Mandarin Chinese is a complex language to master, even for native speakers. However, by choosing the right learning method and committing to daily practice, you can do it.
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Learning a new language always takes time. Worse yet, in the modern world, it’s challenging to find time to study. Schools, jobs, family, or even social media keep you occupied all day. That’s why it’s vital to find the most effective learning technique that helps you get results quickly. A method that enables you to absorb knowledge more easily and faster.
The Spaced Repetition Learning System can do that. It can also improve your memory & recall and increase your levels of concentration.
Read on to find out what spaced repetition is and how it can help you learn Chinese characters (Hanzi) more efficiently and give you the results you want in your Chinese language study.
What is the Spaced Repetition?
Spaced repetition is a learning technique where you review materials at increasing time intervals to improve long-term memory. This evidence-based technique allows you time to form connections between the ideas and concepts so knowledge can be quickly built upon and recalled.
In other words, this system is the opposite of cramming. Instead of studying intensively for a long time, you should spread the study time across an extended period. That means five hours spaced out over two weeks is better than the same five-hour marathon cramming session just before the big exam. Learning this way, you gain more benefits with long-lasting results.
Spacing your learning doesn’t mean you will be gaining less knowledge. You will have a stronger, deeper knowledge with the ability to recall more quickly.
How does the Spaced Repetition System (SRS) work?
The system may sound unfamiliar, but it’s not a new concept. Over 130 years ago, a memory phenomenon called the spacing effect was discovered, showing that our brain works better to memorize things when we spread out the information. It was based on the forgetting curve – an idea that we gradually forget learned information over time. However, if we break down information into smaller chunks and review them at spaced intervals, we can remember them much easier.
The Spaced Repetition System leverages this effect to improve our brains’ performance in learning.
You can think of learning as building a brick wall. Imagine if you stack the bricks up too quickly without letting the mortar between each layer harden, you won’t have a solid, well-built wall. Spacing out your learning is the same. The technique allows that “mental mortar” time to dry.
This technique helps your brain remember more information as it freshens up information in your mind and forces you to use active recall.
How to apply SRS to learn Chinese characters effectively?
You can use this scientifically proven method to learn many things, including languages. Here are some ways to help you no longer feel intimidated, and retain more knowledge when learning Chinese characters:
Plan short and frequent study sessions
Short and frequent study sessions are better than long, infrequent ones. Studying too many characters too quickly can be counterproductive. Spacing your study sessions makes your brain systematically memorize the Chinese characters you have learned, rather than trying to remember everything at once.
Make these Chinese study sessions ongoing throughout the year, not just something that only happens when you have time.
Review older Chinese characters (Hanzi)
As you study more Chinese characters from the most recent class, make sure to go back and review important previously learned Chinese characters to keep them fresh. With spaced practice, it’s good to forget a little. To make studying effective, you need to review, almost forget, and then restudy. The point is to make the brain work to remember what was learned in the last session. You will be better at recognizing the characters in the future if you challenge yourself to recall more complex Chinese characters.
Link old Chinese characters to new ones
As you revisit previous Chinese characters, you will also be learning new material. Reviewing the past knowledge provides a chance to understand how old and new topics fit together. While revising and reviewing past material, you should create a connection between new characters and the old ones. That way helps you subconsciously repeat the learned knowledge even when you’re studying new materials.
Use Pandanese SRS flashcards
Flashcards have always been a great tool to learn vocabulary or Chinese characters in this case. That said, Pandanese SRS flashcards are the smarter and more advanced version of standard flashcards. Not only are they digital, but they also utilize the Spaced Repetition System.
What are Pandanese SRS flashcards exactly?
Pandanese is a website specially designed for Chinese language learners. Its software applies SRS to help you learn & review radicals, characters, and vocabulary at specific times to maximize retention through flashcards.
For starters, you’ll learn a certain amount of vocabulary/radicals/characters at different levels.
A learning card will have a descriptive explanation and a story in the mnemonic method to help you remember more quickly.
Once you memorize all characters, the website will immediately give you a quiz to determine which ones you remember and which ones you need more practice with.
Using SRS, after you finish the quiz, you’d wait 4 hours for the next revision and 8 hours after your first correct review. On the whole, it takes nine reviews (SRS levels) to memorize the item.
Research has shown this to be the ideal spacing for beginning the transition from first exposure to short-term memory. Part of the “magic” of this process is that you want to review just before you forget an item. Checking more often does not significantly impact your learning. That’s why accelerating this process is not recommended.
Learning Chinese is famously difficult. However, if you can apply the Spaced Repetition System to your study, it will undoubtedly help your brain learn Chinese characters more effectively, decrease the time spent on study sessions, and improve test results drastically. Yet, manually planning these study techniques can be overwhelming and complicated.
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