Maximise your learning

It's a waste of time studying for hours and hours if a week later you don’t remember anything you learnt. Here are some tips to help …

1.Study regularly — don't leave “forgetting time”

If you only study once a week, you have seven days to forget what you learnt before you sit down to study again. When you’re at a fairly advanced level you can maintain your level of the foreign language by reading or studying just once a week, but at a lower levels it's impossible — you need to do something at least every other day, and preferably more often. This doesn’t mean you have to spend hours and hours studying — twenty to thirty minutes three or four times a week is fine if you can't or don't want to do more.

2. Study little and often

The first and last things which you learn in a study session are the things which you remember best. So, if you study for several hours, you'll probably only remember what you did right at the beginning and end of the session, and forget the rest. Instead of doing all your studying at the same time, split it into half hour sessions, preferably on different days. And if you can’t, then take regular breaks while you study. Stop and do the washing up, or take the dog for a walk. Then come back with a fresh mind.

3. Review what you’ve learnt

Review of your past learning is essential. If you don't go over it again, as much as 70% of what you study one day will be forgotten by the next. So each day, start your study session with a review of what you did in the previous session - and at the end of the week, go over everything you’ve studied that week again. You’ll be surprised what a difference it makes to the amount youremember!

4. Sleep on it!

While nobody is completely certain how memory works, it seems fairly sure that sleep has an important part to play. As we sleep, the mind “files away” all the new information we received that day, reinforcing the neuron paths that make up memory. So why not try doing your review study immediately before you go to bed—who knows, you may even find you’re dreaming in the language you're studying!