Will a Spaced Repetition System (SRS) Help You Learn a Language Faster? - Steve Kaufmann

:hourglass_flowing_sand: Some people swear by “spaced repetition systems” (SRS). Others think they are waste of time.

What’s my take? I’ve learned 20 languages so far in my life, but have only relied on spaced repetition for a few specific needs in language learning.

Watch on to see what those use cases are and what approach I think is generally more effective than using an SRS app.



Steve’s strong languages happen to be without LingQ system and SRS. :grinning:

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FWIW, I take a different approach from LingQ and SRS.

As I LingQ through a text, I mark each blue word known. If I get it as a cognate or a variation of a Known Word, fine. If not, I handwrite it into my French notebook.

I review those handwritten entries regularly for a week or so. They stick or they don’t. If not, I rewrite them the next time I encounter them into my notebook.

This way I can learn the word while it’s on my mind, rather than hope I encounter it again sometime soon while LingQing.

It may also be in a cluster of other words from the text I am reading, thus there will be an overall context I recall.

For instance I was reading about a character who ordered a beer, and I learned three new French words:

chope – mug, tankard
perlée – beaded
buée – steam, mist, moisture

It’s a great image, linking all three words together.

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True. However, his methodology was more or less the same if you look at his videos on “How I learned Chinese”, “Japanese”, “German”. He just did it all with books, cds, tapes. Reading and listening, and then eventually speaking with tutors. He does mention in the Chinese one that he used a set of flash cards to learn the first 1000 characters, but then said he learned the rest reading.

Lingq just makes it easier than needing to look up words.

Honest question, why not simply use LingQ to review the words that are still yellow instead of writing them down in a notebook? Any reason for that? I suppose it’s just a matter of preference but still wanted to ask.

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Honest question, why not simply use LingQ to review the words that are still yellow instead of writing them down in a notebook?


I appreciate your polite question.

  • I don’t trust LingQ all that much in terms of bugs and interface It’s hard enough to get LingQ to do its basic job right and not stop working the next time. I’ve already lost work to LingQ.

  • I don’t want to figure out how to get at my words from LingQ or print them out, much less get them into a format I like.

  • I like taking notes. I feel the physical act of writing things down helps me to remember. Also I write faster and easier than trying to type things into LingQ. I can add free-form notes as I go. (I make other kinds of notes too.)

  • The words will be grouped with the other words I learned at the same time plus other notes. So although I’m looking at lists, I have some memory of the context in which I encountered the word.

  • I use a medium-size lightweight notebook which I carry around everywhere for on-the-spot reviewing when I have a spare minute or two.

  • I like having notebooks as a permanent record past when I have a LingQ account.

  • When I started LingQ I found myself worrying about whether I “knew” a word before I finally checked it off. Now no more worry. I just write a new word down and stay in the learning zone.

I don’t say my approach is best. It works for me

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