How To Remember Your English Learning

Last Updated on February 22, 2022 by Estrella

How to remember your English learning
How to remember your English learning. Photo by Matthew Henry from Burst.

Have you ever heard someone who is learning English say “I can’t remember what I learn in my ESL class”? Or “I am older now, I can’t learn a new language like a child can”? Maybe you have experienced discouragement like this, and wish that you can learn faster and remember more. If you know someone who wishes they could do a better job remembering what they learn in an ESL class, here are some ways on how to remember your English learning.

Tips for remembering English learning

Review vs. memorizing

Many of my students come from educational systems that require memorization. For language learning, that is. I learned the multiplication table by memorization. That worked. I didn’t know what I was memorizing at the time. But if I hadn’t done that, I would not be able to do math as fast.

What about language learning? Is memorization effective? To a certain extent. Irregular verbs, for example, may need some memorization. Beyond that, I find that reviewing is more effective in remembering what we learn.

Let’s say you are taking a class, and you know there will be a final exam. And you also know what material you will be tested on. If you would spend a minute or two several times a week reviewing the material, by the time you take the test, you would not need to study. That’s because it’s already become a part of your knowledge. But if you memorize it only to take the test, you would not have the opportunity to make it a part of your natural usage.

Experiment with this approach

Let’s apply this approach to learning English. Review new learning often. Maybe even everyday, for just a few minutes. Just look over your notes. After even a few days, the learning would no longer feel new to you. Your review helps make the new idea a “habit.” Overtime, it becomes natural, second nature. Many language learners would love to use English without thinking about it, just like native speakers.

Praise is a powerful learning tool

Praise is not just for children. Often adults use it as a way to reinforce children’s good behavior. It can work with adults too. In fact, if you transfer the concept to language learning, you might be in for a pleasant surprise.

I’ve worked with many students who come from educational systems that focus on “getting it right the first time.” After just one lesson, the students do exercises applying the new learning. And if they get the answers wrong, they get a bad grade.

If you are training yourself to run a marathon, would you start with 26 miles the first day? Of course not! You would start small, and gradually increase the distance. You would not scold yourself for not being able to run 26 miles the first day, or first week. Yet, I’ve seen this attitude in students a lot. If they don’t get it right the first time, they feel they are not smart in learning. Or that they are too old to learn a new language.

Try this approach

Try this the next time you learn something new in English grammar. When you make a mistake in your exercise, say “Oh yeah! I remember now.” Do not demand yourself to remember everything perfectly. Remove the self-criticism around mistakes. In fact, don’t even call it “mistake” because you are just practicing. And after some practice, it will automatically become more familiar. The criticism only keeps you from feeling good about your learning.

Praise your progress the way you would a child when she does something well. Instead of saying “I made 2 mistakes out of 10 questions” say “I got 8 correct out of 10 questions!” Celebrate success, however small you think they may be. It’s not small. Success breeds success. That means when you feel successful, you will continue to do what feels successful. Apply this to language learning.

To summarize…

So, experiment with these 2 gentle approaches and see how you feel about your English learning. Just review frequently until the new content feels familiar to you and becomes a part of your usage.

If you find this article of value, here is another one on How to learn English effectively.

If you run into questions while you experiment with these methods, drop me a line at estrellachan@gmail.com

Estrella Chan coaches immigrants and international professionals in English fluency, interview skills, and public speaking.    To schedule a session with her, please email estrellachan@gmail.com

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