The secret to learning twice as fast

Language learning tip #8

speed-learningWant to double your learning speed?

Repetition is one of the most important learning techniques, yet it’s woefully undervalued. Its efficacy has been known for thousands of years – even Aristotle wrote about it – but new research has found a way to make it even more effective.

Repetition is fundamentally built into the way Kwiziq works. Every time you kwiz, you’ll get just the right amount of question repetition for optimal learning speed. Simply taking lots of kwizzes will expose you to concepts enough times for the underlying grammar to sink in. You’ll notice that Kwiziq will ask multiple questions on the same topics but in different contexts, slightly varying the topic you’re practising. We’ve always known this technique is highly effective – our users often tell us – but a study published in 2016 proves scientifically that slightly modifying repetitions can actually double the speed at which you learn.

Repetition is the mother of all learning.
– Latin proverb

Fancy a break from the computer? Pencil and paper handy? You can use modified repetition outside of Kwiziq to speed up learning.

Take the classic technique of writing out French verb conjugations five times. You can make this even more effective by using the conjugations in short sentences, making them different each time, speaking them as you go. This has the added benefit of making the exercise more interesting to do.

Do make sure that you master correct pronunciation though. Our French verb tables are audio-enabled so you can listen repeatedly and check your pronunciation.

It’s rote learning, Jim, but not as we know it!

A more holistic method to learn grammar and vocabulary is to memorize a set text. But choose carefully: find something on a subject that interests you, and make sure that it

  1. is short enough for you to learn in a week
  2. is challenging but not too difficult
  3. includes audio

Listen to the piece at least ten times (repetition) before starting to try to learn it. Then work on committing it to memory (recall). You’ll find this very hard at first and it will show you just how important it is to practise recall. Build up to being able to reproduce each sentence from memory.

Give yourself a week to learn the piece. Why? Sleep is also vital to learning. It may be different for you, but I’ve found that seven nights of sleep is about the amount needed (with daily practice) for a text to be effortless to recall. To help motivate yourself, set this extra challenge: record yourself on a webcam saying the entire piece from memory without referring to the script.

If you’re a beginner, you’ll just want to learn a few sentences, such as from graphics comics or short dialogues. As you progress you can pick longer texts and learn a few paragraphs, or pages of dialogue at a time. Film and theatre texts are fun, as are books you liked as a kid since the language is usually simple.

French listening practice


Thanks for reading! For more French learning tips, follow Kwiziq on Facebook and Kwiziq on Twitter.

Author info

Gruff Davies

[Follow on Twitter: @gruffdavies] Despite the very Welsh name, Gruff is actually half French. Nowadays, he's a tech entrepreneur (and some-time novelist) but he used to be a physicist at Imperial College before getting hooked on inventing things. He has a special interest in language learning, speaks five languages to varying degrees of fluency and he often blogs about language learning, science, and technology. As well as co-founding Kwiziq, he is the author the Amazon best-selling SF thriller, The Looking Glass Club and the inventor of the Exertris gaming exercise-bike and Pidgin, a free online tool that makes drawing flow charts and relationship diagrams as quick and easy as describing them in pidgin English.

Laura K Lawless

Laura is a French expert and Kwiziq's Head of Quality Control. Online educator since '99, Laura is passionate about language, travel, and cooking. She's American by birth and a permanent ex-pat by choice - freelancing made it possible for her to travel extensively and live in several countries before settling permanently in Guadeloupe. Laura is the author of Lawless French, Lawless Spanish, and other websites and books on French, Spanish, Italian, English, and vegetarianism. She spends most of her spare time reading, playing with food, and enjoying water sports.

Comments: 4

hello to all, good to read your thoughts on learning through repetition ,,it was my theory as well, but i seem to have gone in reverse , not sure if i am trying to hard, i seem to be worse now that 2 months ago, i also tried writing sentences out to learn but i am never sure they are correct on the first place, i keep putting the blame on age and memory as i have never tried French in my life before and i am over 61 , i know many say anyone can learn at any age, and i agree with that to some extent , but i also think they do not suffer from memory loss and perhaps when i happens to them they may understand how infuriating it is,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,take care all, Norman

Salut Norman! Memory can be a bit trickier as we age, but the key is simply higher repetitions. It will still all go in. Age also brings the advantage of patience, so more repetition is usually more palatable - even enjoyable. I've had a look at your account and I see you've been doing quite a wide variety of different kwiz types (micro kwizzes on various topics and you even tried a C1 kwiz!). This means you're not getting enough repetition for things to stick. I'd recommend you stick to A0 level kwizzes for now until you get comfortably with the foundation topics. Kwiziq will automatically ensure that you repeat the stuff you need to in this level until you get it. Do write in if you need any more advice. We're always here to help!

When I was working toward my Music Education degree, Vocal Concentration, my teachers were excited to have a student who, as a former French major, could sing the French vocal literature. We were required to translate our songs both word-for-word and paraphrased,and to write a paper describing how the music enhances the text, eg., a dissonance occurs where the ship masts (in "Les Berceaux" by Gabriel Faure) leam back to the shore, where the sailors are leaving their sweethearts and families. We also had to do this with the other modern European languages. As a result, I have a smattering of vocabulary from all these languages, and the French I had studied years before was refreshed in my memory. Songs are a great vehicle in which to memorize new vocabulary, as well as to reinforce grammar and pronunciation.

Thanks Danielle. That's a lovely story!