Savvy approach to English learning - Savvy

Savvy approach to English learning

So, let’s move forward with the Savvy approach to English learning.

Learning Words — Article #2

We have already discussed WHAT to learn and how to choose the vocabulary that you really need. Now let’s talk about HOW to learn words.

Once again, there are three main rules to keep in mind. But before I tell you about them, let’s see how our memory works. From the point of neurophysiology, memory is the connection between neural cells that transfers the impulse. The result of learning words depends on the endurance of these bridges between the neurons. This was proven by Eric Kendall, who was awarded Nobel prize in 2000.

The key role in the building of neural connections is performed by the hippocampus, which is a brain structure that looks like a seahorse. This seahorse decides which information should be saved for long-term memory.

You should follow three main rules to make your hippocampus memorize new words:

  • establish the need for this word;
  • make an association with information you already know;
  • repeat it several times.

So let’s discuss each rule in detail

  1. Personalization of the words. Until you explain to your hippocampus that this word is related to YOUR life, chances are that it won’t want to learn it. You should add all the new words to the context of events that take place in your life all the time. For instance, if you would like to learn the idiom “off guard” you should imagine a situation in which you were off guard and define the situation this way.
  2. Mnemonics. If you already knew what the word “guard” means, you’d better imagine a situation in which “off guard” means that you are in a situation where you are not guarding your attention. And if the word “guard” is new for you, you may find the words in Russian that are similar in pronunciation like ГАРДемарины. And then you may create a pattern: ГАРДемарины were caught off guard.
  3. Interval repetition. The first person who started paying attention to on-time repetition was Ebbinghaus in the 19th century. Subsequently many experiments confirmed his ideas.

If you repeat words during the following time intervals, you will certainly be able to memorize your target words.

If you have days:

  • the first repetition — right after you have finished revising the whole list of words;
  • the second repetition — in 20 minutes after the first repetition;
  • the third repetition — in 8 hours after the second one;
  • the fourth repetition — in 24 hours after the third one;

If you need to memorize it for a long period of time:

  • the first repetition — right after the review of the words;
  • the second repetition — in 20-30 minutes after the first repetition;
  • the third repetition — in 1 day after the second one;
  • the fourth repetition — in 2-3 weeks after the third one;
  • the fifth repetition — in 2-3 months after the fourth repetition.

And one bonus for those who have finished reading. The information is being transferred to long-term memory while you are sleeping. So after you have reviewed all the words you may go to bed with a clean conscience and sleep well with the understanding that you are doing a great job.


Anna Krasilnik

Savvy Head of Corporate English

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