Discussions about when best to learn – in the morning, in the evening, or maybe at night, have been going on for many years. However, the technological revolution that has taken place in recent years, also in education, has made the question of the best time to study extremely topical. The flourishing of self-education freed it from the rigid shackles of lesson plans and schedules, forcing us to make plans of our own.
When is the best time to learn a foreign language?
We usually have time for learning – assuming we’re not going to school – either in the morning, or after we’ve completed our duties. Which moment of the day is best to choose: early morning, late afternoon or in the evening?Which is the best time to learn a language? The answer is: it depends. Mainly, this depends on what we want to do with the language. More precisely, it depends on the following factors:
whether we’re learning new words, structures or grammar skills,
or not so much learning as repeating, consolidating or connecting new information with things we already know.
In other words – does it involve learning new linguistic material, or are we repeating material that has already been learned.
It’s better to spend the morning hours on the first kind of learning, so it’s a good time to learn new vocabulary. The afternoon hours, on the other hand, work better for consolidating the knowledge acquired in the morning.
The two best periods in the day for learning
Brain research has shown that, regardless of the rhythm of our internal biological clock, there are two intellectual peaks, moments where we learn best . The first is in the morning, roughly between 6:00 am and 1:30 pm. The second one is between the afternoon and evening hours and starts around 3:30 PM and lasts until 9:00 pm or 10:00 pm.
So, as you can see, it cannot be stated unequivocally that it is better to study in the morning or in the evening. Both learning at dawn and dusk have their advantages. Let’s look at the benefits of learning languages in these two periods.
When is the best time to learn new words?
Learning new language material is much faster when it’s done creatively and inventively, rather than relying only on long-term, mechanical repetitions.
In acquiring new material it is good to use modern methods of learning, such as:
multisensory memory techniques
diagrams and visualisations showing connections within the material
Our working memory (formerly called short-term memory) is responsible for these actions. And working memory works best during our morning mental peak, which is from the early morning hours to around 1.30 pm. That is why it is best to learn new words in the morning , regardless of whether we belong to the group of night owls, or to the band of early risers.
When is the best time to repeat material?
On the other hand, during the afternoon peak between 3:30 pm and 10:00 pm, long-term memory works best. This is the best time to do repetitive, routine or similar things. In the case of language, late afternoon and evening is the perfect time to revise and consolidate memory.
However, for effective learning, not only is when best to learn important, but it is also important to choose the right learning method and, in the case of consolidation, the appropriate repetition methods.
When using SuperMemo courses, we have the method of spaced repetitions at our disposal, which, based on the work of the algorithm, selects a particular time and frequency of repetition for each student. So it is the program that tells us when to learn best, and at what intervals to sit down for revision. Remember, however, that no algorithm will do the job for us, and the key to success is systematic learning.
To summarise what we now know about the best time to learn languages (and not only)
during the morning peak (between 6:00 am and 1:30 pm) we should learn new material, new vocabulary, using the increased efficiency of working memory,
during the afternoon peak (between 3:30 pm and 10:00 pm) we should consolidate the material we learned in the morning, fixing it in our memories.
This approach to learning is effective simply because it uses the natural mechanism that is given to us – better working memory in the morning and better long-term memory in the afternoon.
Should everyone study at the same time?
In a way, yes, because the daily intellectual highs and lows are independent of our chronotype, which determines individual inclinations towards a morning or evening lifestyle. Fortunately, whether we are night owls or early risers is not given to us once and for all, for the rest of our lives. These preferences change with the stages of our lives, and you can make the effort to reprogram yourself from night to morning mode so you can learn at the best times for it, both in the morning and during the evening peak.
When is the best time to learn a language with SuperMemo?
Working with SuperMemo is divided into 3 phases:learning – and so, learning new material, which is presented in the form of multimedia materials and then divided into small parts and competences (“chunks”), which are easier to remember;repetition – at this stage, the program repeats those words, phrases and parts of the language material with us that are on the verge of being forgotten. Thanks to this, we stop this process and instead strengthen the connections to this information in our memory;drills – which means working in-depth with those parts of the material that were difficult for us during the stages of learning and repeating.
After turning on SuperMemo, repetitions are automatically shown as the first task. Knowing now when it’s best to learn, it’s easy to see that if we start working with SuperMemo in the morning, we will not be using our working memory most effectively. This is because we will be repeating material instead of learning new elements of the language in a creative way.
What should we do about this?
The easiest solution is to change the order of work with SuperMemo, regardless of whether we are working on a computer, online or on a smartphone. This is the ideal solution if we want to take full advantage of what we know about the best time to learn and effectively use the capabilities of our memory.