Włodzimierz Skiba, a lover of the Ukrainian language, origami, the works of Rhiannon Giddens and the band Voo Voo, as well as a long-term SuperMemo user, told us about his adventure with the program.
When did your adventure with SuperMemo start?
I can’t remember the exact year. It was either the end of the 1980s or the early 1990s. I came across a colleague’s DOS version and copied it. If I remember rightly, at least three courses – basic English, advanced English and irregular English verbs – came to me with the program. I was fascinated by the method and the effectiveness of SuperMemo, and I was impressed by the fact that such a useful program came from my hometown – Poznań. After some time, I also got a Windows version of SuperMemo. I did the courses, but I was still a young, crawling computer user at the time, unaware of what “legal software” is.
The first legal copy of SuperMemo was probably received with the multimedia edition of PWN encyclopedia. Due to the small number of courses, and other interests, my involvement in SuperMemo was gradually decreasing. At the same time, I was an enthusiastic fan of the band Voo Voo, I even managed its official website and fanclub. I was also involved in Wikipedia (where I was expanding the pages about Voo Voo’s artistic activity) and Wikisłownik (where I was developing my language skills) – in both of them, I was an administrator for some time. My contact with SuperMemo decreased almost to zero.
My favourite band Voo Voo started working with the Ukrainian band Haydamaky in 2007. Then, my interest in the Ukrainian language was born. I really wanted to learn it. I bought the available printed dictionaries, and in 2010 I founded my own Ukrainian online dictionary pl.dictum.wikia.com. However, I wasn’t happy, because I wasn’t learning the language, just copying the printed information. In 2011, unfortunately, I fell ill, and for several years I lost contact with the computer world.
It was not until the beginning of 2019 that I changed my phone for a newer model, and as the first application, I installed SuperMemo immediately. I really wanted to refresh my English, so I started with courses in this language. After a few weeks I discovered that there is an option to create your own courses on the online version and then my passion for the Ukrainian language came to mind – I started gradually converting my dictionaries and textbooks in this language into courses. In the following months, it turned out that my daughter, who had been studying Spanish for 6 years, was going to Spain to study. So Spanish joined my languages at SuperMemo.
What did SuperMemo help you with?
The English courses have allowed me to go abroad without fear, and to navigate in English-speaking internet communities. The Ukrainian language courses allowed me to read Ukrainian Internet sites, order books in Ukrainian Internet bookstores, watch Ukrainian TV shows for hours. I haven’t used the results of my Spanish courses yet, but after the SuperMemo course I’m thinking about visiting my daughter in Spain, without fear.
What are you learning now?
I’m currently studying 17 English courses, 16 Ukrainian courses and 3 Spanish courses. In total, in all these courses I have already processed almost 23,000 units. I process about 350 units per day and a variable number of new units.
What are your language plans?
My far-reaching language plans are to learn Hungarian, Lithuanian and Esperanto. However, these are plans that I will not realize until the language resources of my current courses are exhausted – and this is not likely to happen soon. As far as the languages currently taught are concerned, in the case of English, I would like to finish the Business English series (I am reworking only the second part) and the English Extreme series (I have finished Basic and started Intermediate and Advanced).
What does your day with SuperMemo look like?
As soon as I wake up, as a bit of morning mental gymnastics, I do repetitions and new units in the 5 easiest Ukrainian courses, 7 English courses (Olive Green, Extreme, CAE, phrasebook) and 3 Spanish courses. It takes me about an hour (with short breaks every 20 minutes) and includes a total of about 150 repetitions. Then, I get ready for work, and after a break of about an hour I go to work. I use public transport, so it takes about an hour to get there and I use this time for the 16 Ukrainian courses. These are cards with no pronunciation recordings, so I can easily do them while sitting amid the hustle and bustle, on the tram or on the bus. This includes about 100 repetitions. The last part of the repetitions, about 100, I do gradually during the day. While I do the first two cycles in my Android mobile app, I do the last cycle by opening my browser and simply repeating one unit at a time. I do these last 100 repetitions slowly over about 7 hours. From then until the evening, I don’t do any more units.
It looks a little different at the weekend. While I do the repetitions the same way, there is also the creation of courses. On Saturdays, I add about 150 new units to 7 Ukrainian courses, and on Sundays about 130 to 5 courses. In case of 4 courses I add new units by import, because I have sources to them in the form of ebooks, in other cases I enter materials unit by unit. I enter materials for all the Ukrainian courses using an additional external keyboard with Cyrillic script on it, and I provide all the Ukrainian words with phonetic recordings thanks to lcorp.ulif.org.ua/dictua/.
What advice would you give other users?
With intensive learning on SuperMemo and regularly taking a steady number of new units, the number of units to be repeated per day increases quite quickly. This is easily visible in the “Calendar” tab, under the estimated number of repetitions per day. With my number of courses in three months I should have 700 units per day. I’d never have time for that. That’s why I’m using a different method to deal with the increase in units.
Each course has a set number of new units, which for me is the maximum number of units of a given course, counting new and repeated units together. For example, if I have 20 new units set in the “Ukrainian-Polish Dictionary” course and I have 12 units to repeat on a given day, it means I repeat 8 new units. However, if I have 23 units to repeat, I repeat these 23 units and do not repeat any new units. In this way, in a year or so, I have more or less managed to maintain a constant number of units per day to be repeated, despite quite intensive learning.
What do you think is the secret of successful learning?
Being systematic, consistent and once again consistent. The rest is handled by the SuperMemo algorithm 🙂