My adventure with SuperMemo – Ewelina Zielińska

SuperMemo user's travel photos

Ewelina Zielińska, a lover of travel, knitting, legal series and interior design, told us about her adventure with SuperMemo.

When did your adventure with SuperMemo start?

I don’t remember exactly, but it was definitely over 10 years ago. I think I was in my second year of college. Close to my university there was an Empik bookstore, which I went to quite often, and there I found the SuperMemo series. I wondered for a long time whether the promises on the cover of the course had any chance of being fulfilled, but I decided to take a chance. Since that first box with the course, my “collection” has grown quite strongly.

What are you learning now?

I am currently improving my English, and in addition, after a long break, I have returned to learning Spanish. I gave it up for a few years, so I decided to reset the progress and start over from scratch. It turned out that I remembered about 80-85% of what I had learned before, and that despite such a long break!

What did SuperMemo help you with?

Despite many years of learning English, I felt (and still feel a little bit) that I am lacking certain words or expressions. Even simple, very basic words were disappearing from my memory over time because I didn’t have the opportunity to use them in my daily routine. I never enjoyed cramming new vocabulary; it annoyed me that I remembered some words almost effortlessly, and I had a problem with others for a long time. Hanging sticky notes all over the apartment, or rewriting lists of forgotten words was time-consuming and not always effective. Learning like that, I also lacked recordings of correct pronunciation. SuperMemo first of all helped me to repeat only those things that are on the point of being forgotten. I don’t feel like I’m wasting my time revising words I already know well, and thanks to that I can do more in less time.

As for Spanish, I have never taken any other courses in it, so SuperMemo was my first contact with the language. A year or so ago, while on holiday, I happened to talk briefly to a lady who didn’t speak a word of English but needed directions. I’d had quite a long break from learning at that time, but I managed to put together a few sentences and show her the way. It was very nice when she thanked me and said that my Spanish wasn’t as bad as I thought. She encouraged me to keep practicing. That’s when I decided to go back to learning the language.

What are your language plans?

I’m taking several courses at the same time, both in English and Spanish, so I have a lot of work to do. I don’t plan on learning another language yet, but I would like to finish the courses I have started so far, and then do some more grammar focused courses. I’m also planning to work on my pronunciation – I have a dilemma about whether to use the Say It Better course in British or American. As far as learning Spanish is concerned, I’m trying to put the lessons from the series to use. I recently tried the “Language Learning with Netflix” plug-in and I’m trying to find the best way to watch and learn at the same time.

What does your day with SuperMemo look like?

I try not to mix languages, so I have each of them installed on a separate account. It’s best when I manage to learn one language in the morning and another in the afternoon, but it is not always so rosy. If it doesn’t work out, I try at least to take a short break between sessions.

First I do the repetitions, I like to do it in “mixed repetitions” mode the most, and then I learn new things. If I don’t have much time, I try to do as many repetitions as possible and learning new things comes to the fore. So far I’ve been using the “a little bit of everything” system of learning, and trying to do at least a few pages from each course, but about 2-3 weeks ago I decided to change. One day, I usually take one or two courses with new material. After completing a chapter, I switch to another course. Thanks to this, I am able to acquire knowledge in a given area relatively quickly, and at the same time, before moving on to the next topic, the material has time to bed down in my brain. Besides, the courses have different levels of difficulty, so with the easier ones, where I’m only repeating material, I have a chance to catch my breath.

What advice would you give to other users?

Don’t give up! There was a time when there were as many as 2,000 overdue repetitions on my account, but slowly and systematically I managed to get down to zero and then back to learning new things.

It’s great for me to use the Extreme series. For English, I repeat everything one by one in the series, while for Spanish, I manually search for words that occurred in another course. Usually, I do this after completing a chapter. Thanks to this, I stopped getting into the situation where after a few months I know how to complete a sentence in Spanish, but I’m not sure what it means.

What do you think is the secret to successful learning?

Regularity and perseverance. Of course, it’s much easier not to fall behind with the repetitions, but there are different situations in life, so if being systematic fails, we still have to persevere with the pending repetitions.

Moreover, I don’t force myself to remember particular words or sentences. If I mark them “I don’t know”, they come back later in the repetitions at most after a few days, usually the next day, so I think there is no need to repeat a given thing a dozen or so times every day. I limit myself to 2 or 3 additional repetitions. It finally goes into my memory somehow, and this way I don’t feel tired and can use my energy for other things. I really have the impression that with this method you remember a lot, even involuntarily 😉