Should I Have Marathon Learning Sessions?
Are marathon learning sessions, or cramming sessions, bad? Common wisdom dictates that you should do a little bit of learning every day, which is not bad advice. It also tends to say that you should avoid marathon learning sessions, and that doing an hours’ worth of work a day is better than doing several marathon learning sessions. This isn’t so great as advice goes.
The Benefits of Learning a Little, Very Often
It’s consistent, and you train your brain to expect to have some work to do. Your memory retention will be better until things are lodged in your long term memory. It fits in to every day life without making any changes to your schedule. It excuses slow progress, and is well within the bounds of ‘do-ability.’
The benefits of Marathon Learning Sessions
In a marathon learning session, you will learn a lot more in a shorter period. Say you’ll dedicate Sunday to memorising vocabulary, and you spend five hours or so. With a good mnemonics system, you’ll be able to learn a hundred words or so in a day. With a good revision system, you’ll be able to retain all of those words. When you compare that to the ten to twenty words you’ll learn in an ordinary vocabulary session, you realize for every day you do a marathon session, you get a whole week’s worth of work.
It’s better for inspiration. Let’s face it, we all have slumps in our learning, where we feel we’re making no progress. Even with good goal setting strategies, the actual day-to-day learning is uninspiring when we don’t make progress quickly enough. With a marathon learning session, that problem is solved. One session, loads of progress. Whether it’s memorising some tenses or increasing your vocabulary by a hundred words, successfully pulling off a marathon learning session is a great thing.
It also helps build obsession, which despite what some people say, is not always a bad thing.
Despite what people say, there is nothing about spending a long time on something at irregular intervals which will mean it’s never going to stick in your memory. People will say “If you do it once for three hours, you won’t remember any of it.” It implies we’re kind of goldfish creatures with no memory capacity. Some people might be, but it’s unlikely. How many days of silence would it take for you to forget English? Did you only learn your first language thirty minutes at a time, or were you surrounded by it?
When you learned how to ride a bicycle, was it ten minutes a day, or did your parents take you out on a Sunday morning for a few hours for a couple of weeks until you permanently burned it into your CNS?
Marathon learning sessions have their place in language learning.