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October 2015

Using Scenarios and Self-Testing to Remember What You Learned

Increase comprehension by using these two learning techniques

Rote memorization is the bane of all learning; it is tiresome, boring, and not very effective. It is the method some of us choose to take by default, memorizing facts by reading and rereading them over and over. It is simply a dull method to remember what one has learned. Today we’ll take a look at two better alternatives to aid memorisation that will kick the rote to the road.


A good method for learning is via self-testing. Self-testing can include the use of educational quizzes or even flashcards. The underlying purpose of self-testing is to take you out of the cycle of reading and rereading material from the textbook. Even better, self-testing offers you the chance to make mistakes, which, as we have mentioned previously, can aid in the process of remembering things. Self-testing also helps uncover any weaknesses one might have in the learning process.

A very simple and practical way to administer self-testing includes translation exercises. Think about your day-to-day life as it is. What are some of the phrases you most often use? Perhaps you order coffee several times a day, or perhaps you enjoy speaking with friends about sports. Think about the sentences and write them on a sheet of paper. Now, go through each one and translate them into your target language. This is a useful way to test your abilities, as you are translating phrases you most likely will use.

Hypothetical Situations

Once you’ve learned a new set of words, phrases, or a new grammatical construction, close both the textbook and your eyes. Take yourself out of your study space and into the outside world. Imagine you are in the country of your target language, walking down the streets, hearing the passers-by speaking, and seeing the many sights you have read about. You sit down at a cafe and the waiter approaches you. He asks what you would like to order in your target language. Imagine how many different ways he could phrase this. Now, think about what you would like to order, and formulate the various ways you could make said request. Now, imagine an attractive person sits down next to you and begins conversing with you. What does he or she ask, and how would you respond?

Let your imagination take you down the road of hypothetical situations, and you take your language learning out of the textbook and into the world. Granted, it’s not the real world of quick-talking people and confusing accents, but it’s still a more effective way to use new knowledge practically rather than scholastically. As your language skills improve, imagine more complex discussions (on politics, etc.) and more defined scenarios (ordering a new suit, getting a haircut, etc.). Before you know it, you’ll be talking up a storm inside your own mind.

What are some ways you test yourself in your target language? Where would you like to go in a hypothetical situation? Let us know on our Facebook page and be sure to “like” TELC English for more insightful articles on cultures and languages from around the world!