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The Flashcards are dead! Long live the Flashcards! How to learn new words faster using pre-existing neural connections

Flashcards

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The dream of every teacher and educator is to make learning fun! To create engaging and effective home assignments, effective and original learning plans that work. To create a vibrant learning atmosphere and immerse students in the process.

The dream of every student of English as a Second Language, is to decrease the time spent learning new English words and increase the amount of words they can learn in any given time.

This can now be done applying the same approach that native speakers use – by learning new words on top of pre-existing neural connections. This article covers the key problems with existing methods and suggests strategies for using recent scientific discoveries and AI to massively improve language learning.

FLASHCARDS

If you are reading this blogpost, then just like millions of other language teachers, tutors and educators around the world, you must have discovered the power of flashcards.

If you are already using flashcards to help your students memorise new words faster, or planning to use them for yourself, then like most educators you must be following a well-trodden path and creating flashcards that display two pieces of information:

– An English word (or any other target language word);

– The translation of that word into a student’s native language.

Once that is done, students are asked to look at the information on one side, and use what they see there to help them recall the information on the other.

However, these traditional vocabulary flashcards have four main shortcomings:

  • They lack context – traditional flashcards focus only on the connection between the written word and its translation, but they ignore other key elements of language, such as pronunciation and context.
  • They mostly consist of a single word – most flashcards focus only on single words, however, native speakers always learn words in a larger context of full sentences and phrases.
  • They are clunky – flashcards take up space. If you’re using physical cards, you not only have to make those flashcards, but you need to store them, organise them and then somehow find the will to use them in your everyday life.
  • They are academic – unfortunately, flashcards are very academic. No native speaker has ever learned their language by using flashcards.  

Luckily, with the recent advances in technology and AI – there is now a better way!

BUILDING BETTER FLASHCARDS WITH SCIENCE & AI 

Before we jump into the nitty-gritty of this new revolutionary method of learning words faster, it’s important to revisit three major concepts in memory formation and language learning.

1) Neurons That Fire Together Wire Together

There’s an old saying in neuroscience: “neurons that fire together wire together.”

This means the more you run a neural-circuit in your brain, the stronger that circuit becomes. This is why, to quote another old saying, “practice makes perfect”. The more you practice playing the piano, or speaking a language, or juggling, the stronger those circuits get.

The same applies to languages and new words. When you learn new words in isolation (say a flashcard with a drawing of a cat) – you have to form new neural connections and then constantly reinforce those connections to make sure you don’t lose them. However, a native speaker would see an actual cat, then add a correct pronunciation of a word cat on top of the already existing neural connection and thus learn this word faster.

2) How Memories Are Made

Memory Formation: experiencing a memorable moment stays in the memory because a unique pattern of neural activity is created and reinforced. For instance, if you visit another country – the way your body feels, the people around you, the weather on the day – combines to create a unique pattern of neural activity in the brain.

Memory Consolidation: afterwards, when you talk about your trip with a friend, you revisit the experience and add emotions, which makes the memory even stronger.

Revisiting: you replay the memory by looking at photos from the trip. The more often you revisit this memory, the stronger the neural connections become, ensuring you don’t forget it.

3) Spaced Repetition 

Spaced repetition is a simple, but highly effective vocabulary learning technique that deliberately hacks the way our brains work. It forces learning to be effortful, and like muscles, the brain responds to that stimulus by strengthening the connections between nerve cells.

An easy way to do spaced repetition is to use flashcards organised into a box. You set up a schedule for when you will revise the cards in each of the sections in your box. If you answer a card correctly, you put it into a section that you will revisit less frequently in the future, whereas if you get the answer wrong, you move the card into a section scheduled for more frequent visits.

Now let’s put all this together and make learning new words fun and effortless again, just like it was when you were a kid!

1) Upload your personal photos to Splento.

2) Tell us what level you are (beginner, intermediate, advanced).

3) Tell us what accent or dialect you would like to learn the words in (American, Queen’s English, Scottish, Standard English).

4) Our AI will recognise what is in your photos and automatically annotate each one with words appropriate for your level in the accent you would like to learn those words.

5) You can then “filter” words by swiping left or right to choose the words you want to keep and remember (spaced repetition).

That’s it. By using your pre-existing neural networks (your personal photos from events that happened in your life), new words will be memorised many times faster and will stay in your memory for much longer.

If you are interested in this new app that we are launching later this year, please visit our page: https://www.splento.com/learn-english-10x-faster and register your interest to be the first one to get exclusive access!

P.S. How else will our app help students learn faster? 

We Help You Review Often

When learning new vocabulary, yesterday’s vocabulary is more important than today’s. Your aim should be to transfer the short-term knowledge of new vocabulary into your long-term memory. Review is essential – in the first few days or weeks after learning new vocabulary, our app helps you recycle those words and you’ll entrench them in your memory. Our app is organised in a way that reviews and applies learned vocabulary in later lessons.

We Help You Focus on Phrases

We encourage language learning in lexical chunks, rather than on a word-by-word basis. A good portion of daily communication of native speakers involves predictable common phrases: “turn left,” “just a minute,” “nice to meet you.” When studying a new language, it’s important to memorise these phrases so you’ll have a ready arsenal of dialogue, without the stress of having to build your sentences from scratch.

We Help You Read More

Reading helps you revisit learned vocabulary, and see those words in new sentences and contexts. One excellent source of foreign language exposure is through advertisements or menus, which tend to use short, colloquial text. Because we know your level of vocabulary, we know what additional material to add to your photostream to boost your learning.

We Help You Avoid Opposites

It might seem logical to study opposites together: hot/cold, expensive/cheap, but actually it isn’t. A learning hiccup called ‘cross association’ can occur, when you learn two words so closely together you end up mixing them up. Instead, we let you study the more common word first (eg: deep) and, once it’s retained, learn its opposite (shallow).

Work smart, not hard

The way we think about health has been revolutionised by the growing evidence of how the body works. Yet the way most of us learn a second language remains the same as it has for centuries. And for some strange reason, it is still very different from how natives learn it.

Splento’s new app is just one of the ways we can become better and more efficient learners, allowing us to learn more in less time.