Question on GLM vs Flashcards and on seeing words in the fermentation period.


One YT user asked today:

“Hello, Mr. James. I wanted to say, thank you for sharing this great information about the long term memory. It all makes perfect sense, and I have started a Gold-List for my language learning! I have a couple questions, if you are able to answer I would greatly appreciate it! Do you recommend the use of flashcards at all for learning a language? I understand for the Gold-List, you should avoid the words you wrote down on the list for not less than two weeks, but should you not think about the words at all? I suppose using flash cards would “jog” your short term memory again, but I am not certain. Maybe they are just different strategies, and don’t work together. Also, if I am trying to practice with sentences, should I not use the words I wrote in the list, or only after it “passed”.”

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Here is the answer I wrote:

Please join the GoldList Method User Group on Facebook if you can. That way, good questions like these are flagged up for a bigger audience. Anyway, here goes:

1) flashcards are the standard system but they are a bit fiddly. You have to really manipulate a lot of small pieces of paper. if you actually want to do a nice big project with thousands of words and you want a proper card that will withstand all the mauling, it is a good deal more expensive and when the wind wafts in the window you’ll wish you had used a book.

The other thing about even on line flashcard systems is that in the classic system you are presented with them a lot of times until you can remember them, but not always are you asked to write anything. Without a re-write, it may be hard to know if you are doing a proper re-presentation of the material to the memory. Re-presenting material to the memory when you may have learned it only to the short-term memory is deceptive. People are sure they have learned things on systems like Memrise, Anki, Supermemo, etc when actually they haven’t. GLM calls for a bit more patience in the process but saves you a lot of time in the long run and makes sure that your long-term memory is optimised.

I am not sure how I could test this scientifically, but it would not surprised me to discover that the method even trains the L/T memory to be more effective. After all, if you show your body that you are relying and using a function, usually that function gets stronger, and if you are learning mainly to the short-term memory with methods of short-interval repetition, I would not be at all surprised if the long term memory even weakens as a result. Don’t take this paragraph as science, it is however reasoned speculation.

Cards might make the thing a bit more “gamey” but unless you have someone else committed to play it with you that might not be such great fun in reality as it appears before you do it.

2) About not using words on the list during the interim of 14 days – I notice that some people get a bit stressed about this and worry that they are going to be using the words in the intervening period and that then they will be still in the short-term memory when it comes to reviewing a list after 14 days. Let me say a couple of things on this point. Firstly, most people who are in the phase of trying the goldlist don’t use it exclusively as their only approach to a given language, while there are some others who, once they become convinced that GLM is the most effective approach, pretty much use only that, or, as in my own case, I use only the Goldlist once I have front loaded one or two audio-only courses to give me a good mental pronunciation of the new language, and then I get on and start the big project with GLM, but even then I migtht use more than one set of materials and alternate between different sets and even if I only have one set, some words are going to keep re-appearing. These are probably mainly words with a very high frequency in the language. I wouldn’t worry too much if they are not going through the GLM as efficiently as some other words – as these are the high frequency words of the language you can’t help coming across them a lot, you always will be coming across them a lot, and one way or another as long as you persevere you will certainly learn those higher frequency words. The trick is not to keep representing that list in that form to yourself in the fermentation period of at least 14 days. Don’t return to that same material, leave it be, but also don’t sweat it if the same words come up in different material.

I hope I understood and answered the questions OK. I’ll copy this also in a couple of other places so others can benefit from your good questions.

About David J. James

53 year old accountant who loves languages, literature, history, religion, politics, internet, vlogging and blogging and lively written discussion. Conservative Christian, married to an angel, we have three kids, and live in Warsaw, Poland. I can help you with company set-up, bookkeeping, payroll, tax, audit and due diligence all over Poland and the region.

Posted on 09/08/2015, in Answers to your questions, Blog only, Gold List Methodology, Languages and Linguistics and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I am very interested with the GLM. The above post gives plenty of food for thought as to the effectiveness of this method as one for long term memory Vs. short term memory methods.

    As an English speaker struggling with the Polish language, I’d like to ask Mr. James
    If he could provide examples of people who have used his method and are now is able to speak fluently ( someone who doesn’t live in the country or have family/friends with which to speak on a frequent basis and therefore practice).

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    • The Method doesn’t seek to cater for being able to speak without hesitation at the drop of a hat. It is an important tool to build up a reading knowledeg in the language, and then from reading, listening to audiobooks connected with the reaidng to get the ear attuned to the language and then finally going for some three-day (or longer, but no less) activation period by immersion in the milieu where the language is spoken, whether by a visit to the geography or by using technology to contrive an artificial situation where one is surrounded by the language (not a fan of the latter if the former is available) then you will be able to speak it.

      As with all things the economy of the brain is such that what is not needed goes into what seems to be forgetfulness but is actually just a passive state. If we spend a couple of weeks not no longer actively using the language, it will become passivated once again and require another three day period to activate fully.

      This ceases to be the case once you have really obtained a level in the language of fluency such that at various points in any day you would catch yourself thinking in that language, or languages which are used in mixed-mationality families, or in a job where you speak regularly with people from that other language group.

      However, is it something to worry about if we don’t get to that level in all our languages? I think not. I have no problem with the fact that I am at any time passive in most of my languages. I can read just as easily, listen to things just as easily, write emails almost as easily and the only thing I am more hesitant at is speaking, which is only a question of three days activation anyway. Too many people worry about that, and divert time and energy away from getting decent vocabularies into continually activating an unfinished ability with the language. It’s not efficient, and is the hallmark of someone whose pattern of study is governed by subjective considerations rather than a logical plan.

      When I was a little boy I lived in Enland and most years you can count the days it is worth sunbathing on the fingers of one hand. So I wanted to have a suntan and impress the girls but being immature at the time I had to keep coming indoors every ten minutes or so to see if the sun was working on me yet. This meant that my actual time in the sun was foreshortened, and I never got as suntanned as I might have got if I had just trusted the proces and lay in it calmly. Of course you do not see yourself going brown. This can be seen clearly enough in the evening after some hours during day in the sun, but not after ten minutes. This is a metaphor for the learning process with this system and I dare say many others.

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  2. I also think the long term memory weakens if you are using short term memory alot as they work hand in hand and are connected. This reminds me of an athlete that focuses on short interval sprints (anaerobic) and runs out of steam after a fixed number of repetitions because his engine (aerobic) empties. If you have a large engine (aerobic or word count) then you can continue (with anaerobic intervals or short SRS) for longer without noticing the negative effects until one day you just plateau (meaning you run out of fuel or words!). There are benefits to a limited number of short intervals (short SRS) but the danger is in thinking that more is better via this route. They call this fossilization in language learning. Fintan

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  3. I also think the long term memory weakens if you are using short term memory alot. This reminds me of an athlete that focuses on short interval sprints (anaerobic) and runs out of steam after 5-10? repetitions because his engine (aerobic) empties. If you have a large engine (aerobic or word count) then you can continue (with anaerobic intervals or short SRS) for longer without noticing the negative effects until one day you just plateau (meaning you run out of fuel or words!). There are benefits to a limited number of short intervals (short SRS) but the danger is in thinking that more is better via this route. They call this fossilization in language learning

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