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Long-Term Results of Vocab Wars #3: Smart Flashcards


There are flashcards…..and then there are Smart Flashcards.

Smart Flashcards follow the idea that it’s easier to remember something if we couple it with something very familiar to us.

So instead of just having a word or a sentence on a card, with Smart Flashcards you want to use a sentence with things or facts close to home.

If I want to learn the English word bicycle, and my daughter has a small blue bicycle, a good sentence to use would be: My daughter has a small blue bicycle.

That way, I coupled something unknown to me — the word bicycle in English — to some very familiar things: my daughter and her blue bicycle.

Now all that’s left to do is to stick this sentence on a flashcard and the word’s translation on the other side and, voila: A Smart Flashcard!

I used this process with 50 unknown words and tried to learn the words, as best as I could, in four 25-minute learning sessions.

I’ve already posted the short-term results of these learning sessions. Now it’s time to share the long-term results with you as well.

I got the idea of Smart Flashcards from CAMILLE from French Today who suggested it as a good vocab learning method in this Smart Language Learner mega post:

Rules of the Game

In Vocab Wars I test various vocabulary methods and share the results with you.

In four 25 minute learning sessions — spread out over four days — I try to learn 50 Spanish words I don’t know yet.

I then test myself on the 5th day to see how the method’s worked for me over the short term.

I then forget about the words and the method as much as I can, and do a new test two months later to see how it’s worked for me over the longer term.

To sum it up:

  • I pick a vocabulary learning method.
  • I adjust it slightly so it can be used with Vocab Wars’ parameters.
  • Then, I try to learn 50 words in four 25-minute sessions.
  • On day five, I do the short-term memory test.
  • I then leave it all behind until two months later, when I’ll do a long-term memory test. I publish these results later.

So … are all vocab learning methods essentially the same, or are some superior to others? And could weak short-term methods be stronger over the longer term or vice versa?

Disclaimer: This isn’t science. Some methods may work better for me than for you. I also spend some time selecting the words to learn which preexposes me to them, and the time spent won’t be consistent for every method. Note that the words I use are in Spanish. I’m already pretty fluent in Spanish which makes it easier for me to learn new words. In spite of all this, I still believe Vocab Wars could give a good indication of the efficiency of various vocab learning methods.

The Results

Well, maybe not the super results I expected, but still respectable.

I made just 11 errors in the test, which took me 8.19 minutes to complete.

One thing that stands out is that all results, so far, have been quite similar. Two of the three methods have used Flashcards as the learning mechanism, so I guess it’s time to try something new.

And that’s what’s going to happen…

Next Up for Vocab Wars

While I still have to publish both the short and long-term results of Vocab Wars #4, I also wanted to let you know what method will be used for Vocab Wars #5.

In VW5 I will be performing gestures and movements while learning the words.

So for the word Bicycle, I may actually pretend that I’m getting on a bike. I’ll also state the word out loud while performing the gestures or movements.

I may use different gestures for the same words, but the gesture or movement must come natural to me.

The idea is here to take the word out of the theoretical realm and include my body in the learning process.

Stay tuned if that sounds interesting to you!

Until next time.


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