October 20, 2017
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I’m currently taking the second year of the Chinese curriculum here at MIT, and as anyone learning another language knows, there’s a lot to remember. It can be easy to focus on the short term and review just the most recent vocabulary and characters we’ve learned, but the class is cumulative; I am often asked to read or recall anything we’ve learned in the first year as well.
Naturally, this means that I need to regularly review the old material on a semi-regular basis, using Quizlet flashcards created by one of my classmates that match up with the text. But the exact mechanics of how I do so are not as important as the fact that I’m reviewing at all. In fact, after I took one year of Chinese, I decided to try to take a break and gauge whether I’d be able to keep it up long-term. After a year of doing so, I was satisfied with how much I was able to retain that I decided to go for one more year.
Languages like this are rather conspicuous examples; if you don’t use them, you lose them. I’m already (sadly) planning on allowing the German I learned in middle school and high school to fade gracefully, rather than latching onto the few German-speaking peers and starting conversations with them just to keep it up.
But it’s helpful to think in terms of review cycles in many other areas, too, especially those where we need to make intentional effort to do or be something.
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