Today we explain some science behind “listen & learn” the best method of learning to speak English fluently.
The only reason we learn anything as a species is so we can “adapt to bad things” and “repeat the good things” that happen to us. So regardless of the environment, new or old, we humans can survive and pass this information on to our children.
We have no problem remembering that there is a vicious animal living in the woods near where we walk. We might not remember much of the detail about that animal. The way the human brain works is to remember the important facts (life saving information) and forget the less important details.
The problem is humans are less concerned about avoiding dangerous animals and more interested in learning new languages or a dance routine. So forcing our brain to pay attention and remember things we need to use some science, the science of forgetting.
cramming neuroscientists wiki
Hi there and welcome to this Adept English podcast. I’m going to share with you today an idea from psychology, which will help you learn and remember things. How useful is that?! So...and this is also an important part of our method for helping you to become more fluent and how to improve pronunciation in English. We use this all the time in Adept English. Have you heard of the idea of Spaced Repetition? So vocabulary first of all – spaced, S-P-A-C-E-D means something which has spaces between. If you say ‘spaced out’ – that usually means that someone’s not with it, not really very aware, perhaps drunk, or exhausted, unable to focus for some reason. But if you say just ‘spaced’ - it means there are spaces, there are gaps between something. So you could say ‘The cars were spaced evenly along the road’. Or ‘The trees in the avenue were spaced regularly’.
So Spaced Repetition. Repetition is a noun, R-E-P-E-T-I-T-I-O-N and anything that is repeated a number of times is a repetition. So you learn your maths times tables by repetition – 2 x 2 = 4, 3 X 2 = 6 etc. When I say ‘Enough for now. Have a lovely day’ etc. at the end of the podcast, this is a repetition – and it indicates to you that it’s the end of the podcast.
So what is Spaced Repetition and if you’re asking how to improve pronunciation in English – and your fluency as well, of course, how does Spaced Repetition help?
Well, if you’re faced with having to learn a lot of information – that might be for your degree subject or for professional exams – as well as for learning a language, you’ll know that your brain is not a simple recording device. It’s not as though you can read through something, like a list of vocabulary and your brain just automatically remembers it. We all know this doesn’t work – we’re not a recording machine. Or at least, not like this. And sometimes it feels as though your brain is not your friend – a bit like Homer Simpson! I remember him saying in one episode “Alright Brain, you don't like me, and I don't like you. But lets just do this, and then I can get back to killing you with beer." So you can’t always force your brain to learn something, to do something it doesn’t want to do. What we call ‘cramming’ from the verb ‘to cram’ is often what people do before an exam. You try to learn all the information in a very short space of time.
Well, usually this information doesn’t make it into your long-term memory. If you’re really lucky, you may remember some of it for your exam, but you’re likely to forget it as soon as the exam’s over. And some of it, you won’t remember at all. What neuroscientists, people who study the brain have discovered, is that when you remember a new piece of information, memories like this are not just stored in one place in your brain. Instead, pieces of information are stored in several places in your brain, like a network. This has to happen before you can remember something. You have to build up associations, links in order to remember. It’s the same whether you’re learning new facts or theories, or if you’re learning new words and new phrases in English. And building these memories in a network – well that takes time – and repetition.
A photograph of a man holding a baby you cannot tell the gender of the baby. Used to help explain English grammar she, he and they.
This is why Spaced Repetition is much better than cramming – you remember much more - and there’s more chance of it staying in your long-term memory, so that it’s there permanently. So how does Spaced Repetition work? Well, if you present yourself with something you need to learn and remember, it’s unlikely that it will work, if you do it just once. But with Spaced Repetition, ideally you encounter, you meet a new word or phrase, then just as you’re beginning to forget it, you meet it again. And then just as you’re beginning to forget the word again, you encounter it a third time. You might be saying to yourself by this point ‘Oh, now I’ve heard that word before. What does it mean again?’ So what’s happening is that each time you meet the new word or phrase, you’re meeting it in a different context, a different sentence – so there is more chance for that network of associations, those links to build up in your brain, so that your brain hangs on to the new word.
Hermann Ebbinghaus is a name associated with what is called the ‘Forgetting Curve’. (Look at the transcript on our website at adeptenglish.com for the spelling of Ebbinghaus if you want to look it up). Ebbinghaus was a German psychologist who studied memory. If you put in his name online and search for images, you will see the diagrams of the ‘Forgetting Curve’ that I’m talking about. So if you learn something new, over quite a short period of time you forget it, the memory fades, it disappears. But if you remind yourself of the information again, just as you’re forgetting it – and you may have to do this several times, there’s more chance that you will retain the information permanently.
So just think about this. If you listen to Adept English podcasts regularly, no matter what the subject, what the topic, there are a whole lot of common English words which you’re going to be regularly reminded of. And just as you’re forgetting the meaning of some new vocabulary that you learnt, you listen again to the same podcast – and there’s the word again. And if you leave it for a few days and then listen to the podcast again and then repeat the process, you’re much more likely to remember new words and phrases, all the grammar that you hear and this is also how to improve pronunciation in English. Literally, if you use those brain cells, where the information is stored again and again – well it means that those brain cells survive. And if you don’t use them, then there’s a good chance they’ll die off!
Our Adept English Course One: Activate Your Listening makes full use of this. We use articles, which are rather like podcasts to introduce you to new vocabulary – some of them are conversations between two people. Then the new vocabulary is talked about in a separate vocabulary recording for each article. And then there’s another recording, a story or a conversation which uses the new words and phrases in a different context.
So Adept English is based on many things, but one important part is that it gives you opportunity to make use of Spaced Repetition. It’s a really powerful technique and of course reflects the way you learned your own language as a child. The best way of learning!
So when I say ‘Listen to this podcast a number of times’, I’m really advising you to do Spaced Repetition as a method of learning. This is how to improve pronunciation in English, and how to improve your vocabulary and your fluency as well.
Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.