I notice that many language learners have many books with materials for studying languages. This question discusses the advantages of a paper dictionary over an online dictionary, however I want to know more about general materials. What are the advantages of using physical materials over electronic materials?


1 Answer 1


There's no black/white answer to this. I think it really depends on (but isn't limited to) the following factors:

  1. How much paper/pencil was used during your early years of study.
    • The more paper/pencil style education you received, the more likely it is that memory retention is higher in this environment, so using physical materials is probably a better option.
  2. How comfortable (or stress-free) you are in a digital environment.
    • Some prefer to digitize as many things as possible, while others hate anything binary. Of course, the clear advantage of digital content is that it includes lots of meta data (creation date, edit date, length, etc.) and can be searched (text scanning, bibliography hyperlinking, etc).
  3. How many screen hours your eyes can take.
    • Some would swear by digital content (iBook instead of bound book), but the strain on their eyes might cut into their study time.

Use DIGITAL content if most or all the following statements are true:

  • You have a decent to advanced level of understanding of the technological platforms on which your content lives (iOS device, PC, Kindle, etc.)
  • The flexibility of the platform/app/ebook rivals or is better than the flexibility that good ol' paper and pencil can provide.
  • Having your study resources handy on the go and in multiple form factors is very important for you, and worth not having to carry books all the time.
  • You require myriad resources that would make it unrealistic for you to carry them around in paper form.
  • Adding a social aspect (gamification) to your studies would greatly increase your motivation and level of engagement with the material (look at the learning app Memrise, for example).

Use PAPER content if most or all the following statements are true:

  • You don't mind always having to carry notebooks, books, and binders, and/or your place of learning doesn't have to be mobile.
  • You value the flexibility of paper/pencil learning over the strengths of digital search and meta data.
  • You do not require a social aspect or gamification to your learning in order to be motivated.
  • You like to do most of your learning at night, and therefore would like to stay away from screens (blue light) as much as possible before bed.
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