The question of EFFICIENCY in polyglottery

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Re: The question of EFFICIENCY in polyglottery

Postby rdearman » Wed May 26, 2021 7:52 pm

Many studies have shown huge blocks of study time are not as effective as interleaving. Interleaving consists in mixing up the topics a student learns or revises, rather than spending hours on a single topic before moving on to the next (which is known as “blocking). So just doing 3 hours of study might not be effective if it is a 3 hour block dedicated to a single topic or area.

One study in Journal of Educational Psychology · November 2018 "Does Interleaved Practice Enhance Foreign Language Learning? The Effects of Training Schedule on Spanish Verb Conjugation Skills" shows there is good reason to interleave your study not to do blocks of study.

Journal of Educational Psychology · November 2018 wrote:Abstract

Do the cognitive benefits of interleaving—the method of alternating between two or more skills or concepts during training—extend to foreign language learning? In four experiments, we investigated the efficacy of interleaved vs. conventional blocked practice for teaching adult learners to conjugate Spanish verbs in the preterite and imperfect past tenses. In the first two experiments, training occurred during a single session and interleaving between tenses began during the presentation of introductory content (Experiment 1) or during randomly-ordered verb conjugation practice trials at the end of the training session (Experiment 2). This yielded, respectively, numerically higher performance in the blocked group and equivalent performance in the interleaved and blocked groups on a two-day delayed test. In Experiments 3 and 4, the amount of training was increased across two weekly sessions in which the blocked group trained on one tense per session and the interleaved group trained on both tenses per session, with random interleaving occurring during verb conjugation practice trials. Interleaving yielded substantially better performance on a one-week delayed test. Thus, although interleaving did not confer an advantage over blocking under two different single-session training schedules, it improved learning when used to practice conjugating verbs across multiple training sessions. These results constitute the first demonstration of an interleaving effect for foreign language learning.


With interleaving, students alternate between a set of to-be-learned skills during training.

https://www.learningscientists.org/blog/2017/7/13-1 wrote:Fergus used the example of learning how to give directions in German to explain his jumbling technique to us. At first, you learn how to give the directions in a certain order. For example, you might learn how to say turn right, then learn how to say turn left, and then learn how to say go straight. However, when you’re actually using these phrases, you want to be able to recall them in different orders. So during practice, you should jumble up the order of the German directions. This will make it easier to use them later on.


Studies show that information revised via interleaving will be retained for longer (in some cases years) than blocked revision of information.

The effects of interleaving are distinct from those of spacing, which is the practice of having a temporal gap between learning sessions. Specifically, even though spacing can facilitate learning, and even though spacing often occurs as a result of interleaving, the effects of spacing alone do not explain all the benefits of interleaving.

Interleaving guidelines: (Paraphrased from https://effectiviology.com/interleaving/)
  • Use logical criteria for interleaving. E.g. If you are learning vocabulary about the household, use a grammar section you need to study to create sentences with those words.
  • Avoid interleaving items that are too similar.
  • Avoid interleaving items that are too different.
  • Decide what pattern to interleave. For example Random or Systematic. For example, in the case of vocabulary words, you can decide to simply randomly interleave words from different categories, or you might decide to systematically interleave them so that words from a certain category are always followed by words from a specific different category.

Related to this 3 hour block of study is the question of "where to study". Scientists have studied the effect of physical location on memory retention also. By studying at the same place, in the same environment all the time, your brain gets attached to it, and you buckle down and study, you're all set for success right? Maybe not. There is actually a risk that your brain would get itself stuck in that space and not be able to recall outside that location. You've associated the memory with the study location, and when you are not at that location, you can't remember!

So getting outside and doing some shadowing as Prof. A recommended, or reading on a bus, or listening while driving can help avoid this situational lock in.
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Re: The question of EFFICIENCY in polyglottery

Postby jeff_lindqvist » Wed May 26, 2021 8:37 pm

More thoughts on those 3 hours...
How would you study a language with 3 hours per day? (LLORG, 25 October 2018)
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Re: The question of EFFICIENCY in polyglottery

Postby PeterMollenburg » Wed May 26, 2021 9:47 pm

Le Baron wrote:
rdearman wrote:I cannot remember ever studying anything for 3 hours straight. Even in school I didn't study like that. MIT recommends only 50 minutes with at least a 10-minute break between sessions. If I did attempt to study for that long my mind would wander off or I would be asleep and drooling on the pages of the book while snoring.


I'm sure that goes for all of us. However 'studying for three hours' to me means setting aside that three hours to work on whatever you're working on; including some inevitable breaks, rather than starting the clock and not looking up until three hours has passed!


For me, when doing my focused desk study sessions I have breaks usually after each hour but they are either short (a few mins) or I just continue into the next hour. For me, one hour of study is one hour as I use a timer and stop it the moment I get up from studying. This might be hardcore for some but it works for me. 30 minute or three hour study sessions are 30 minutes or three hours.

My mind doesn't wander much during these sessions. However it does when listening to podcasts, especially if doing other things such as driving.

In my early 20s I'd nearly always fall asleep watching French in Action or Destinos videos. Eating bread was my issue. If I eat healthy I don't ever fall asleep and my mental clarity remains regardless of the activity watching or other.
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Re: The question of EFFICIENCY in polyglottery

Postby PeterMollenburg » Wed May 26, 2021 10:04 pm

Le Baron wrote:The business of running multiple languages in a learning-phase... I see it something like starting to redecorate and renovate every room in the house simultaneously, rather than starting on one, doing the job properly and then starting another when the other one is under control. Why juggle all those things unnecessarily? It's how people end up with a load of half-finished rooms and motivation/progress all shot.


No, it's taking on three rooms at once but understanding that its going to take longer. Further still each room isn't the same activity, these are 'special rooms' requiring very different skillsets. Skillsets that can be studied sequentially (one room at a time), or simultaneously. The potential advantage of sequential individual room (language) focus is obtaining an advanced skill level in one room (language) then moving on. Why would you spread yourself thin over three skillsets?

Well, approaching three skillsets simultaneously could see each skillset grow slowly but surely. Might this lead to a more stable development doing a bit of each skillset each day instead of cramming one skillset (language) into a shorter time frame then moving onto the next?
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Re: The question of EFFICIENCY in polyglottery

Postby Steve » Wed May 26, 2021 10:15 pm

rdearman wrote:Many studies have shown huge blocks of study time are not as effective as interleaving. Interleaving consists in mixing up the topics a student learns or revises, rather than spending hours on a single topic before moving on to the next (which is known as “blocking). So just doing 3 hours of study might not be effective if it is a 3 hour block dedicated to a single topic or area.


I just grabbed a portion of this very nice post to indicate continuity with this thought.

Many years ago I read a papers on interleaving (by Robert Bjork if I recall correctly) in which students perceived that block learning was more effective even when the objective results were that interleaving produced better results for them.

When I first learned about interleaving awhile ago, I started doing some experimentation. At first it tended to feel like I was dabbling in a lot of things, but over time that context switching seemed to develop more links between related topics than serial micro-mastery of smaller topics was doing. In some ways, approaching language learning centered around using input (supported by learning to use grammatical reference materials) is more akin to interleaved learning where topics are mixed and repeatedly hit again and again over time in contrast to a typical course where individual topics are taught in a more block oriented manner.
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Re: The question of EFFICIENCY in polyglottery

Postby Le Baron » Wed May 26, 2021 10:42 pm

rdearman wrote:Many studies have shown huge blocks of study time are not as effective as interleaving. Interleaving consists in mixing up the topics a student learns or revises, rather than spending hours on a single topic before moving on to the next (which is known as “blocking). So just doing 3 hours of study might not be effective if it is a 3 hour block dedicated to a single topic or area.


3 hours spread over half a day is not huge. Sitting down and not moving away from the study is just exhausting. Everyone knows watching a half-hour TV series is not as exhausting as sitting through Ben-Hur without a toilet break. And yet...people can binge-watch an entire series.

rdearman wrote:Related to this 3 hour block of study is the question of "where to study". Scientists have studied the effect of physical location on memory retention also. By studying at the same place, in the same environment all the time, your brain gets attached to it, and you buckle down and study, you're all set for success right? Maybe not. There is actually a risk that your brain would get itself stuck in that space and not be able to recall outside that location. You've associated the memory with the study location, and when you are not at that location, you can't remember!


I can very much believe that. Especially when that location is nicely tucked away at home where you can control everything. That's why I like (well maybe like is a bit strong) putting myself into situations where I have to talk/interact, no books, no pause button.

I wonder though how to overcome the familiarity of a study location. You can shake it up a bit: computer, bedroom, library, a café...etc But I'm not searching out locations. I get pretty far at the same table at home.
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Re: The question of EFFICIENCY in polyglottery

Postby Le Baron » Wed May 26, 2021 10:50 pm

PeterMollenburg wrote:No, it's taking on three rooms at once but understanding that its going to take longer. Further still each room isn't the same activity, these are 'special rooms' requiring very different skillsets. Skillsets that can be studied sequentially (one room at a time), or simultaneously. The potential advantage of sequential individual room (language) focus is obtaining an advanced skill level in one room (language) then moving on. Why would you spread yourself thin over three skillsets?

Well, approaching three skillsets simultaneously could see each skillset grow slowly but surely. Might this lead to a more stable development doing a bit of each skillset each day instead of cramming one skillset (language) into a shorter time frame then moving onto the next?


Have you ever tackled the entire house? I stupidly did once. We ended up living in a building site for nearly two years. We were so sick of it we moved into the wife's parents' house while they were three months in Suriname. It's okay planning the entire thing, but trying to carry it out all at once brings a rude awakening.

It's not a coincidence that there are so many people studying multiple languages, but all at: A1, A1, A2(ish)....B1. The latter usually being the one that has had most time and effort put into it. Okay there will be some with several at a higher level, but I'll wager that most are older than 35+ and the rest..? Geniuses? Nowt else to do? Earning revenue from it?
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Re: The question of EFFICIENCY in polyglottery

Postby PeterMollenburg » Wed May 26, 2021 11:39 pm

Le Baron wrote:
PeterMollenburg wrote:No, it's taking on three rooms at once but understanding that its going to take longer. Further still each room isn't the same activity, these are 'special rooms' requiring very different skillsets. Skillsets that can be studied sequentially (one room at a time), or simultaneously. The potential advantage of sequential individual room (language) focus is obtaining an advanced skill level in one room (language) then moving on. Why would you spread yourself thin over three skillsets?

Well, approaching three skillsets simultaneously could see each skillset grow slowly but surely. Might this lead to a more stable development doing a bit of each skillset each day instead of cramming one skillset (language) into a shorter time frame then moving onto the next?


Have you ever tackled the entire house? I stupidly did once. We ended up living in a building site for nearly two years. We were so sick of it we moved into the wife's parents' house while they were three months in Suriname. It's okay planning the entire thing, but trying to carry it out all at once brings a rude awakening.

It's not a coincidence that there are so many people studying multiple languages, but all at: A1, A1, A2(ish)....B1. The latter usually being the one that has had most time and effort put into it. Okay there will be some with several at a higher level, but I'll wager that most are older than 35+ and the rest..? Geniuses? Nowt else to do? Earning revenue from it?


I agree with your sentiments. I was just demonstrating what might be advantageous in theory should multiple languages simultaneously be the option of study. As for renovating an entire house. I absolutely agree, all the house at once is crazy unless you had a team of tradesmen and you lived at another location. I just wanted to provide some reflections for the more than one language at once point of view.

rdearman wrote:...

rdearman mentions professor Arguelles doing short sessions of study on multiple languages. Here is in fact a good example of a successful language learner studying multiple languages at once. Expugnator is another.

I think the major issue with those who study multiple languages at once is they cannot stick at it for long enough, while some others do find it too challenging/confusing. The above two are two good examples of people who have succeeded in doing so. Still, getting back to the rest, perhaps those who choose to study multiple languages at once are prone to wanderlust (and acting on it) and are therefore also more likely to get bored of trying to do multiple languages at once and can't stay the course.

Then there is the reasoning that studying three languages at once doesn't allow for life getting in the way. If you study three languages and life gets busy or complicated, suddenly you just cannot continue with your mission. Three languages at once means long term commitment that stand the test of life.

I've been guilty myself of both chopping and changing (acting on wanderlust) and life getting in the way of multiple language plans. All this tends to therefore favour the one language at a time scenario, as it can withstand the interruptions of life more easily, but you just have to keep wanderlust at bay.

As for studying 3 hours and interweaving while pondering the question of one langauge vs three, I thought it was a given that while looking at the single language option, you'd adapt the interweaving techniques as necessary. I've always had rotating schedules, but hey if myself or someone else wants to read for three hours straight, well whatever works. I rarely study one thing continuously for three hours straight.
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Re: The question of EFFICIENCY in polyglottery

Postby luke » Thu May 27, 2021 2:23 am

Not directly related to EFFICIENCY, but watched an interesting youtube on Arata Academy about "mastery" and its obstacles.

Basically, the road to mastery will involve plateaus. The one who will develop mastery continues through the plateaus.

Arata draws a distinction between learning fast and mastery. Mastery requires more discipline and persistence.
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Re: The question of EFFICIENCY in polyglottery

Postby einzelne » Thu May 27, 2021 3:01 am

PeterMollenburg wrote:rdearman mentions professor Arguelles doing short sessions of study on multiple languages. Here is in fact a good example of a successful language learner studying multiple languages at once.


It's only a part of his story. Somewhere (was it his website which no longer functions?) he discussed how at a certain point he faced an insurmountable problem: yes, you can expose yourself with more than a dozen of languages by doing short learning sessions but at the certain point the only texts you read everyday are introductory textbooks. What's the point of knowing the basics in 50 languages if you cannot savor classical literature in none of them (this, I remind, was his initial goal of learning languages)?

Short sessions are effective only at the initial stage. Here's his testimony:

That's an experience that I ran into a brick wall of that about 20 years ago after I'd spent so much time being passionate about learning as many languages as I possibly could and I realized after a certain point, Hey, wait a minute if you study systematically in a disciplined fashion every day for 15 minutes a day you can go from knowing nothing to having a solid foundation in a year. But if you want to go up to the next level the solid foundation to you know a real basic functional working knowledge that needs half an hour a day and then if you want to go to a higher level that needs an hour a day and even a higher level this many hours a day.
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