looking for the FLOW

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.

    • r0ninn said:

      Quoting Wikipedia (yes, I am one of those persons who still trusts wikipedia…) SuperMemo is:

      SuperMemo (from “Super Memory”) is a learning method and software package developed by SuperMemo World and SuperMemo R&D with Piotr Wozniak in Poland from 1985 to the present.[1] It is based on research into long-term memory, and is a practical application of the spaced repetition learning method that has been proposed for efficient instruction by a number of psychologists as early as in the 1930s.[2] The authors of the learning method and lead programmers of the software are Dr Edward Jacek Gorzelańczyk and Dr Piotr Wozniak.
      According to proponents of the spaced repetition learning method such as Piotr Wozniak, it can optimize measured long-term knowledge acquisition.[3][4]
      The method is available as a computer program for Windows, Windows CE, Windows Mobile (Pocket PC), Palm OS (PalmPilot), etc. It can also be used in a web browser or even without a computer.[5]
      The desktop version of SuperMemo (since v. 2002) supports incremental reading.[6]

      I recommend to you to read some links about the following topics to understand better SuperMemo altogether:

      SuperMemo’s official page

      What is the spaced repetition system
      (from now on I’m going to call it SRS)

      What are short-term memory and long-term memory, sensory memory, working memory and intermediate-term memory.

      I hope that after reading all -or some- of these links you get a clean idea about what is SuperMemo, but if you don’t don’t worry; as SuperMemo’s creator himself says is quite difficult to get an idea about how really works SuperMemo if you don’t try it for a certain period of time.

      The main question would be: does SuperMemo (or any other SRS) really help us in our learning process? Well I think this requires a VERY LONG explanation about what is it and what is it really meant for. I am planning to speak about this in future entries. What I can tell you now is that if you do some research in the Internet you are going to find different testimonials about people and their experience with SuperMemo (or other SRS). For some reason SRS in general is quite popular among the language learners virtual community. As you can guess there are two main groups: those in favor of it and those against it.

      On one hand we have AJATT. This page was made by a guy stating that he acquired a proficiency level of japanese in only 18 months. As he says the SRS was one of the main TOOLS he used to reach his goal. There is also this guy who really is in into it (applying SuperMemo for all kind of learnings).

      On the other, we have guys like this one and this one who have their own reasons to state SRS isn’t as effective as some people believe it is.

      Where I stand? At first the answer may appear obvious (in favor of SRS), but it isn’t. I believe in the power of SRS, BUT, I don’t consider it a learning method as many other people do. I think that SRS is just a tool to maintain any info we want in our long-term memory. But for being able to do this, before we need to study and understand (in other words, to process) that information following our preferential learning style, which is different for each of us.

      Finally, the last basic question would be: what kind of info can we put in supermemo? At first it seems that it works only with any kind of theoretical information. But there are also people like this guy who believes that SuperMemo can help us to achieve any kind of procedural knowledge. I have to admit that this is a point that I still have to ‘investigate’.

      I hope you don’t feel overwhelmed with so much information, but if you have more questions feel free to ask them, because as someone once said:

      There are no foolish questions and no one becomes a fool until they have stopped asking questions.

      Read you soon 🙂

      • Wow thanks for your thorough answer! I’m really interested. I will do some searching on the Internet like you suggest. Thank you!

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