Monday, 3 May 2010

Vocabulary learning tips

I managed a whole week without connecting to the internet once but I did still use a computer to help with vocabulary revision. I use Teachmaster which is a free download from (See also the earlier entry in this blog). I had copied my installation of Teachmaster onto a memory stick along with some vocabulary files so I was able to run the program straight from the stick without loading it onto the borrowed laptop that I had with me while I was away from home and office.

The vocabulary exercises I use are home made with words or phrases in English used to prompt for the German equivalent. Teachmaster uses a series of virtual card boxes (Karteikasten). Everything starts off in box 3. If your response is correct it is promoted to box 1 the first time and everytime your response is incorrect the word or phrase drops to box 5. You can choose then to work with just the vocabulary that's in the lower boxes, the aim being to promote the vocabulary one box at a time by getting it right.

What I did last week with anything that landed in box 5 was repeatedly work with it to promote it up to box 1. I realise now that this might not be the best way to learn because I was promoting the vocabulary through the boxes using short term memory. A longer interval might have been a better way of handling 'doubtful' vocabulary. Fortunately, I tested myself with the same material again the next day.

There are several methods for using the learning program and I've rather ignored some of them recently. What I probably should be doing to learn new vocabulary is use the Patience method which also gets a mention in Sebastian Leitner's Buch So lernt man lernen.

I've found it difficult to access the manual on the Teachmaster site. The English version is still "under construction" and the German pages will not load for me but I did find I had a hard copy from a previous version of the program so I'll quote an extract here.

Der Clou [die Patience-Lernmethode] besteht darin, dass die Vokabeln in einer ausgeklügelten Reihenfolge relativ häufig wiederholt werden. Ein Lerndurchgang is beendet, wenn alle Vokabeln einer Lektion alle vier Ebener durchlaufen haben.

I have used Teachmaster for many years and the one improvement I would like to see is an ability to include pictures so it could also be used to create electronic flashcards.

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