Capacity Limits? Learned Large Number of Words Accurately for Months

(Robert Davies18) #1

I started using Memrise, for languages, enjoying the native clips and listening tests, which made learning vocabulary much more entertaining; the official language courses have quality feel.

All was going great, Memrise pushed me to feats of learning I would never have believed possible. Much of the vocabulary was not totally new, but that which was was sticking. I was very pleasantly surprised how well I could re-access the words/phrases, also I tried to use the phrases when I had opportunity.

Then about 1/2 way through course 6, suddenly I began to struggle more (after around 2,500 cards). Things in previous courses when up for review were not always known, I had to use the hint button far more often, to jog my memory. Now I slowed down learning new words, have given myself a consolidation period, though I have now begun with the set 7, which may be the last.

So I’ve taken pressure off and review, but for some reason, I may be needing additional review, rather than rely on Memrise reminders, perhaps I should mark as difficult unsticky words/phrases?
I’ve been able to learn many new verb conjugations and so on, during this same period carrying on as normal, so there’s nothing wrong with my memory, it’s just the Memrise vocabulary learning which has a hiccough.

Anyone else gone through a similar patch? How did you resolve it?

(Richardmtl) #2

At least for me, my own tactic is: don’t worry about making mistake. If I have to relearn the same word 20 times, so be it! Also, I use Duolingo at the same time, and each system kind of ends up reinforcing the other. Lastly, nor after nearly 6 months of doing both daily, I have joined a local group for people in my city who speak Dutch (the language I’m learning). That’s a whole other step to take, and is hard, but will give you an opportunity to hear the vocabulary you’ve learned in natural conversation.

(Amanda Norrsken) #3

What else do you do besides memrising to help the new vocabulary stick?

From my personal experience, I cannot emphasise enough how immensely helpful it is to read extensively from an early a stage as possible. Basically from the get-go, if the language is not too different from ones you know already (which was the case with me, but I don’t know what languages you are learning).

My language journey with memrise has been part of an experiment to learn languages in a less “schooly” way: no textbooks, no grammar books, no language-learning courses of any kind, using materials I enjoy, oh, and the minimum of cash spent :slight_smile:

So I got hold of crime fiction in my target languages (first Swedish, now Dutch added in the mix) because I enjoy reading crime fiction (obviously, each individual has to find something that they personally enjoy and find stimulating and interesting). Initially, I also purchased - second-hand - translation(s) of the books I was reading and read them alongside one another.

Seeing the words in context, realising that they also had different translations than the ones I was familiar with, writing them down on paper or in digital form (having a new mobile phone with google docs was a godsend) and later adding the new phrases as mems to my courses, all of this helped the words to really stick in my head.

For some reason (and it may make me a good language learner, apparently, from what I have read about the subject), I seem to learn words better if I can embed them in phrases and then learn the phrase (fixed expression, lexical chunk, call it what you will) with the new word inside it, so to speak.

And the only way to expose yourself to a large number of phrases in a way that really sticks in your mind is to read. Steve Kauffmann, a Canadian who set up the company “LinQ”, is a firm believer in the power of reading, and I can only confirm what he says. He seems to believe that the act of reading taxes the brain to a greater degree than, say, watching a film. Watching a film or a video clip is what we do to reward ourselves for our hard work reading, he says, but it is not the best way to actively learn new vocabulary and phrases.

It makes the reading that much more enjoyable when you see a word you have just learnt in context and you find yourself going (or at least, I do!), “Oh, I know that word, that means “X”!”. It makes the whole process of learning the vocabulary in the first place more rewarding when you realise you are learning words that are actually used :slight_smile:

Oh, and picking up everyday phrases is easier when you read a book with a lot of dialogue in it. I have just learnt, for example (@richardmtl) that Dutch people say, “With John Smith” (in Dutch, natch) meaning, “John Smith speaking” or “John Smith here” when they initiate a telephone call. I was so surprised to read that, but now I know why there seems to be so many words for “with” in Dutch: one of them at least has this special usage. This is the kind of thing that you don’t generally learn on memrise courses, which is why reading complements vocabulary learning so well.

(Amanda Norrsken) #4


How long have you been doing this? Have you met native speakers of Dutch?

I happened to find a Swedish evening class about a year after I had started learning Swedish by myself and it was quite a sobering experience initially, to be honest, stumbling and hesitating, having difficulties saying the easiest things. And, then I persevered, carried on with my memrising and my reading, joined Facebook groups for people learning Swedish etc., and later realised that my Swedish teacher (a German who lived in Sweden for fifteen years) was actually using certain words wrongly and telling us rubbish from time to time :slight_smile:

Last year, though, I met up with an actual real Swedish person that I had met via Facebook (a lady about my own age) in Amsterdam and spoke Swedish with her most of the time. I could understand nearly everything she said and she seemed to understand me! But I am glad I waited about three years before I tried to speak Swedish with a native!

Good luck with your Dutch group! I would be curious to hear about your experiences!

(Robert Davies18) #5

With German I was fortunate that I had a great start with a private teacher at home, before I was committed to the job. Then a good language school paid by the firm, where you learnt German in German with personal dictionary lookup almost the only L1 usage. That meant, description, examples and explanation of new words, reinforced the known vocab. Then also I could practise to some extent at work, after all, it was a task they had given me, to attend the lessons. Speaking was not an issue as I had from the beginning, despite knowing few words, lessons tended to have phrases which could be modified by even a restricted simple vocabulary.

With Spanish, I used Babbel to reinforce class work, the early months, I was more getting my mind back into a learning mode; the fact is speaking is the last thing to develop. Class lessons had words translated, students were demanding English translation of questions. Learning to understand what was said and to speak, became difficult. I came to the conclusion no-one could succeed like that and began to use DuoLingo and look around at other phone apps and tools to support learning.

After 3 months, I began Language Exchange, meeting someone who needed to practice English, which I have found very rewarding and great fun. I took remote private lessons in italki, despite living in Spain, it is easier said than done to get real practice until you reach a certain proficiency. Even my Spanish teacher complained that on holiday near where I live she had staff talking to her in German the whole time, a language she never studied!

Thanks for mentioning about, I’ve discovered a group I could go to tomorrow.

(Robert Davies18) #6

Recently I have started a graded reading site, as part of no longer being a beginner. I’d love to link to and recommend but don’t want to look like a Spammer. I have looked into using LinkQ too but found Bliubliu easy to get started with and I’ve got a lot of study time credit, by contributing native audio reading to one of the ebooks in English and many of the jokes etc.

For me as I am TOO visual, if I have subtitles for instance, I tune out of the audio track, I really need to hear the language, without seeing the words first and have repetitions of the sounds. After all children learn to understand speech and talk, learning to read comes later.

I’ve used Busuu and HelloTalk which lets one interact with native speakers who are learning one’s own language. This may work better for some languages than others which are not popular with students. I also use Clozemaster for exposure to up to 180,000 sentences, which I can also listen to for listening practice.

(Alter8) #7

If you find yourself getting stuck on the same words over and over so that you have to relearn them 20 times than those are Leech Words. They leech your time, energy and enthusiasm.

As far as I can see Memrise’ algorithm does not deal with such word, so I just “ignore” them and make a note to review them. For these words, I dedicate specific time and method, trying to build emotional context, mnemonics etc. To really understand their meaning, how they are built etc.

As a side note, I also set retention rate at 90% for my own local app, as memrise does not have this option it’s better not to push too fast with new words if you see review words accumulating. Better to slow down, go over those leech words, use other methods such as reading, youtube, let it all sink in, and then continue.

I would also suggest using that script that makes you type in the answer in the target language. Also, strictly avoid Speed review. It gives you the illusion you know the words but in fact they disrupt the whole Spaced Repetition idea. To learn words you need to recall them and if you see them you obviously did not use effort to recall. It is counterproductive.

This works for me, hope it helps a bit.

(Robert Davies18) #8

Yes, I noticed that when I began Memrise at first, it was pushing me to do Speed Review.
At the beginning, I could get through 100 words with usually 1 mistake or timeout, sometimes none.

Then with practice on Speed Review I was making 2 or 3 mistakes and getting worse due to being over-stressed and it training bad habits. There simply was not enough time to read the question properly or answers properly, much qualification in parentheses and with Memrises love of similarity of answer options in the deck I used, it was far too little time on many tricky cards.

What I’d really like is a “slow review” option, probably I can do that easier on the website (nope I have to go level by level rather than looks at a complete list and I cannot mark words as tricky there), or if not, simply go back over the emails and then track down and mark as difficult the cards that have become non-sticking. Mainly Classic review works well enough, though on phone app, I’m not getting an overview of the word list and I got through review on the troublesome stuff, but I know I haven’t got more than 1/4 in the tricky words section.

Fired off a “Speed Review Considered Harmful” feedback, which appears to be totally ignored, I have only used it since, if I have a lot of cards to review and don’t mind if time pressure causes a few mistakes.

(Casper Duo) #9

There is no capacity limit. You can learn unlimited, hundreds, of words per day months on end and retain more than 90% accuracy with multiple choice questions. The only limit is time.

Steve Kaufmann looks at movies only as “rewards” since he is looking for an efficient use of his time, and movies don’t constitute a dense uninterrupted flow of speech, and he is right about that. That being said, stuff like vlogs would be great and a very efficient use of time. The flow is much faster than reading would ever be, you can hear the pronunciation, get visual ques, and listen and read at the same time (it is the same as reading if you have subtitles JUST MORE). Not to mention, that media can be regarded as a natural graded content since vocab needed for that is around 7,000 while vocab for reading literature can span from 9,000 for an easy book and 12,000 to 15,000 for a more richer book.
I find media to be a great transition medium to gradually go from there to bilingual books with audio.
Initial exposure to a lot of audio would also greatly allow you to visualize in your mind the correct pronunciation of the words you read, so it is just a much logical step to start with and transition from.

Starting with novels is not a great idea in my opinion as that is a very tall order, but once you’re advance enough that would be the only way to go, as exposure to such vocab through media would be extremely limited and hence much much more slower to make any additional progress.

Example of dense vlog type content:

(Robert Davies18) #10

It’s not multiple choice where the issue is exposed, it’s the type it out questions.
IMO multiple choice, listening or video clip questions actually reinforce the word, though sometimes on listening I’d like to see the original text on correct answers not the English with a literal translation, to reinforce knowing how to write it.

The fact is I saw “poor form”, decided I probably needed to consolidate rather than push on. I never experienced similar before, but I never learnt vocab as fast, nor as frequent effective testing. When I last seriously learned a language, few people had the Internet, mobile phones were the size of bricks … 20 words a week was a more typical learning pace, than 100 words a day or more in bursts.

(Casper Duo) #11

The solution is very simple then. Eliminate typing all together (you can do it with scripts).

My conclusion was the exact opposite.
Rather than halt progress I went all in and eliminated the delaying factor allthogether.
Relying in the the knowledge that my recall might lack but I get as compensation good recognition and fast progress, which allows me to propel forward to the watching media stage that much more sooner, to reinforce and give additional context to what I have already learned.
The sooner you can reach that stage and watch media comfortably and unassisted the sooner you’ll have a strong core in the language so you can be sure your efforts would have not had been in vain, even if you took someday a long break from it all.
Watching media is just easy, and you can do it always, people are used to it (watching the daily news for example), so keeping it fresh and in your mind would be a walk in the park.

That mindset had allowed me to dabble in at least 10 languages and still make a relatively fast progress in at least 6 of them.
It is also much more satisfying and thus more easier to maintain and encourages you to do longer stretches of study when you have the time. It feels a lot less like a chore since the speed and ease of use is great.
It is also very comforting to know that you can review 10,000 words in just 10 days with no more than an hour a day.
Such repetitions of vast amounts of vocab are only possible with the ability to do it quickly. You will feel a lot better about a single word when you’ve seen it for the 100th time along with its friends that you studied long ago.

Don’t make it harder make it simpler. KISS principle.

Taking shortcuts and not worrying about being perfect is a good mindset to have with language learning.

(Casper Duo) #12

Professor Alexander Arguelles about reading (recommended watch):

From his website:

Memrise PoC: Anki vs Memrise: In which platform can I learn words the fastest?

Steve kaufmann also said not once that you should speed through a language.
I have been a long time viewer of him.
Going endlessly around the same basics is not that great approach.
You should just accept a degree of… un-sureness, that will follow you for a long time.

(Casper Duo) #13

Finally we asked Robert for a few tips and tricks for others hoping to conquer the Overlord rank. He said the fastest way to make points is to learn “no typing” courses and be passionate about the topics you learn. The key is to find quality courses and simply learn a lot in order to advance!

Interview with an overloard:

It is plain to see that he basically just did no typing most of the time if not always.
If it wasn’t an effective strategy for him I’m sure he would have stopped long ago.
For typing you should use Duolingo not Memrise.
In Duolingo the answer doesn’t have to be perfect.

(Casper Duo) #14

One last thing.

If you don’t want to let go of typing completely, what you could still do is to start with no typing and then introduce it back again once you’ve already acquired a couple of thousand words, and then halt any progress forward and just do typing reviews for a while.
It is VERY HARD to progress forward with typing if you’ve an enormous amount of reviews backlog (you can also be sure that it will just get worse), hence that advice.

Review session PoC (not an optimal pace): What is the highest number of points you have gotten whilst reviewing?

Since I am a strong believer of watching media, as I already said before, I have also created a Discord server that populates itself daily with new content from 400+ youtube channels in 50+ languages.
The content is also graded by level according to the European framework of reference, and it tries to be selective (content with transcript/subtitles avilable for example).
Some languages have better content than others. It is a work in progress…

Sorry for the self publication.
I don’t enjoy doing that but I don’t know of any other way to make people aware of it.
Anyway, I hope you would find it helpful.

Youtube is truly the greatest language resource of them all.

(Robert Davies18) #15

Caspar I’m using Memrise to make sure I know the gender of nouns, how to accent and write correctly. I have despite only having completed A2 level lessons online & DuoLingo managed in Multiplechoice to be assessed as C1 class … ridiculous as I’m great at multiple choice.

Memrise to me is a tool for accurate learning and have 99.9% confidence in that core vocab, as well as listening & pronunciation practice (don’t like the recent change to tool but nevermind).

Your purpose is very different, I really don’t like watching language videos, prefer reading as it’s much faster paced and easier to look up words if needed. I do however watch shows in German like Extras (too easy) and German films like Der Untergang without subtitles.
In Spanish, I enjoy the easier stuff at the moment, need more listening practice before I could follow films without subtitles, in which case I might as well read a book with optional audio. And do targetted listening practice at an appropriate level (Memrise, Clozemaster, Bliubliu, HelloTalk & italki lessons)

Finally let’s read a little bit more from the article rather than just “no typing” … Memrise points are NOT my GOAL, I don’t give a monkeys about them, levels or any of the other Gamey stuff

He mainly chooses “no typing” courses to be able to learn faster. Nevertheless Robert now has about 1000 items to review daily, so he has stopped joining new courses to be able to concentrate and not forget previously learnt vocabulary.

When asked who motivates him to learn so much, he smiled and with no doubt said it’s his wife.

Robert finds mems useful when he comes across words that are hard to remember. He creates mems by taking photos of the words’ definitions, which has proved to be helpful. We asked him about his popularity on Memrise, he told us that in the beginning he hardly had any mempals, but as he started earning more and more points, more and more users started following him. He also talks proudly of the moment he became an overlord, he remembers it very well. It was a year ago at the end of December.

Having said that, Robert has now slowed down, he does not have the time to keep up with his mempals on Memrise.

(Robert Davies18) #16

I’ve finished the trees in DuoLingo, with a high fluency rating, but they’ve changed it very much for the worse, it is no longer time efficient tool for doing exercises. Furthermore that app trains you to to hit continue button twice, so I never see it’s corrections. It should auto-continue on correct like Memrise & Mondly, but show mistakes.

Memrise does not require perfect typing, it lets you correct things and work it out; that’s ideal from efficiency point of view as you reinforce memories in process of becoming inaccessible.

My goal is correctness, I’ve often managed 100% in 40 question school tests and am averaging over 95%.

Speaking is different, there I aim for fluency first, precision second; you often notice mistakes just after you make them so it’s a case of working on such a little later.

(Overlord Hydroptère) #17

that is basically non-sense, recognition takes much more time to learn a language than recall… it is easier, that’s all. And Robert learns only on, two languages. He had the same words in 300 different courses… easy peasy

(Overlord Hydroptère) #18

I think you have no real problems, in fact. You reached a so called “plateau”, your brain is trying to re-arrange the information as to save it in the true long term memory, and re-arrangements in your neural net make you feel like not progressing or even losing what you thought you knew…

… it seems youre learning Indo-European languages? the only help would be watching films in your target language and start reading texts that are above your current level.

This phase will go away in a “positive” manner, if you do not give up, as simple as that - use memrise (start taking more advanced level courses made by users, the “official” courses don’t take one too far above A2 in fact…), but in conjuction with other methods as well. That would mean you have to start reading, watching and listening outside memrise as well. If the info you took until now with memrise is not connected with other information (neural clustering), you will simply lose indeed what you learnt.

(Casper Duo) #19

Your purpose is very different, I really don’t like watching language videos, prefer reading as it’s much faster paced and easier to look up words if needed. I do however watch shows in German like Extras (too easy) and German films like Der Untergang without subtitles.

By “language videos” you mean teaching materials or videos in general? Because most of the content is general. You can pretty much watch whatever you like on any subject, and it doesn’t exclude reading either. The same goal can be reached either way. Just with reading you’ll have to use graded content in my opinion. Everything I said still applies. Either way I would still do it the same way.

My goal is correctness,

As i already said, there is nothing to prevent you from coming back and ironing those issues out later, in due time, if you still felt the need by then.

I prefer reading as it’s much faster paced and easier to look up words if needed.

It isn’t a faster pace. And searching words can be made a lot easier.
How exactly opening a dictionary is faster for you? Are you referring to digital text or paper?

Here is an example I made in the discord server to demonstrate one way of doing it more quickly using PotPlayer:

Not to mention that there are sites like FulentU and Yabla if you can afford to spend a little penny.
But even though that would have been nice to have, that really isn’t necessary.

Finally let’s read a little bit more from the article rather than just “no typing” … Memrise points are NOT my GOAL, I don’t give a monkeys about them, levels or any of the other Gamey stuff

It is not about the points, it is about what you can learn from them.
You can deduce his learning method from that without him explicitly saying it and going into details since he wouldn’t have been able to come even close to an overlord position without it.
And the overloard rank isn’t coming here to signify a status position, but rather the massive amounts of work he was able to put in (probably 100,000+ words). You should open a calculator to let that sink in better.

(Casper Duo) #20

^^ had to do some edits so read again.

This sentence doesn’t make sense to me.

And Robert learns only on, two languages. He had the same words in 300 different courses… easy peasy

Why would he ever do that? And from where that insider intel?