17

I've always thought this to be true, but I'd like some evidence to back it up. I'm assuming that I study about 20 minutes a day all seven days a week compared to studying about 70 minutes any 2 days a week for about the same amount of time per week?

Note: I'm not asking about consistency in the time and place of language study; rather, I'm asking about whether consistently studying a language every day (regardless of time and place) can help you learn the language sooner (over a period of months or years).

  • If you spent 20 minutes seven days a week, for 140 minutes a week versus 20 minutes for three days, 60 minutes a week, you should make much better progress. I took the liberty of changing it to 45-50 minutes three days a week to make the hours more or less comparable. – Tom Au Nov 18 '17 at 18:55
  • @J.Past Edited. – fi12 Nov 18 '17 at 20:53
11

If you look up research on this topic (Ebbinghaus, curve of forgetting), you'll see that forgetting varies. We might remember everything a day later - or have forgotten everything. This is something that varies according to learning method, person, stress, sleep, etc. It's certain that you are going to forget everything unless you review it. Ideally, you learn something new and review it a few minutes later (look up the schedule for this if you're interested). A day later, review what you've learnt. The crucial time would be to review something before you are at the point where you would forget it and need to "start over" learning it again.

If you're learning a language, you need to learn a lot of words in a short time. It just is absolutely no fun to keep repeating "banana" and "tomato" all over, so you need to learn a lot in order to reach a level where it is fun to use it.

Until you reach an intermediate level, learning a little every day to cover more ground seems sensible. Spaced repetition systems can help you keep track of your learning and make sure you learn the right thing every day. "Studying" is also a pretty loose term - are you sitting down with grammar book? Are you learning vocab? Are you making conversation, learning through making lots of mistakes?

One of the possible answers to this is that being really really awesome at something is having put in 10'000 hours of work, doing it. If you do it every day, you'll reach that level earlier than if you just do it every other day. I know that I learnt fluent German so fast because I challenged myself every day, having to communicate in it in my every day life.

6

Consistency is very important. Studying 20 minutes every day is a lot better than studying 3 times a week 20 minutes a day. So, of course you'll learn it faster because you're investing more time in it: instead of 60 minutes a week (20 minutes x 3 days) you study the language 140 minutes (20 minutes x 7 days). So the time is more than doubled. But also, since the language is new, the brain has to be "fed" every day with the language, otherwise you'll forget it more quickly. But to learn it fast you also have to use material that is interesting for you. So consistency is very important, but try to use language learning material that handles interesting topics.

  • 4
    I agree with the obvious 60 minutes vs 140 minutes part. But as for consistency: that doesn't necessarily mean doing something every day. E.g. studying 2x70min a week is just as consistent as studying 7x20min a week - if you actually do it regularly. And then: is there any study proving that "the brain has to be "fed" every day with the language"? Or has at least anyone ever tested this claim on himself/in a self-experiment? – J.Past Jul 26 '16 at 4:14
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    @J.Past It's not about the time in total that you spend: you have to do something every day. You don't need a study to know that is better to study a little every day rather than a lot once a week. The little that you put in your brain will last longer that the lot you put in one time. Also, some of the best polyglots say this (see Luca Lampariello) and it's also logical. – Alaric polyglot Jul 26 '16 at 6:20
  • I.e. you are saying the answer to fi12's question is self-evident... – J.Past Jul 26 '16 at 7:29
  • I am idiosyncratic, but I disagree. I think long study sessions are way more useful, especially at the beginning (i.e. when attempting to understand a complicated grammar topic.) One simply doesn't get over the mountains otherwise. And then the brain needs rest. – SAH Nov 1 '16 at 19:52
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    @SAH The OP is looking for evidence (see the question's first sentence). If/when you find evidence for your claim, you can post an answer about it. – IkWeetHetOokNiet Nov 20 '17 at 11:37
6

I do learn every day as opposed to learning 3 days per week, but every so often I need a day or two away from learning. (Like after 20 days or so). So my preferred rhythm is "every day of the week, but not every day of the month (or year)"

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    How do you notice when it's time to take a break? Kind of a burn-out feeling? Or aversion towards studying? Do you feel more rested after such a break? Is studying your language more fun again? Do you sometimes have the impression that you actually made some progress during the resting period? – J.Past Aug 10 '16 at 17:09
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    Ah, good questions. If I had a burned-out feeling I would rate it "far too late" for such a pause, so I try to notice far before that time, that I need a small break. If I feel a small aversion, and see it grow the next day, then maybe. I don't do "self-discipline" at all, or I would miss the moment completely. – geh Aug 10 '16 at 21:17
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    After a break I feel that I'm much better: 1.) I feel refreshed, 2.) I can see the progress better, that I made before the break, because of the bigger distance. From day to day you see only the small steps, 3.) All the things that make learning fun for me do work again 4.) They say that the brain uses rest periods for review, and I think so, but it's hard for me to know among the other effects. – geh Aug 10 '16 at 21:26
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    According to my interpretation of the question, the OP would like to see studies that support the importance of consistency. If you want to look for such studies, you can use the research resources listed in this meta post. – IkWeetHetOokNiet Oct 18 '16 at 11:50
1

According to me, a language needs to be linked with feelings. This is why you have to practice it as often as possible with real people and preferably vocally. However, writing is also a good thing if it is linked to strong emotions; for example, to express your aspirations, your ideals, your revolts, etc. Learning like a robot is useless. You will lose all you have learned working like that.

  • This does not really answer the question. – Tommi Jul 30 '18 at 12:06

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