Selective vocabulary study using a “review” tag

I’ve been using a vocabulary study method for some time now that I quite like, and I thought I’d share it with others. It’s nothing revolutionary, but it’s not necessarily entirely intuitive either…

I find that language learners tend to fall into two camps: (1) those who don’t like drilling vocabulary, who will only review new words/phrases within a text and (2) those who use flashcards to review vocabulary with the help of a Spaced Repetition System (SRS) (either Lingq’s or exported into an external one like Anki) that tells them when it’s time to review the new words and phrases. The problem with the latter is the the SRS “takes over” and basically requires you to spend a high proportion of your time with boring drilling of vocabulary, as opposed to more rewarding language-learning activities. On the other hand, the problem with the former is that in my opinion, reviewing vocabulary in a variety of ways is helpful in getting them to ”stick”, and you miss out by not doing so at all.

I do review using flashcards, but I carefully control how much time I spend at it through the use of tag a “review” tag. I might tag about 20 or so new words every 4 or 5 days with the “review” tag, and then I filter on and study only vocabulary that’s due for review AND has a “review” tag.

I often work with lengthy texts above my level, which are full of links that I do not tag for review. I tag the number of words that causes me to spend as much time as I wish and no more at vocab review - my prefered amount being around 30 minutes every 3rd or 4th day - with a good mixture of newer and older vocabulary. If I limit the time I spend and mix it up with lots of other activities, then vocabulary study using flashcards can actually be reasonably pleasant.

I can review within the text, or I can drill vocabulary using easier forms of review (i.e. excluding “reverse flashcards”), or I can use “reverse flashcards”, which I usually reserve for ”level 4” vocab… If I can actively come up with the vocabulary unhesitatingly, it’s time to set it to “known”…Will I “know” it forever? Maybe not, but if not and its important, it will come up again! And the process will have caused it to more a bit further along the the “familiarity spectrum”!

I tend to tag vocabulary with texts that I find quite easy (on the theory that easy texts have the most basic vocabulary and it would be a good idea to focus on any I don’t yet know) I will tag all of the linked, new vocabulary up to a place that I can identify and come back to that point to continue with my tagging the next time. I like tagging all of the new vocabulary within a specific text first of all because this allows me to review my “being worked on” vocabulary by re-reading the text, secondly because I can open the original source for the text (i.e. the pdf or Word file) and do “finds” as I‘m drilling the vocabulary in order to get a fuller view of the context in which the vocab “lived”.

My two cents worth anyway!!!