Chinese is a great language to learn. It’s fun; it’s fascinating; it’s a challenge. It can also easily be forgotten. Because that’s how our memory works. It forget things. The way to prevent this? You practice. Better yet, you make it your daily routine to practice Chinese. The idea: To hit refresh on your knowledge, on all that new Chinese vocab, regularly so you don’t forget it. Here are a few tips to help you optimize practicing and efficiently learn.
Our memory forgets things in 6 weeks
Studies show that in as little as six weeks, skills can return to nearly pre-learning levels if not used at all. So when learning anything, if you want to actually learn and remember something for more than 6 weeks, finding a way to apply your new knowledge, in a way or another, is a good idea. So go practice. Especially when it comes to learning Chinese…
Chinese can be easy to forget
Chinese can be a tricky language. It’s particularly easy to forget what you’ve learned and thought you mastered. You thought you knew those characters so well they were ingrained in you, only to find when you start classes again or when you want to speak Chinese again after a Chinese-learning free summer, that you didn’t, after all. That’s because, more than any language, Chinese needs to be practiced – or used – often to keep your language skills sharp.
Practice Chinese in short bursts
The idea is to practice Chinese often, very often in fact. Like regularly even. Ideally, that would be 30 min sessions every day, at least once a day. If you don’t have time for that, try squeezing in some extra study time every time you have a few minutes to spare. That’ll go a long way towards you learning and memorizing things better. Olle Linge, from Hacking Chinese, writes a great article on how to distribute your learning sessions efficiently, based on how much time you have and where you’re studying.
OK, so you’re now having regular study sessions. The thing is, it’s not only a question of practicing regularly; it’s also a question of practicing well and efficiently.
Focus on one key aspect of Chinese at a time…
…and then take a break. Change things up and study something else for a bit. Like say, you’ve been learning to recognize characters and pronounce them for a while. Focus on grammar rules for a bit, or work on building sentences with the words you’ve just learned. Or just watch a video of Op China Style. You’ll learn the character 来 – lái with no problem!
That way, you’re resting your brain by engaging other skill sets. Ultimately, this helps you learn better overall. Because by switching up what you study and then coming back to what you were studying previously, you’re diversifying your learning without even noticing. And that’s a clever thing to do.
If you’re concentrating on one type of exercise for a long period of time, after a while your productivity level will drop. You won’t be as focused as you should be, and therefore not properly memorizing what you’re learning. So change it up; do something that requires a different type of effort. Give your brain a good workout! It’s good for it.
Practicing and repetition is good for your memory
In fact, when it comes to memorizing it turns out effort and practice have a big role to play! As long as you do it in an intelligent way. Because rote learning (also known as learning by heart) and repeating words over and over until the words you’ve been repeating no longer mean anything (try repeating the word “sugar” over and over. You’ll see what we mean) might seem like a good option when cramming for an exam, those techniques won’t help with your long-term memorization. In fact, the more you try to cram in, the less you’ll retain.
Spaced practice: the best way to go
The best way to practice is to space out your practices as this’ll maximize the efficiency of your learning or practice session. Indeed, research shows spaced practice helps learners retain access to memorized information over long periods of time. It’s a robust and powerful learning technique. Yes, spaced repetition is crucial.
So, when practicing your language skills, remember to take it nice and easy (no cramming!), to practice regularly, in short bursts, apply spaced practice (we’ll tell you soon how we’ll help you with that… ) and you’ll be recalling loads of content before you know it!