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Learn English with SuperMemo
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Have you ever heard of flashcards? A lot of learners use them to memorize vocabulary. They write a word in their native language on one side of the card and the corresponding word in the language they're learning on the other side. Then they test themselves on them.
Well, flashcards certainly help if you have to learn 100 words for next week's test. But I just can't imagine anyone carrying them around for longer than several weeks. And when you learn a foreign language it's not enough to remember a word for a short time - you have to remember it for your whole life!
Instead of using flashcards, I tried writing down my new words in a notebook. After a few months there were more than 1000 items in it. To make sure I didn't forget them, I had to review the list from time to time. But it took a long time. Some words I would remember better, and some I would forget very quickly. But still I had to review all of them.
SuperMemo, a computer program for speed-learning, was exactly what I needed. The principles are simple. You create your personal database of items and the program tests you on them. But that's not all! Each time you answer a question you grade how well you remembered the answer. SuperMemo schedules the next repetitions of the item based on your grades. This way, you repeat the well-known items less and less often and at the same time make sure you won't forget the problematic ones. And you save lots of time! Today my collection contains more than 8000 items, but I only need to spend about twenty minutes a day to retain them in my head.
But remember, SuperMemo requires regularity. You have to do your repetitions on a regular basis - every day is really the best option. Spreading repetitions in time helps your brain to structure the learning material better.
In March 2005, SuperMemo 98 was released as freeware. Here you can download the program:
There's no need to install SuperMemo 98! To start using the program, simply unzip the downloaded archive to an empty folder and run the sm98.exe file.
You can use SuperMemo to improve your pronunciation. Simply, add every word that causes you trouble to your database. You put the word as a question and its phonetic transcription as an answer (read more about phonetic transcriptions in the Guide to English pronunciation). When SuperMemo shows you the word, you say it out loud and then see if your pronunciation matches the phonetic transcription.
I have almost 1000 pronunciation items in my collection. I add the transcription of every word that causes me trouble. If you want to have a look at my list of pronunciation items, you can download it as a Q&A file [TXT file, 37 kB]. You can import my items to your SuperMemo collection and save a lot of typing!
(Note that the list still needs some polishing. For example, some items lack the apostrophe sign to show where the word is stressed. Some items contain (r) sign to show the difference between the British and the American pronunciation, and some not. Oh, and I hope you don't mind the occasional short explanations in Polish - I just didn't have time to remove them.)
Some sample entries:
Q: pronounce: tension
Q: pronounce: scar
Q: pronounce: commit
It's a good idea to add audio recording to the most difficult pronunciation items in your SuperMemo collection. Here's how to do it.
To find out more about SuperMemo:
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