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Long-Term Results of Vocab Wars #2: Writing Sentences with Foreign Words


Ever since I started its sessions, I’ve been very eager to find out the long-term results of Vocab Wars #2.

The method of choice in Vocab Wars #2 was writing sentences with foreign words. And with writing I mean writing … with pen and paper.

And today — just as I’m about to start the learning sessions for Vocab Wars #4 — it’s time to reveal these long-term results.

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.

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 pre-exposes 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.

Vocab Wars #2 Writing Sentences

When it comes to learning vocab, I sometimes think the number of repetitions (or exposures) is more important than the actual method used.

The method still matters, but not as much as the number of repetitions.

And when writing with pen and paper the number of repetitions is a slight concern. You simply can’t reach the same number of repetitions as with straight flashcards.

So did that affect the long-term results?

Let’s find out:

The Results

As you can see in the graph, I managed to score 90% in the long-term memory test, which comes down to 10 errors. Three less than with the basic flashcards.

I also completed the test significantly faster than with Vocab Wars #1.

I would say it’s quite promising.

Yes, a method like this might not be as scalable as basic flashcards are, but it sure shows promise within the Vocab Wars parameters.

Besides, some people hate flashcards. They can become quite boring. And though some might associate writing sentences with school punishment, I can tell you it’s less boring than doing rounds and rounds of flashcards.

One thing is for sure, it is much better for your language skills to make sentences as opposed to just learning and reviewing words in a flashcard tool. Even if you learned more words with the flashcards, it’s always better to use them in some sort of context.

Next Up for Vocab Wars

In the last Vocab Wars post I mentioned that from now on I’ll no longer post short-term and long-term results separately.

And it’s true but — since I’m such a scatterhead — I forgot about the long-term results of Vocab Wars #3! So I’ve decided to post these results separately as well. You can expect the results to be online in early June.

And what about Vocab Wars #4?

Well, I’m about to start the learning sessions. So it will take at least two months to publish that, since I have to wait for the long-term results.

In Vocab Wars #4 I’ll be testing flashcards with images. That is, an image with a foreign word on one side, and the same image with the translation on the other.

It’ll be interesting to see if this beats basic flashcards with only words on them.

Until next time!


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