Two steps forward ... and one step back

When you're learning a language "two steps forward and one step back" is often the most efficient way to progress. You won't remember everything you see the first time you learn it, and you shouldn't expect to. You'll find you need to go back over the same material again and again, especially if it was something you found difficult when you first met it. But in order to maximise the effectiveness of your learning, you need to do it slightly differently the second time around. Here are some ideas :

  • As soon as you finish doing a grammar or vocabulary activity, translate the sentences it contains into your own language. Then, three days later, translate them back into the foreign language. Check your answers with the original.

  • If you’re reading a magazine or book (includine graded readers) in the foreign language, make a photocopy of a couple of pages which you’ve already read, and use a thick black felt tip pen to blank out every seventh word. To make the exercise easier, you could write a list of the original words at the bottom of the page, but in jumbled order. Three days later, look at the text again and try to put the words back in. Check your answers with the original.

  • Make a copy of any text you’ve worked with before, and blank out all the verbs. Write the infinitives instead. Three days later, try and put the verbs into the correct form. Check your answers with the original.

  • If you've been using a listening text, make a copy of the transcript, and cut it up so that each thing that each person says is on a different piece of paper. Choose a text which is neither too long nor too short - ten to fifteen slips of paper is about right. Jumble the slips of paper and put them in an envelope. Three days later, try and put them back in the correct order. Check your answers with the original.