When did your adventure with SuperMemo start?
I first saw SuperMemo at a friend’s while I was still studying – an archaic version on DOS (i.e. on a PC as there wasn’t even Windows then – that’s a note for Millenials). Over almost 10 years, starting somewhere around 2000, I processed 20,000 flashcards with the older version of Advanced English Speed up! The effectiveness was fantastic, so my wife also caught the SuperMemo bug. It required self-denial and systematic work, but also a lot of work with the program itself – it wasn’t a “cloud” version, so I had a lot of fun copying databases between computers while I was on vacation, or I could make up the backlog if I had a few days without a computer, making database backups from time to time etc.
Years later, my children arrived. They had a lot of English lessons in kindergarten, and I wanted to further their language education.
I returned to SuperMemo about 2 years ago, seeing how inefficient it is for my two older sons to write words in other applications used by their teachers. I was horrified when I was doing revision with them and saw that they couldn’t remember anything from a few months ago. I imported the flashcards to SuperMemo and created my own flashcards for my older sons. As they got up to speed with their own databases of words, I bought them access to Extreme English courses, which then interested my nearly six-year-old youngest son, saying “I want to do it, too”. So, currently all three of my children systematically do lessons with vocabulary programs – my seven-year-old has already done 90% (almost 2,000 words!) of the Extreme English – Basic course (A1 / A2), the nine-year-old and eleven-year-old – they are doing Extreme English – Intermediate (B1 / B2) with you. The effects are amazing, the kids’ brains absorb words like a sponge.
I envy them – they are now learning the words I learned as an adult. The great thing is that they learn the pronunciation of the new words from their teacher, not from me or by themselves. They are constantly in contact with the correct pronunciation, so this learning is much more effective.
All in all, I don’t have to chase them to do these lessons – they remind themselves, if sometimes I forget. It is attractive enough for them to spend a few minutes a day more with the computer or mobile phone. It takes about 5-7 minutes a day for each of them. I intentionally do not want them to have too many words in circulation, so there are no more than 20 repetitions, to make sure they do not get tired and discouraged.
About 5 new words are learned effectively every day. That’s not many, but if you multiply that by 365?
All in all, seeing how convenient this cloud version is, my wife and I also decided to buy access to the Advanced databases, so now our entire family of five is learning English with your courses.
How has SuperMemo helped you?
Knowing English well means both me and my wife can work more effectively, which is largely thanks to SuperMemo. I am self-taught when it comes to English, I started studying in college, when I was already an adult. Today, I work in an international company. I work with clients in Europe, using English every day, and to a great extent this is thanks to the tool you created. Of course, learning requires work, self-denial and consistency, but the tool makes this work much more effective.
I think it’s the best money I’ve ever spent in my life – it’s much more than a product – it’s a system I’ve been using for years. I’ve never made such a good investment as investing in your databases.
What are you currently learning?
In addition to learning vocabulary from the Extreme English – Advanced database, I’m also doing the Russian course Нет проблем!, which allows me to refresh my knowledge of Russian, which I need when traveling abroad.
What are your language plans?
I’m not an avid linguist, I tried to learn French once, but that language defeated me. I treat my knowledge of a foreign language as a tool for work. In addition, continuous contact with learning vocabulary is also a kind of gymnastics for the mind, because words and phrases you already know are refreshed and revised.
How does your day with SuperMemo look like?
Usually in the evening, I help my younger sons with their SM lessons, which they usually do on my cellphone – the older one doesn’t want me around any more. This also helps revise the more basic words. I always find a few minutes for my new words and repetitions. As with my children – I try to choose the right number of new words, so that I don’t have too many repetitions.
It looks different when I travel on business – then the day is less predictable, but I always get a few minutes for a lesson. Thanks to the database in my phone, I can make use of any time when I’m without access to the Internet, like when I’m travelling by air. Now, because of the pandemic, I’m not traveling a lot…
What advice would you give to other users?
Don’t select more words than you have the strength to process. It is better to go slower with the material than to take too much and get discouraged by the multitude of repetitions.
And most importantly – don’t allow yourself breaks in learning. It’s better for a day or two not to choose new words, if you don’t have the time or the strength (or if you know you won’t have time in the near future), than to take a few days break. After that, it is usually more difficult to go back to learning.
What do you think is the secret to effective learning?
Well, unfortunately – it’s all down to consistency.