source I’m offering is probably not going to be simple, but Hungarian wikipedia might be a source you can try. What’s there is probably well beyond beginner level, but maybe if you choose bits and pieces and shorter parts it might make it more manageable and less overwhelming.

I see they have a “featured article”. You could highlight and import that into LingQ. If like the German version of wikipedia they may have archives for each of those. I think usually they are just the summary of the longer wikipedia entry.

Either way, like you suggest you’re probably going to have to hunt around for things to import. To me this is fun as I can find the things I want to read about…of course Hungarian may be much more limited in choices.

I’d suggest short news articles if you can find them. I did a search for “easy hungarian news” and it seems there isn’t something like that, but even regular news, just working on shorter pieces at a time may be helpful.

I use a bit of both to be honest because sometimes, no matter how many times I come across a word, it simply won’t stay in my memory, so I’ll go into a bit more depth with drilling certain vocabulary, as opposed to reading it ten, twenty times, especially with longer lessons.

I think in the beginning it might be suffient to read and listen a lot of basic texts with basic vocabulary.
After that I suppose it’s a good idea to stay a while with material dealing with the same topic, so that we meet the the same words of that topic several times and absorb them that way.

Re: Meaning of vocabulary in context…That’s why I suggest moving on (if repeating texts) after a few times. At that point you’ve kind of memorized the story and I don’t think it’s as useful in remembering the words.

The problem with limiting the number of LingQ’s is there are going to be so many more words that you will learn quickly, that won’t need so much review. So if you limit yourself, imo, you are slowing down the progress that can be made. Who cares about 1 word, when you’ll likely learn 20 if you move on. Some words just don’t “click”. There’s still words that I’ve been familiar with from the beginning that give me at least some pause, but many others I’ve learned very quickly.

If you simply…move on, you’ll find your vocabulary starts really jumping, especially at your level, I think. If you check any of the “experts” here (those who’ve used LingQ a huge amount and have a large number of known words), they will have tens of thousands of Lingq’s, thousands of which haven’t been learned. You will not be able to review that many in SRS…if you do, you’ll never progress, unless you have all day to learn. Or the strategy has to change in how you use it imo. Like maybe doing 10 min of SRS and the rest of the hour doing LingQ or some other input. I’m definitely not an expert on SRS…I used it quite a bit in the beginning…like through A1 but then stopped when it felt like it was becoming prohibitive.

Anyway, if SRS is working for you great! But don’t be afraid to shift and try some other things, even if for just a month or two or three. If nothing else it may just keep things fresh.

That’s a thought…or else read something lengthy like maybe a young adult book!

Great discussion. Thanks for posting.

I do neither.

I think that’s probably the case for many people, but personally I don’t have a problem with too much unknown stuff. I just read through stuff and try to understand it. After reading a sentence I move on and never look back, regardless of how well I understood it. If there are a ton of unknown words in the text then that’s fine since the LingQ reader allows me to get through it anyway.

One thing that helps is that I only ever mark unknown words as levels 1, 2, and 5 (i.e. known). Level 1 is the default for unknown words and level 5 is where they are when I think I know them. Level 2 is used for a smaller subset of words that I currently feel are important or interesting for me. As I am going through the text, I only really focus on the level 2 words and look up all the level 1 words mostly just to understand the text.

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I think this is good. I am currently reading through a bunch of Russian translations to the Goosebumps series of kids horror books. I used to love them as a wee laddy in English and now I reread them. The same vocabulary comes up over and over and over, even between books. This really helps.

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Any chance you could post a link to where you found this Goosebumps content? Especially the audio. I don’t know this series but it sounds like it might be level appropriate for me. I would love to check it out.

If you don’t have a problem with not fully understanding, if it comes naturally to you and reading is enjoyable for you anyway, that’s great!

Personally, I absolutely HATE not understand everything when reading.* Yes, yes, I’ve certainly heard it recommended that you shouldn’t look everything up – that you should just move on rapidly contenting yourself with partial understanding and with guessing from the context because that allows you to read much more. But that’s no fun at all for me. It goes totally against the grain and in fact I have never been able to force myself to do it in any sustained way, even experimentally.

My favourite way to read in lingq is to use one-line-at-a time mode, even with material that’s quite easy for me, and I check out the translation of any line I have the slightest doubts about. I also create my links (more often on phrases than on individual words) in this initial run-through, always looking at wiktionary and multiple other sources to make sure I really understand everything thoroughly and correctly. Then I listen to the audio a second time while also reading. This second time I go more or less straight through, but I don’t hesitate to stop here and there to validate meanings if I need to.

I will point out that guessing from context doesn’t work well as well as many of us think it does. When I guess, and then look up the word/expression, I find that I guessed wrong a lot of the time… and I’ve seen research that suggests that this is not uncommon!

*P.S. Luckily I’m naturally much more tolerant of lack of full understanding in verbal situations!!!