by Rehana Mubarak, LearnLift, Austria
Don't we all wish
a Babel fish sometimes?
Spaced repetition is a learning technique that uses increasing intervals of time between subsequent reviews.
" The Babel fish is small, yellow and leech-like, and probably the oddest thing in the Universe. It feeds on brainwave energy absorbing unconscious frequencies and excreting a matrix of conscious frequencies to the speech centers of the brain. The practical upshot of which is that if you stick one in your ear, you instantly understand anything said to you in any language."
If you have read the book "
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
" by Douglas Adams, these lines will sound familiar to you. But even if you haven't heard of the Babel fish before, wouldn't it be nice sometimes to have one in your pocket?
Being an engineer in today's world, it is difficult to survive by fiddling about on the q.t. like Gyro
Gearloose. You are required to think and act internationally in order to keep pace with the rapidly rising technological developments in a globalized context. And an integral part of international thinking and acting are language and communication.
One of the challenges about learning a new language is memorising the vocabulary. When we learn new words in a language, they often do not make any sense to
Rehana Mubarak studied "International Technical Communication" at the University of Hildesheim, Germany.
At present Rehana is a Content Manager for LearnLift/Omicron in Austria and at the same time she is working on her Ph.
D. thesis in Applied Linguistics.
us at first. They seem to be arbitrary sequences of symbols. Once we have put a lot of effort in memorizing a new word by rote learning, we often tend to forget the word, unless we have to use it frequently. brain works, these processes are logical. Our brain is made of millions of nerve cells, called neurons.
Neurons can gather and transmit electrochemical signals to each other and to non-neuronal cells, such as in muscles or glands. When we have a sensory input, neural impulses are created and interconnected.
When certain connection patterns are strengthened memories are formed.
pattern is activated and the more neurons are involved in a connection pattern, the stronger is the memory and the more probable it is to store a piece of information in our long-term memory. Therefore, our brain needs associations and repetition to store, retain and recall
When we consider the way our
The more regularly a connection
0 min 20 min 60 min 9 hrs 24 hrs 48 hrs 6 days 31 days
Time information in an efficient way.
How can we actively strengthen our memories and make them last long? There are three scientifically approved learning techniques involv in g a s sociat ion and repetition:
multisensory and mnemonic learning,
Spaced repetition is a learning technique that uses increasing inter vals of t ime bet ween subsequent reviews. Its principles are based on the "forgetting curve" that was discovered and plotted by
Hermann Ebbinghaus, a German psychologist. The forgetting curve shows the decline of memory retention in time. At the end of the
19th century, Ebbinghaus found the exponential nature of forgetting which can be roughly described by the formula:
R = e
-t/s where R refers to memory retention, s to the relative strength of memory and t to time.
Spaced repetition maximizes the time spent studying difficult material and minimizes the time spent reviewing things you already know. According to many renowned scientists this technique has proved to be highly reliable for memorizing facts since it helps consolidating a new short-term memory and placing it into our long-term memory.
A practical application of this technique is the flashcards study system, developed by Sebastian
Leitner. In this study system, flashcards are sorted into boxes
97 according to how well they are known. If card content can be recalled the flashcard is promoted from the pool to a higher box. Because box sizes increase ascendingly, and a card in a higher box is only retested when the box is filled, increasing time lags in between learning repetitions are created. If at any time card content cannot be recalled the flashcard is demoted to box one again.
Multisensory elements help strengthen a memory since more neuronal connection patterns are involved in this learning process, and thus associations are evoked.
Mnemonic strategies help move data to our long-term memory since they enable us to link information with a meaning. That way a piece of information becomes a semantic memory. Mnemonic strategies rely on associations between easy-to-remember constructs, which can be related back to the data that is to be remembered.
One example for a mnemonic strategy is to, for example, visualize a cow V-A-C-(A)-U-U-M-I-N-G a field when you have to memorize
"VACA" as the Spanish translation for "COW".
Today we find quite a few study software that enable the learner to memorize content, such as
Anki, Supermemo, Softweigh or
MemoryLifter. Only few of them, however, enable the user to combine spaced repetition with multisensory and mnemonic learning or to create personal and customized learning modules.
Another aspect is that there is some study software that enables the user to learn foreign languages based on spaced repetition and on audiovisual elements. However, hardly any software can be found that is not restricted to general language use, but provide learning modules containing technical or scientific terms. Especially in the field of power and protection engineering, such a type of software is still a desideratum.
When you prepare for going abroad, for example, it can be of great help to know some basic technical terms in the language of the respective country or in English, which is used as an international language in a lot of companies nowadays. Most foreign language courses at school, universities or evening classes teach you general language usage. Complementing your knowledge with technical and scientific terms can be of great help in professional contexts.
A highly efficient tool that has been developed on the basis of spaced repetition, multisensory and mnemonic learning can be found under Tools on the PAC World homepage. With this tool you can create your own learning modules and include customized multimedia elements – for example you can
download an IEC 61850 Logical
Nodes dictionary. Additionally, you are provided with more than 100 high quality learning modules. One module that has been launched very recently is particularly interesting for students, engineers, technical writers, interpreters or translators.
This Learning Module helps you learn important technical vocabulary in different languages.
It contains images that support the memorization process and help disambiguate the meaning of terms.
The Learning Module consists of four big chapters, one of which deals with power and protection engineering.
So…if you are curious about the Engineer's Guide to the
Galaxy, go and visit: http://www.