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Why and How to Use Review in Language Learning

Let’s discuss something that everyone who learns anything should know about. It is super important and can boost your learning tremendously.

That’s right. I’m talking about REVIEW.

Keep reading to learn more about how to review, how often to review and how to review with the Language TV Club.

woman review language notes on her computer

What does it mean to review?

In this post we’re talking about this definition of review: “view or inspect for a second time or again” (Oxford Languages).

This means that after studying a language a first time, you go back and view this information a second time, or again. Really, there’s no limit to the number of times you can review something. It’s all about “viewing” it again, but the word “viewing” here can actually mean “repeating.” So if you are not a visual learner, don’t fret. You can “view” it again by listening or using the language as well.

Don’t get bogged down by the word “studying” either. If you are interacting with a language by any means (could be speaking, reading, using, watching, etc), you can go back and review that activity again. We’ll give you a few suggestions below, so keep reading to make sure you can implement this super important strategy.

man reviewing sign language in video call

Why is review so important?

I’ve already stated that review is super important, but why? Why do I need to make sure that I’m doing this while learning a new language?

Studies have shown varied rates of forgetting new information based on time intervals, type of material studied and type of learning. But, one thing that studies do agree on is, people do forget.

Have you ever attended a course or class and thought, “Wow I learned so much!” then a week or two later, you can barely recall one thing you learned? I know I have.

If you look back on your classes from high school and college, do you remember everything you learned? Of course not!

So why do we expect to remember everything we learn when studying a new language?

There are many strategies to use while learning to help you retain more, but that is not what we are discussing today. We are talking about a strategy to use after, which is review.

Most studies will agree that review plays a big role in how much new information you retain. By reviewing material, especially if you review at that time just before you’ll forget it, you bring that material back to the forefront of your mind and your brain practices that recall. So next time you need to recall that information, your brain already has the pathway to do it.

woman writing language notes in journal

What is the best way to review?

Review is more effective if it is active. That means it requires your brain to try and recall the information rather than just reading through it. An example of this active recall is with flashcards. You could also have someone quiz you. If you are reviewing a listening exercise, for example, listen to the dialogue to see how much you remember before hearing the meanings of the included vocabulary words, and try to recall what they mean. If you miss them, then you can go back and refresh and be like “OH yeahhhh!” The same approach can work for a reading activity.

If you just learned some new words in a conversation, jot them down right afterwards or repeat them to yourself to keep them fresh. Keep bringing them up so you don't forget them.

Don’t forget to make it meaningful. I, personally, am not a huge fan of flashcards, so what I like to do is find a situation in which I’ll be forced to review the words I’ve learned. For example, if I just did a study session on foods, I’ll try to go to a restaurant with those foods or watch a video about a recipe with those foods.

Maybe you learned some new words through listening to or reading a story. You can review by retelling this story to another person. If you forget words that are important to the story, you can go back and double check them before the retell.

Another suggestion is to review the words in a way that you might need to use them in the future. For example, if you just did a lesson on greetings and introductions, go start a conversation with someone in that language. You’ll not only review those words and phrases, but you’ll make a new friend too!

Your review doesn’t have to be the same activity that you learned the words in, but it should be active, practical and meaningful, to lead toward more long-term retention and more fluent use.

man in glasses and headphones watching language lessons on tablet

How often should I review?

Like the studies about the forgetting intervals, there are some discrepancies in how long between each review. It can be hard to time this out for yourself, so look for spaced repetition tools, such as Clozemaster, and find something that calculates that time for you based on their research.

On the other hand, if you are learning new material every day, it can be hard to track the different learning intervals for each of those study sessions. A good rule of thumb is to review material shortly after learning, again in 24 hours, again in 3-4 days, then again in 1-2 weeks. Double the intervals as you continue.

woman participating in language tv club on laptop

How can I use these strategies with the Language TV Club?

One easy way to review what you learn in the Language TV Club is by just looking over the Episode Guides after the club is over.

What I recommend is a little more specific. Each week during the club, take a few minutes to look over the vocabulary from the previous week and the current week before the discussion. Read the words out loud. That way, you are ready to use those words when they come up in the chat.

After the month is over, review the words again and choose a few to make sentences with. See how many words you remember without looking at the meanings. If it is less than 50%, you may need to review more often.

A couple months later, watch the show again! You’d be surprised by how many more details you pick up in the show when you’re not focusing on understanding new words, so it is not boring watching the same show again. I also recommend watching the episodes twice during the club if you have a lower language level. This is, of course, easier for shorter episodes.

Then six months to a year later, you guessed it, review the words again! Maybe try to describe the episodes to a friend using those words.

After writing this blog, I’m going to start making it easier for TV Club members to review what they learn each month, because let’s face it, remembering to review your vocabulary words is probably not high on your priority list in life. To make it easy to review, we’ll begin posting vocabulary words from the Episode Guides on Instagram and post reminders in our emails and online groups to check those older guides!

It’s time to start taking this information and doing something with it. Go ahead now, review your latest language lesson! Let us know in the comments below your favorite way to review!

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Feb 04, 2023

"For example, if I just did a study session on foods, I’ll try to go to a restaurant with those foods or watch a video about a recipe with those foods." This is a great tip. I also hate flashcards. I need to remember to do this type of reinforcement more. When watching as a lower level practicioner of a language, I really struggle to figure out what words to focus on. Sometimes, the words I need to describe a show aren't even used in the show (because it is in imagery). I've read that verbs are a key place to start. After verbs, assuming you know enough articles and prepositions, then look at nouns. Adjectives seem to come last. What…

Feb 04, 2023
Replying to

Yes, that makes sense. In general, it should be possible to have conversations without adjectives but there will be a short list that get used a lot and will be handy to know.


Jan 07, 2023

Thanks for the great ideas and reminders Lauren

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