You’re not learning Na’vi!

The linguistic philosopher Willard Van Orman Quine poses an interesting thought experiment in his book Word and Object: suppose a linguist conducting field research is trying to unlock the secrets of a rare language isolate by spending time--- Continue reading

The Naruto Effect (Why my roommates know about 100 Japanese words without cracking open a textbook)

My roommates have never set foot inside a Japanese classroom, yet they each know about 100 Japanese words and use them productively (if ironically) in English conversation.  The question every language learner should be asking is: How can --- Continue reading

The Problem with Multiple-Choice Self-Tests

Quizzes and study techniques generally come in two forms: production and recognition.  Flashcard engines such as Brainscape lend themselves to the production variety of study, as they require the user to freely recall the target rather tha--- Continue reading
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Working Memory

Have you ever had to remember a phone number long enough to scribble it down?  It probably wasn’t too hard, was it?  The type of memory that we use for those types of tasks is often called working memory.  It is a different beast from --- Continue reading

Leveraging Break Time to Improve Learning

As learners, we often find it difficult to crack open our books and start studying.  It often seems like the highest hurdle, whether due to procrastination or the legitimate demands of other tasks, is to just sit down and begin to study. --- Continue reading

Long-Term Retention

The question of memorization—or, couched in the terms of learning and memory theory, “long-term retention”—is essentially a battle with our tendency to forget.  Not only that, but because memorization is the absence of forgetting, --- Continue reading
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