Spaced repetition game in language exchange

One of the best devices for memorizing vocabulary is spaced repetition. Programs and Apps like Memrise are based on that and do a good job if you are the silent individual learning type.

I prefer to emulate the way we learned our native tongue while learning new languages, which means having lots of conversations and endless listening. If we are learning our first language we can’t take recourse to any other language – we can’t ‘cheat’ with a translation. If we want to communicate at all about some new exciting thing we need to remember the term. And we will ask adults for that term until we memorize it.

In other words: young children use the process of spaced repetition! If you introduce a new word in a sentence and repeat it after say 2 minutes, then 10 minutes, than 30 minutes (these numbers are personal and depend on many factors such as age, health, time of the day, distractions) it works wonders. In my experience, I effortlessly memorize new words this way. Beyond the context of a single conversation, it is also very important to repeat the words after a few days or weeks to really make them ‘stick’.

So here’s the idea: Why not ‘gamify’ language exchange by asking your language partner to introduce new vocabulary using spaced repetition. This has the added benefit that it will be easier to pick a subject to talk about. Your language partner should try to repeat it at the right moment, when it is about to fade away from your short-term memory. The players should try to ‘catch each other off guard’ by using the new word at the right moment. If you want to add a competitive element, you could do the following, for example: The player who can introduce the most words and use them throughout the conversation according to the spaced repetition schedule, gains a point when the other player fails to memorize the word.

During the first round, both players answer in their mother tongue, introducing the new vocabulary using spaced repetition. After half an hour you switch languages and now try to remember and use the new words in the language you are studying. During this round, the knowledige should ‘sink in’. If you are playing the competitive game, you use this round to prove how many words you have actually picked up – and if you have won.

I will suggest playing this game with my actual language partner for Korean-English or Korean-German and will write about how it went in due time.


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