Using a summaries in your foreign language study to increase retention and understanding

By | September 17, 2014

In a previous blog post I discussed how the element of necessity makes the brain more active in the learning process, increasing retention and understanding of foreign language.

One little trick I discovered is that if you are planning on giving a summary to someone about some media you are consuming (article, podcast, movie, etc.) then  suddenly you have some necessity and the above effect kicks in.

For example, if you are listening to a podcast in a foreign language, promise to yourself you’ll give a summary of that podcast to someone in the same foreign language. If nobody is available you can just write a blog entry about it, and even if you don’t publish the entry publicly it will have some effect.

Without some sort of external goal, you mind has less reason to really focus on each and every word, and less motivation to remember specific words later. It’s like having a class where you are assigned reading but there are no tests or quizzes – even if you try to force yourself to concentrate it’s hard.

The effect of making summaries of this is twofold – the heightened focus when you first consume the material, and then the act of actually using (recalling, thinking, and speaking) the words or phrases yourself.

Furthermore there is a feedback effect: If you try this once and have difficulty summarizing the material in any detail, next time you do the exercise you’ll try even harder to listen to, understand, and retain the words you come across.

Try it, I’m sure you find it a great tool to add to your foreign language studies!



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