Why you should use spaced repetition to learn English

As I mentioned in a previous article on the “top 6 tips to mastering English”, one of the best systems for remembering vocabulary is spaced repetition. This doesn’t apply strictly to vocabulary though.

Spaced repetition can be used to memorize a variety of information. We’ll look at using spaced repetition to remember phrases in the English language.

First of all, what is the value of learning phrases as opposed to vocabulary? While learning words is key to understanding written and spoken English, learning phrases will dramatically help you to improve your grammar. In fact, if you have difficulty remembering verb tenses, memorizing phrases will help you to dramatically improve.

What is spaced repetition?

To expand on my previous article, spaced repetition is a method that helps you to move knowledge and information from your short term memory to your long term memory.

When looking at a list of words, it is easy enough to remember it 5 even 10 minutes later, but would you remember it the following day? Week? or month? Likely not.

The key to spaced repetition is in how you review your word or phrase lists.

For reviewing phrases, keep your lists to a maximum of 20 phrases. Take this phrase list and review right now. In 10 minutes review it again, then 30 minutes from now, then 1 hour, 3 hours an 6 hours later. The next day, review the list twice. The following day, review the list once. And, for the following month review your list every few days until you are confident in your recollection of these phrases.

What tools should I use?

There are a number of flashcard like applications that you can find for your computer and mobile devices. These programs are very effective if used regularly.

At the moment, the website I use is Learn With Oliver. There are a few supported languages for those learning English. Though, the best part of the application is that you can choose the frequency of the words in your list based on your comfort.

Using online applications are great for their convenience and accessibility. If you have WiFi, you can review these flashcards any where.

My personal favorite though, is creating my own flashcards using pen and paper or index cards. There seems to be this link between using your hands to improve your memory. This is why I recommend writing them out by hand to help in the memorizing process.

I know of some language learners that carry a notebook with them. They use this notebook to fill in phrases and vocabulary. They carry it everywhere and when they are waiting in traffic, at the doctors office or at work while on their break, they pull out their notebook and review the information that they put in it.

The other option is to record yourself or preferably a native English speaker and listen to the audio while you are on the move. A great tool for recording yourself is Audacity. I use this program to record materials for my students to review. I also know of lots of other teachers that do the same.

ANKI is another great tool that you can use to create or download English flashcards. It’s available to use on Android, iPhone or your Computer. I use this program on occasion.

Another great website to use is LingQ. This site was created by Steve Kaufmann who is renowned in the language learning community as an expert. Steve has learned more than 10 languages in his lifetime. He also shares with people how they can learn languages at any age. You can find him on YouTube or at his Blog. Steve is also great at answering questions that his followers have.


Whatever tools or method you use to master English, remember, it is consistency that is the most important factor.

Never be afraid to ask for help or advice either, especially form those that have learned and mastered English. Everyone who has mastered English has done so because of their own unique approach. Learning what these approaches are can help you to craft your own method of learning English.