Repetition is a fundamental part of successful language learning. Until you hear or read the same vocabulary or structures again and again enough times within meaningful contexts, they just won’t commit to long-term, procedural memory no matter how much you may want to remember.

A love for repetition is perhaps one of the biggest advantages children have when learning their first language. I am simply amazed how my nephews can watch the same Sesame Street video or read the same Dr. Seuss book a zillion times without getting bored. We adults aren’t quite so patient. We tend to view such repetition as punishment, not pleasure.

Fortunately, there are two ways to eat our “repetition cake” without having to eat the “boredom broccoli”:

Narrow reading and narrow listening, popularized by Dr. Stephen Krashen, involve consuming a variety of materials on the same, “narrow” topic. This way you will be re-exposed to much of the same vocabulary and patterns in a meaningful and interesting way without having to read or listen to the exact same piece again and again. For more from Krashen, check out our interview:

Interview with Stephen Krashen: Linguist, Researcher & Education Activist

A great way to apply narrow listening and reading, while also getting some speaking practice to boot, is to interview a number of people using the same predefined questions. Though answers and opinions will certainly vary (and thus increase how interesting the content will be to later review), you will inevitably come across many of the same terms and language structures. If you don’t have friends or teachers to interview from the target language community, just find some via iTalki, or any of the other myriad online language communities.

See also my article about spaced repetition:

Spaced Repetition: What is It? Why & How Should You Use It?

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