Thursday, June 26, 2014

Applying language study to the rest of my life

Today’s coffees: Costa Rica and Peru

It feels like a long time since I was actually at Tokumitsu on a Friday morning, but here I am. Tonight I have a viola da gamba lesson for the first time in about 10 months. It’s good to have these things to motivate me. This is good; concert requests for the fall and beyond have been coming in one after another. Now is a great time to prepare. At the same time as my lesson, a few blocks away, Keith will be singing in a concert; I’m going to the concert tomorrow.

Next week we celebrate 3 years in Japan! It would be difficult to describe just how much the experience of learning Japanese and living and working in Japan has changed me, but today I want to share something I learned in language school and have continued to apply to various areas of my life. That would be a study technique called spaced repetition.

This will probably be boring to some of you. Sorry. I thought I had something interesting to write about, but I forgot what it was. I’m sure to remember right after I post this. Anyway…

Spaced repetition means you study a new word, grammar pattern, etc. and then review it the next day, 3 days after that, a week later, 2 weeks later, a month later, and so on. With each review, the time in between doubles. This brings each new concept learned from short term to long term memory.

I first applied this method to kanji (Chinese characters used in Japanese writing)—within about 4 years, I was able to learn all the kanji a Japanese child learns by the time he or she graduates from high school. There are about 2200 characters. Then I added vocabulary and grammar patterns… and then I realized that spaced repetition isn’t just for language study. This applies to music as well, and a huge variety of other subjects. I’m hoping to develop my repertoire of ready-to-play-any-time pieces for cello, viola da gamba, and shamisen, and little by little regain the repertoire I learned in college and grad school that never made it into long term memory. Back when I studied cello with the Suzuki method, I remember reading about Suzuki’s encouragement to his students to review… and I never took it seriously. Now I regret that…

I used to think that review was something that had to be done all the time for every piece of music or every word, but actually that’s not the case. Since the goal is to get the information studied into long term memory, the gaps between reviews progressively widen, increasingly allowing time to review other things and add new vocabulary and new pieces of music. I really wish I had known about this in college.

Keith and I both used the Heisig method for kanji study, along with this website, which allowed for spaced repetition reviews and other study tools. We use Anki software to study vocabulary, and recently I’ve been using Anki to remind me when to review pieces of music as well.

There you have it: a very boring but useful piece of information. I hope it’s helpful. Next I’ll try to get some hiking pictures posted…

1 comment:

Faye said...

That wasn't boring at all, but fascinating. I hope you can apply it to the pieces you play. Please keep us posted on how it goes.
Faye Morris