There’s been a couple of times recently where I’ve eased back on the learning for a few days while work or family took over. Both times I’ve come back and have felt like things which were hard had become a little easier. For example, the daily speaking practice for Course 2, or reading the Welsh subtitles on Pobol y Cwm, or (even!) talking to people.
Has anyone else found the same? Any idea why it happens? I’m wondering if it’s worth capitalising on this effect and trying some sort of interval training - four days on, three days off, or two weeks on, three days off…
Or perhaps I’m just fooling myself, and the sheer pleasure of picking up the Welsh again is just buoying me up when I get back to it.
Steve, what you don’t say is whether you still did any thinking in welsh. (or am i odd).
When i go away hiking i take no learning material with me, yet i find my mind keeps wanting to ask me how could you say this or that in welsh, so there have certainly been times that i felt such breaks may well be positive.
As it happens, Steve, there’s been at least one decent piece of research which implied the possibility that people who take time off after a burst of learning start to process the language in ways that are neurologically speaking more similar to first language speakers.
My only concern would be if the time you spent learning decreased dramatically - I think an interval training approach could potentially work excellently if you did two days on and then a week off, but if you aimed at doing 3 or 4 sessions on each of those two days…
Would be very interested to hear how you feel about anything you try out like this…
Hi Steve, interesting post. I’ve regularly had to take breaks from daily learning of up to a week at a time due to health probs (once even a whole fortnight off), and have never found that it’s been harder when I’ve picked it up again or started where I left off. I don’t feel the breaks have really slowed me down much (if at all) and now I’m wondering if I would have made just the same amount of progress if I had indeed managed to do some work with a lesson each day. I had assumed that something must have been going on subconsciously with what I’d already learned, but it’s probably more like neurologically - like Aran says. Maybe a break gives a learner’s brain a better chance to process the stuff you’ve just learned.
Interval training sounds interesting - I can imagine people combining it with a 5:2 diet but tbh I don’t think I could make myself take breaks unless forced to because I’d miss my lessons - I’m always itching to get back to them!. My focus is on enjoying the process rather than becoming fluent in the quickest time, but it’s good to think that forced breaks from lessons might not be harming my learning.
I should say that even when I’ve been too poorly to apply myself with a lesson, I’ve still watched Pobol Y Cwm and said the odd sentence to myself to keep my hand in, so it’s rarely been a complete break from Welshiness.
Having rest days has always helped me in all sorts of things including learning Welsh, rowing (rhwyfo not dadlau), holding my breath, drumming, press ups, etc. I think it’s really important to the improvement of any skill. And we all know of the benefits of a cheat day during a diet, I’m currently having a cheat decade.
I’m convinced breaks are beneficial. Think of the times you get stuck on,say, a crossword:, you throw it aside:come back to it later and just fill it in! Your brain somehow keeps working even if ‘you’ are not. Bertrand Russell, great mathematician, when flummoxed, used to jot the problem down on a piece of paper, which he left by his bedside. More often than not, he said, the way through came easily the next morning.
A break for a few days is very beneficial - as long as you don’t have to speak another language during that break. I had to interpret in German, and got horribly muddled between the two languages! (Strangely enough the German word for mixing-up languages is 'Kauderwelsch!)
Nefyd Morris Pughe
This is an interesting summary of some of the issues around memory and learning: Learning By Spaced Repetition
It suggests in one of the graphs some possible intervals for spaced repetition to optimise long term retention, and mentions the value of active recall, quoting Francis Bacon
I’ve not come across anything specific for language learning, other than the graduated interval recall proposed by Pimsleur in his book “How To Learn A Foreign Language” p.78
One of the links in that article leads to another article which specifically talks about this method being used to learn languages. It has the story of the inventor of the method, who was Polish, trying to learn English and realising that he didn’t have enough time to learn 15,000 words at his normal rate, hence he invented the spaced repitition thing. It’s here:
The article seems to be trying to sell some software called SuperMemo, the latest version of which is $60. There is an older version which is freeware, if anyone wants to try it:
I should stress that I’ve not tried this myself and all the usual cautions about downloading and installing unknown computer software should apply.
Thanks very much Stephen, a lot to read there
Memrise, which is free, also claims to ahave an algorithm to predict when a memory item is about to fade, at which time you should review, similar to SuperMemo: http://www.memrise.com/about/
I looked at that, it looks interesting. I thought I might give it a go, but I was a little disappointed. Though there are courses for learning Klingon, Vulcan, Dothraki and Elvish (Sindarin, Tengwar and Quenya), there wasn’t a Welsh course. Oh well. “Nej, je SoH DIchDaq tu’”, as they say on Qo’noS.
also claims to ahave an algorithm to predict when a memory item is about to fade, at which time you should review
One of the most interesting things I’ve read in this particular field was some research that challenged the belief that ‘just before you forget it’ is the optimal time to revisit a learnt item, with results that suggested ‘after you’ve forgotten it’ might actually be more effective.
One of these days, I’m going to have to find and bookmark that particular study/reference…