Here I am again. So this blog wasn’t dead after all…. Have I been procrastinating maybe? Yes and not.

As I once said, some time ago I was a great procrastinator. For me it was a  very serious issue. Even my self-esteem was affected because of that situation.  As many other people I decided to read some books about procrastination in order to help myself. And believe me, if you choose the right ones, they can help you to change for better (of course reading isn’t enough, a combination of daily work, will, motivation  and routine is a must). For me, this book was one of the most helpful because of it’s main point: to postpone our main pending big task doing smaller tasks. Yeah, it sounds quite simple, but it’s deeper than it sounds. Did you ever noticed back at high school that during the week of finals each semester we always thought we had a lot of things we would like to do but we couldn’t because of exams, and when we we had finished all of them we didn’t  think like that anymore? Well, this is something similar. Here you can read the essay where this idea was explained for the first time (it’s also the first chapter of the book which I pointed out). I believe that it gives enough insight about the idea altogether so I am not going to develop it more in this entry.

Maybe for me updating this blog is not the biggest task in my plate right now. Nevertheless, I consider it very important because it’s the only activity which I do in my personal time with a -very small- public impact. So, what have I been doing instead of updating this blog? Mainly modifying and improving the system which I use for studying and starting a new project based in the incremental reading technique. I pretend to write about these activities in a short-term future and a medium-term future respectively. But first I need to obtain more data and results. So today I would like to speak about my user’s experience while using two of the most well know SRS nowadays: Anki and SuperMemo.

If we look around the Internet we will find a lot of reviews about each of them, and sometimes even direct comparisons between them. But as I see it, nearly always there is a big issue in all of them: most of those reviews are just superficial and limited analysis of the main features of Anki, SuperMemo or both of them. In other words, usually those reviews are made by people who never used either of them, or if they did, usually it was for a relative short period of  time. So, in the end, the decision about which one it’s the most efficient is left to the reader.

I am not going to analyze the main features of each of them, mainly, because as I said, there are a lot of reviews like that, and because I don’t fully know all of them (mostly, Anki’s apparently infinite plugins list). What I want to speak about it’s my user’s experience after using Anki for a whole year in a regular way and SuperMemo  for half year (still doing it) also in a regular way.

Anki was the first SRS I ever used and thus I had a lot of problems because of it. Anyways, it’s interface it’s really intuitive so it in the end it was really easy to learn how to run it. The main problem which I faced was to understand it’s true nature (here I explained what is a SRS and what I believe it’s its true purpose). In the end that situation made me to do many mistakes while using it. The most significant one was to believe that I could introduce any kind of information and in some way or another I would be able to learn and remember it solely with Anki’s help. I wasn’t follow The 20 rules of formulating knowledge in learning even if I was already aware of them. Now I truly understand their importance. Another big handicap I had back then was that I wasn’t aware yet of the big importance of active recall in our learning process, so most of my Anki cards were ‘passive review focused’.

SuperMemo on the other hand has a very complex interface which most of the times makes potential users to think twice before buying it. Yes, while Anki it’s free, SuperMemo isn’t (we are speaking about the Desktop versions). At SuperMemo’s web we can consult the prices. Anyhow, after one week or two of using it I got used to it’s interface. In fact, I realized It was quite intuitive. SuperMemo gives to us more possibilities while creating our cards. Also, it has the explendid Incremental Reading feature. Yes, Anki has a new plugging for it too, but it’s not the same, believe me. While Anki offers to us the Incremental Reading feature as a new incorporation still in process of development, SuperMemo’s last version is especially focused on it. The only feature which I consider better implemented in Anki is the ‘picture clozing’ function. With Anki the ‘picture clozing process’ it’s almost automatic, while with SuperMemo it’s more manually and thus slower (= a pain in the ass).

So, what was the reason to change Anki for SuperMemo (= the reason which makes me think SuperMemo is best suited for me)? After some time using Anki I realized while doing my daily revisions that the older cards (the ones programmed for two or more months ahead) were gone from my long-term memory. That became a common issue rewarding a lot of cards. After evaluating my options I decided to start using SuperMemo hoping to solve that issue. And, in the end, it did. It seems that SuperMemo 15 algorithm is much more solid than the one used by Anki. Here is a brief explanation about the reasons for this. Don’t worry if you don’t understand any of it. I don’t either. I am not a computer programmer nor I have the kind of knowledge which would let me to understand the technical stuff. The only thing I know for sure is that SuperMemo helps me to memorize almost any kind of information in a stable way, while Anki doesn’t. Also, it seems that SuperMemo it’s able to help us to deal with a broader spectrum of topics, while Anki specializes in language learning.

Maybe it’s true that my comparison it’s useless because now, while using SuperMemo, I have much more experience than when I started to use Anki. Maybe, if back then I had the knowledge I have now about certain aspects of my learning process and such, it would have been a total different experience altogether. It’s obvious that my poor results using Anki wasn’t due to it’s own limitations but because my inability to use it in a correct way. Following this reasoning, I would like to point out that both of them have an immense potential. But, in order to benefit from them, and as I said, first we need to understand the true nature of SRS and give to them the credit they deserve; no more, no less.

ps. Yes, the title of this entry is just a trick to get some attention… kind of.


You shouldn’t be reading this blog… this is the kind of thought I end up having every time I read your typical blog about some X Asian language student stating that he/she reached an intermediate/advanced fluency level in two years or less. I don’t know you, but I feel I am doing something wrong every time I read this kind of stuff. Is he/she a f****ng genius or it’s just my problem? How many times are you just looking for a bit of insight about your language learning but, inevitably, do you end up totally unmotivated?

In a few months it’s going to be two years since I started learning Korean by myself, and I feel I am still far from an intermediate fluency level. In fact some days I feel I am in the middle of The Dip.

What’s this so called (The) Dip? The Dip is a concept made up by Seth Godin, an an American entrepreneur, author and public speaker.

According to Godin every new project (or job, or hobby, or company) starts out exciting and fun. Then it gets harder and less fun, until it hits a low point—really hard, and not much fun at all. In the end you find yourself asking if the goal is even worth the hassle. This situation is what  Godin calls The Dip.

The Dip is the combination of bureaucracy and busywork you must deal with in order to get certified for scuba diving. The Dip is the difference between the easy “beginner” and the more useful “expert” approach in skiing or fashion design. The Dip is the long stretch between beginner’s luck and real accomplishment (*1). I you do a quick Google image search you will be able to find all kinds of illustrations about The Dip.

As I said, some days I feel I am in the middle of The Dip rewarding my Korean level. Of course, reaching The Dip is always inevitable and positive. Even so I hope that I’m just being a bit too negative and my level is not that bad.

If I look closely at what I have been doing for these past two years I realize that my study plan wasn’t that consistent. The main reason for that would be that learning Korean by myself was the first BIG self-learning project I ever undertook in my whole life while having one of the biggest handicaps anybody can have: nobody taught me how to learn.

So these two last years have been a constant process of trial and error about learning about learning. Learning korean it’s been the way I put into practice the theory I have been coming through(*2).

What about English, then? If it isn’t it my first language doesn’t it mean that I already know the way for acquiring new languages? Mmmm this is a question quite difficult to answer. But I will try.

I have two first languages: Spanish and Catalan. I started to learn English when I was eight years old at the school. Back in my school days English lessons at school were quite poor(*3), so it was unexpected to achieve a high English level at public institutions. You had to go an English school or to a private academy to achieve that kind of level. I never went to those kind of places. So what did I do? Well, I spent all my childhood playing English video games and surfing the Internet when Spanish websites were almost nonexistent. I remember that when I was eleven years old my Christmas present was an imported Pokemon Gold-USA version- game copy. Before that I already played some ‘dense games in English’ like Zelda Ocarina of Time and such. Of course I wasn’t able to understand them at 100% but step by step I was building my English skills without realizing it.

Already at high school I was always a few steps ahead of my classmates. When my classmates were reading English books for children I was already reading Poe’s short stories. And then I found one of the best websites around to horn my English skills:

When I was a teenager I was a big fan of Japanese animation shows, so to find a website like that where I could keep reading fictional histories about my favorite characters was one of the best things that ever happened to me until then (yes, I had a very simple life). At the beginning I had a lot of struggles to understand 100% all the words, but before realizing it I was able to read whole stories without having to use any kind of automatic translator even for the most difficult parts.

Finally the other major boost which helped me to gain a decent English level was to watch dozens of English subbed Japanese animation shows and American TV series (Lost was the first one I watched without subtitles of any kind).

If I analyze the whole process now I realize I was putting in practice exactly what the Input Theory tells us we have to do in order to acquire a second language: to consume ingent quantities of interesting input sources. That’s why I highly believe in the Input Theory, because it has been already effective for me at least once before.

So, back to my Korean learning process. The main idea has been always to emulate my English learning process. Although recently I found out something really significant. But before keeping on I have to explain something:

Almost all my Korean learning material is for English speakers. Yes, if your first language is Spanish and you don’t know English but you want to learn Korean you are screwed up. Sorry. Korean learning books for Spanish speakers are practically nonexistent.

These past months, while learning new Korean vocabulary, I realized my English vocabulary is not as accurate as I thought. Every time I check the meaning of a new Korean word I have to do a second translation from English to Spanish in order to know the exact word meaning. This led me to discover what I already said: even if my general English comprehension is quite high I have certain difficulties when it comes to identify the exact meanings of individual words.

How it’s possible then that I have been able to keep up with my English learning for so many years? I believe that it was because of the close relationship between English grammar and vocabulary with the Spanish ones. Yes, it’s a close relationship if we compare it with the one between Korean and Spanish, an almost nonexistent one.

When I was learning to read English I could read a certain document beyond my understanding level and be able to deduce the meaning of it through the context due to its similarities with some Spanish words and such. In case of Korean this is almost impossible. My previous language knowledge (Spanish, Catalan and English) while reading something in Korean doesn’t really help me that much. I have to learn every new word from scratch (=to look for its translation at least once). So this situation slows down drastically my learning process. Or at least I feel like that if I compare it with my past English learning process.

Having in mind all of this I reached two conclusions. The firs one is that to focus on vocabulary solely during part of my learning time is critical; at least for now, while I still haven’t reached an intermediate fluency level. The second one is that the next time I start to learn a new language I will make less mistakes for sure!


(*1)Info extracted from here and here. Of course I also read the book…

(*2)theory= new ideas I get about proper ways of learning.

(*3)In my whole school and high school student live I never took an oral English test, only written ones. Can you see now the kind of flaws the Education System did have back then?

Sorry for this but I have to start his entry with a significant amount of theory. I really consider it necessary for understanding the whole thing altogether.

First question, what is the ‘Spaced repetition’ learning technique? (The following explanation i directly extracted from Wikipedia).

Spaced repetition is a learning technique that incorporates increasing intervals of time between subsequent review of previously learned material in order to exploit the psychological spacing effect. So, what is this so called spacing effect?

In the field of psychology, the spacing effect is the phenomenon whereby animals (including humans) more easily remember or learn items when they are studied a few times spaced over a long time span (“spaced presentation”) rather than repeatedly studied in a short span of time (“massed presentation“). Practically, this effect suggests that “cramming” (intense, last-minute studying) the night before an exam is not likely to be as effective as studying at intervals in a longer time frame. Important to note, however, is that the benefit of spaced presentations does not appear at short retention intervals, in which massed presentations tend to lead to better memory performance.

Back to spaced repetition the principle is useful in many contexts, although it is commonly applied in contexts in which a learner must acquire a large number of items and retain them indefinitely in memory. It is therefore well suited for the problem of vocabulary acquisition in the course of second language learning, due to the size of the target language’s inventory of open-class words. Alternative names include spaced rehearsal, expanding rehearsal, graduated intervals, repetition spacing, repetition scheduling, spaced retrieval and expanded retrieval and SRS, which is the one I’m going to use from now on.

So, long story short, does this means that SRS is another learning method…?

NOOO!!!! And here comes the main error most of the people which use SRS do. THE SRS IN NOT A LEARNING METHOD. I know, I know, even Wikipedia calls it like that. But believe me, it is not. SRS is not a learning method, it’s just a tool that help us to retain the info in our long term memory.

Ok, SRS is out of the question, but… If it’s not through SRS in which way do we learn?

There is a thing called learning style. In short this references the personal way in which each of us learns better (in other words, the learning method which works better for us). All of us have met in some moment of our past someone who stated that he or she learned better with audios, another one who stated that grammar books were very helpful for him/her, and so on. In fact, each of us is like that. Each of us have our personal preferences while studying something (*1).I for example learn better if I represent the info which I want to learn in pictures (mindmaps). This preference for a method or another is what helps us to understand the info and ths learn it.

There is abig mistake we make when we start to learn something new, particularly languages. Usually we surf the net looking for other people advice about how we should focus our learning process. The problem comes when we find somebody which states that X learning style is the best one and helped him/her learning in the blink of an eye. The newbie learner believes blindly in the blogger’s words and tries to emulate the blogger’s experience. The issue comes when the results for him/her are not the same as those which the blogger stated they would be. Why does this happen? The answer is quite simple. What if in reality X learning style isn’t the most suited for the newbie learner? Maybe the learning style more suited for the newbie learner is the Y learning style, the same that ‘X learning style’s blogger’ marked as shit. Do you see the trick there?

I do believe that one of the biggest achievements which we can make in our whole lives is to find which is the method most suited for each of us (of course this is 100% a personal opinion). The main conclusion we have to extract from this is that learning is not the same as remembering.


Hey! Hey! Wait a moment! What about schools then? Don’t they use the same methods over and over again for years and decades? If all this was true wouldn’t it mean that they should adapt their system to each of their students -which of course they don’t-?

Don’t make me talk.

Let’s just say for now that if you are one of those kids who learn better through a language/mathematical system you can consider yourself lucky. If not, I’m sorry to say this to you, but you are screwed. Kind of.

Video games to explain nowadays education system paradigm.

Back in my college days I met a certain guy, a japanese language student in his senior year. That guy had been studying japanese for four years already. But as he said to me, he felt he didn’t learn that much. It was just a certain feeling but he couldn’t explain it. So I helped him to shed more light upon this matter. I compared his situation with Catherine gameplay system. Catherine is a PS3/XBOX360. As explained in Wikipedia Catherine is a puzzle-platformer psychological horror adventure game in which players control Vincent Brooks, who begins having strange nightmares after his girlfriend, Katherine, begins to talk about marriage and commitment. […] The main gameplay takes place in the Nightmare stages. In a nightmarish dreamworld […], Vincent must climb up giant staircases that are slowly collapsing underneath him and safely reach the top. When I used this explanation as a metaphor to describe his situation he totally agreed with me. Then he proceed to explain himself with a more clear insight. He felt that he had learnt a lot of stuff every year that passed, but that new knowledge was always taking the place of old knowledge and this one at the same time was falling apart, mostly due the lack of proper review of it in the degree’s main curriculum (*1)

Have the bell ringed while reading the last paragraph? Do you think that it was the same for you (or still it is) in your college/high school/other years even if your degree wasn’t about languages? Well I believe this is something quite common among student no matter their age or field are. We learn a lot of things but we forgive most part of them before even finishing our degree/high school year/other. In other words, everybody knows that the high school/college/other student life is based is memorizing halfway and forgiving full way. One of the reason for this is the lack of a proper method of maintaining all that info in our memory. Yes, we indeed need a SRS.

So what are you proposing a new learning style or a SRS?
I propose to apply in our learning process SRS plus a new midle step called massed presentation.


Massed what?

Basically, massed presentation means to repeat a information multiples times (following a methodical pattern) in a short period of time in order to be able to remember it easily in the near future. If you do a quick Google search you will see that very often this concept is treated as the opposite of SRS.

I still don’t get it. So does it means that we have to choose between massed presentation or SRS?

Far from the truth. As I said what I propose is to complement both of them in the learning process(*2).

So…. Massed presentation= cramming?

No, mainly because of two reasons. The first reason is that massed presentation doesn’t require an intense and stressful tempo while reviewing the material (I am going to explain more about this a bit later in this same entry). The second reason is that cramming isn’t followed by a methodical use of SRS.

Ok…… buuuuut, What are exactly the benefits of massed presentation?

Let me put it this way: is like giving steroids to your short-term memory; at least this is the way I feel every day while doing it. Do you see now the difference between massed presentation and SRS? The former helps us to retain the knowledge in our short-term memory, while the last helps us to retain it in our long-term memory.

Wait a moment! Why are you speaking about short-term, long-term memory and stuff like that? Does this means there is more than one type of memory?
If you check Wikipedia’s article about memory you will see this is quite an extensive topic. For now let’s just get the idea that sensory memory is the kind of memory which holds sensory information for a few seconds or less after an item is perceived, short-term memory(*3) allows recall for a period of several seconds to a minute without rehearsal and long-term memory which can store much larger quantities of information for potentially unlimited duration (sometimes a whole life span)(all of this stracted from Wikipedia). I understand the three of them as different rooms in the same house. But in order to enter the main room, long-term memory room, we must first enter the previous rooms, sensory memory room and short-term room respectively.


I am sorry but I am an experienced user of SRS and I know for sure it is not suited for me…

When any of us say that we have tried a SRS, exactly for how much time have we been doing it in a methodical way (=/= only a few dispersed days if I feel like it)? Usually an error that most of the ‘casual SRS users’ do is trying to amass in their long term memory through SRS a lot of knowledge which they haven’t reinforced in previous memory stages (mainly the short-term memory).
Of course we also can find some people’s experiences which shows that in the end SRS works anyways. The problem is that few times they speak about how much difficulties they had while learning new info in any stages of their learning process while using SRS (beginner, intermediate or upper stages). Most of the times the knowledge is acquired after doing many UNNECESSARY errors(*4).

So to learn any kind of information I have to repeat it multiple at first and then more spaced?
Not quite.

Understanding before memorizing

As I said the SRS is not a method of learning by itself. As SuperMemo’s author himself states in his articles ‘Formulating knowledge. Twenty rules’, the first step for memorizing something is to understand it. If we do this posterior memorization would be more easy.

In case of vocabulary acquisition things differ a little. Here we have ‘more memorizing work to do and less understanding work tod do’. This is the point where we have to decide the kind of flashcards/any other kind of knowledge formulating system we want to review through massed presentation and SRS. We have to decide if we do better listening to audio or do we prefer reading and doing some kind of mnemotechnics (among hundreds of other different options). The article ‘Formulating knowledge. Twenty rule’ is a main key required to have success at this point. After deciding this point we can start the massed presentation reviews.

So is this something you discovered?

No at all, in fact the idea has been around for awhile. I do believe that the Pimsleur system is in fact a mix of massed presentation(in a very little dosis) and SRS. The main handicaps I notice about it are: first the kind of material they commercialize. It is in fact a massed presentation system but it doesn’t have any kind of continuity in more large periods of time. Of course the second main handicap is the prize. RosettaStone would be another example of massed presentation system with the same handicaps as Pimsleur System. Finally I do interpret the TPR storytelling method as something very similar to this idea too.

So what’s the point then about this ‘tutorial’?

SRS has been for some time already in the spotlight (for the good and for the bad) among the language learners virtual community. I would like to put in its own deserved spotlight the massed presentation system. I would love to read about people developing new and more effective ways than mine to applicate it in the general learning process and in language acquisition process.

Can you explain your personal experience?

Yes I can.

First I made a deck in any flashcard system of my preference with 20 new korean words I want to learn (aprox., the mainpoint is to not feel stressed while doing it). It’s better if they are not in an alphabetical order because if so we avoid unnecessary confusion. Then I proceed to review it for the first time. Usually this first review takes me about 10 min. In this time I try to memorize the words by making mnemotechnics annotations or things like that. But of course I also memorize some of them just by heart if I don’t come along a strong enough mnemotechnic.

After this first review I wait for 1 minute and review it again. Usually this second time the review only takes 5 or less minutes and the wrong answers percentage is minimal.
After the second review I wait for 3 minutes and review it again.
After that I wait for 10 minutes and review it again.
After this last review I put the timer at 1 hour and proceed to make another deck if I have enough time. The timetable for reviewing is always the same.
Finally after the 1 hour timer I do the review again and set the timer at 5 hours.

So the timetable for the first day would be:

First review.
1 minute review
3 minutes review
10 minutes review
1 hour review
5 hours review

The following day I make new decks while reviewing the past day’s decks following this pattern:

Yesterday’s deck first review.
Yesterday’s deck 10 minutes review
Yesterday’s deck 1 hour review
Yesterday’s deck 5 hours review

As I said every review only takes a few minutes. If you use a flashcard system with a mobile application it would be like if you were checking your e-mail or your main instant-communication app.
After these first two days of applying massed presentation I proceed to introduce the new acquired knowledge in my main SRS (in my case SuperMemo) and start to review the new knowledge through it. But here comes the main problem which I still have to solve and it’s how the SRS interprets the answers for the first time. The first day you review the info with your SRS the answer is probably going to be 100% accurate. This will cause that the next review will be scheduled for a time longer than desirable. The SRS interprets that the new data is already established in our long term-memory, which it’s not true at all. The whole situation makes that consequent reviews have a bigger error percentage (around 20%). Of course this doesn’t mean world’s end or anything like. We have to have a positive view about things always. From every 100 new words we will remember 80 straight, and those 20 we failed are going to be reviewed in a more short period of time thus helping us to remember them in a few days. This way I have been learning an average amount of 70 new words (kanji included) in the last two weeks.

Maybe if we only want to larn 50 words or so for a incoming test the whole method is not worth the effort. But I see it more as a way of constant learning a with in a long-term setting.

Final thoughts.

I consider that I still have to fix a lot of things in this system in order it fits my personal needs. As I said a few times already everyone has his/her own style which works better for him/her. In any case I do believe that memory working principles are something more restrained and common among average people, or at least I hope so (that would mean that massed presentation and SRS can be used by anyone).
For now I will rearrange the timetables. I think some of the review times are unnecessary or could be better adjusted. Also there is the problem with SuperMemo’s scheduling which I have already commented. And of course I still have a lot to learn about memory working principles, massed presentation and other multiple topics related to general learning.
If you have an opinion in favor or against all that have been said here please share it with me. Help me to learn more through your opinions and ideas 😉


(*1) Please don’t say to me that test have this purpose…. All of us know the truth behind them, at least in college level. Recently I heard that when we feel in danger our brain blocks our learning ability. As they said, this fact produces that usually tests (considered as threatening situations for most of us) are far from being a learning process/simulation process/whatever you may call it.

(*2) It seems an obvious fact, but for some reason people usually argues all the time regarding X matter about what option (A, or B. or C, or…) is the best. For example if you have been learning languages for some time already and have been surfing the net looking for other people’s experiences you would have find a lot of times the discussion about what it’s the best method among the one represented by the Input Theory or the one represented by the Output Theory. Usually people sticks with one of them, and for some reason which I don’t understand, almost nobody proposes a mix of them. Another popular discussion among language learners is if learning words lists is useful or not. Again we are going to find those who are in favor of it and those who are against it. Why everything has to be black or white? Why people always have to choose sides? Can’t we just take the best from all the sources (in concordance with or personal needs) and mix it?

(*3) Maybe it would be more appropriate to call this stage working memory but I don’t want to focus on this point right now.

(*4) All errors all necessary, of course. We have thousand of PD books which speaks about the value of them so lets skip this necessary but tedious point explanation.

No, this is not going to become another blog with only a few entries the first days before the author gets bored of it… Not a long time ago I was a first-class procrastinator but after gathering up will-power for months and training the use of it I can say now I left behind my bad habits. Maybe some day I am going to write about it… Until then if someone is interested in reading more about procrastination and how to overcome it I recommend this book(*1)

The reason for not writing anything these last days has been that I have been polishing the short-term memory system I introduced in the first entry of this blog. Specifically, I have been changing the time periods due to some instability in the whole process. Anyway, I am going to post an entry with a whole tutorial about it as soon as I consider the system is stable enough.

So, what about my daily progress? Nothing new until the date. I keep learning 30 (more or less) kanjis every day (I reached my 200th today!). I hope to have learned 3000 of them before next fall. About the Korean, I have decided to focus for now on my skimming text flashcards. The main reason for this decision is that very soon (3 weeks aprox.) I am going to finish the material I am working with and then I will decide again what kind of method I want to follow.

So this is all for now, stay tuned for the incoming tutorial. Until then you can read this guy’s blog where he speaks about his experiences learning almost all kind of topics with SuperMemo. Please notice that he also started using a combination of Pimsleur algorithm with SuperMemo. I look forward to see what are his experiences/conclusions doing like this.


(*1)Because any procrastinator proud of being the way he/she is needs more than one book about procrastination itself in his/her bookshelf. Of course they have to stay unreaded 😉

Combining the Pimsleur algorithm with SuperMemo is more effective while learning large chunks of information (phrases) than while learning short chunks (words). Why? Because this way I AVOID learning (fake)sequences of words without meaning(*1) instead of vocabulary/spelling/or whatever you may call it.


(*1)Again, I blame my brain for always looking for the easiest way to resolve problems.

Today this blog entry totally blow my mind. Again I find myself in a two/path-road having to decide which one I should take. Should I keep with my 6000 words project or should I focus more in my ‘skimming texts with clozed words flashcards’(*1)?

So, why this sudden change of mind? Reading this blog entry made me think about what I am aiming for. Is it just knowing small bits of unrelated information (aka known as being a ‘walking dictionary’) or being competent in a procedural knowledge? Obviously the answer is the second.

I would consider that learning vocabulary is an important micro-skill, but as Learntodo(Procedural SuperMemo’s author) states, if we focus too much in this kind of micro-skills larger and more useful skills may be handicapped. Totally the way I feel so many times when I focus on vocabulary exclusively.

Of course learning vocabulary is essential, so is there any solution? Well, there is something I have been doing for a while (besides the Skimming texts flashcards) and it’s to learn whole phrases instead of solely vocabulary. This way I also practise my practical grammar and refresh already known vocabulary while making new connections between it and new vocabulary. The point would be to start learning more useful phrases which I would be able to use in daily situations.

At last I want to speak about a recurrent problem I face. While doing my daily SuperMemo reviews I got used to not read the whole text in my Skimming texts flashcards, only read a few words in order to recognize what’s the answer I need(*2). That’s quite an inconvenience, because this way I don’t fully exploit all the benefits from this type of flashcards. I have to do something about it. Maybe to mentalize myself that investing 30-50 seconds in each of them is worth the effort. Or by any chance am I going to do something more productive with that time? I guess not.


Kanji report

Today I learnt 30 new kanjis. But more important, I really had great feelings almost all day. I say almost because I started the day a bit gloomy because of yesterday’s final sensations and also because I didn’t sleep enough. Because of this I didn’t had time to do my daily morning biking (one of my main daily initial sources of eustress).

It seems that this time the amount of learnt info is the adequate. Let’s think about it. I studied 30 kanjis in chunks of 10. So I only did 3 chunks. While doing the first one I was feeling eager and refreshed. No problem there. While doing the second one I was thinking ‘come on, after this one it only reamins one more’. And finally while doing the third I felt relieved to finish my daily work so fast. Do you see the trick there? It’s all about our mind. As Tony Stark said in the beginning of IM3:

We made our own demons… or something like that.

So, in the same way we can also make our own mental shortcuts to feel cool 😉

Related to this I have noticed that I have started to believe blindly in this new method which makes me to get too confy. Due to this I don’t put enough attention in my initial reviews. And in the end this whole situation  makes the method less efficient. I have to have in mind this and put more attention from now on while reviewing any kind of info.


(*1)If you don’t know about this flashcard  model just google it. I believe this idea has been around the Internet for a while already.

(*2)I have to blame my brain for always looking for the easiest way to resolve problems.

So, here I am; probably talking to myself alone. I’m cool with it. For now.

You know, I had a lot of ideas for this blog: what I would like to speak about, the kind of design I would like for it, blah, blah, blah… But for a specific reason I didn’t want to acknowledge until now I never started it. What reason was that? I was procrastinating trough perfectionism.

This happens to me a lot (being a perfectionist and thus being a procrastinator). And for some reason I have a vibe that I’m in the same boat as many other individuals… Anyway, even if it doesn’t seem like it, there is an easy solution for this situation: I/we only have to ask myself/ourselves

‘who cares if I do an (un)perfect work?’.

If the answer is nobody, then just start doing it.

There is just a small but: today I don’t feel like  trying to make a great blog with a great design and many other pompous things. Today I  ‘just’ have the urge to share my ‘investigation work’ results with the world.

Today has been the first day I put in motion, in a ‘serious way(*1)’, a new method I have come with for memorizing faster and better any kind of information. Ok, I know it sounds pretentious, but that’s not my intention at all. Let me explain it. The main idea is quite simple: to combine the Pimsleur algorithm with the Supermemo algorithm/software.

If you have ever used the Pimsleur  Audio  Lessons you would have noticed that they are quite useful when it comes to short-term learning, but is not as useful when it comes to long -term learning(*2), just the opposite of what happens with Supermemo.  It, as  any other SRS system, is really handy when it comes to long-term learning, but if  our initial  encounter with the stuff we are pretending to learn wasn’t sticky enough, consequent repetitions may become a pain in the ass(*3).

Are you starting to see where I’m going? Yes? No? Ok, let me explain it a bit further.

First I  make a list of words I want to memorize. Not short enough to be insignificant, but also not long enough to feel any kind of stress while making it or studying it.  This is what I call looking for the FLOW . I do it in a generic flashcard system/platform(*4). When it’s finished I review  them until I get all the flashcards correct. And here comes the magic: after that I review the flashcard deck  following these times: 1 minute, 3 minutes, 10 minutes, 1 hour and 5 hours. As you can see this is the Pimsleur algorithm with a  initial slight modification. After finishing all my reviews I proceed to put the words in my Supermemo collection and the next day I start to review  them through this way.

Let me be clear on this point. This method doesn’t assure you to remember any kind of information  instantly error-proof. The big point is that when we realize our daily reviews with Supermemo we feel more secure, and why not, we make significantly less mistakes. In other words, it mades our first encounter with the info we want to absorb more ‘stickier’(*5).

My objective for today was to learn 60 kanjis and 120 korean words. Before keeping on I have to say two things. First, I don’t study  japanese. I have a vague notion about the kana and today I learned my first kanjis in my whole live. So why I do it? Just for the challenge of learning(*6). Second, I do study korean. I have doing it for  a significant time already. But I have been doing it wrongly for most part of the time. However recently I have started to improve my learning methods,or at least I hope so.

Coming back to the topic, what have been the results? 50 kanjis, 100 korean words and a lot of stress (and thus NO FLOW ).  I know, I know, these could be considered as significant good results for just one day. But they are not. What I was really looking for was what was the optimal quantity of new information I could learn per day without feeling stressed at all. In others words, I wanted to transform my daily learning experience in a source of eustress.  Do you understand now why I feel a bit frustrated today?

So what’s the following step now? I plan for tomorrow only to aim for  30 kanji  and 60 korean words. I am quite sure tomorrow the sensations would be really different from today’s…

But why I give so much importance to how feel while studying? Easy. I plan to learn 3000 kanjis and 6000 korean words in the following 3 months. I know I only would be able to do it if everyday I enjoy every moment, again, if I feel the FLOW.

So, I guess this is all for now. I would really appreciate if you leave a comment expressing whatever idea came to you while reading this post.

Read you soon!

PS.I guess you have already noticed it. English is not my first language. I am really sorry for all the mistakes I made. In all my live I only wrote stuff in English for my homework at school/college. This is the first time I write something in English for another total different reason. What’s it? Mainly that most part of the Supermemo/people looking for new ways of learning… community is English-spoken.  Finally I would like to point that I taught  English myself , mostly by reading. So I guess this proves that the Input Theory is true after all 😉


(*1)This means that I have been using it  already for some days, but in a minor scale. The results have been positive so far.

(*2)Unless you repeat in a daily/weekly basis the same audio lesson over and over  – trust me, I did… any problem?

(*3)Is this maybe one of the main reasons because of so many people give up the SRS method even when it has  positive proven results?

(*4)I use a platform called Brainscape. It covers all my needs, including an iphone application. Cool enough if you ask me.

(*5)Always depending on how much attention/concentration you put in the whole process, of course.

(*6)If you feel related to this statement I hope you become a fellow reader of this blog and leave your comments.