Spaced Repetition and Language Learning

We all forget. That is what makes us human. But how do we remember when we are about to forget something? That is where spaced repetition comes into play.

Spaced repetition learning is really quite simple. The newer or more difficult a flashcard is for you to remember, the more frequently it is shown to you. So, let’s say you are learning Japanese. If you are having a more difficult time remembering how to pronounce よろしくお願いします rather than こんにちは, you will see flashcards asking you to speak よろしくお願いします sooner and more often than こんにちは. It is that simple!

Of course, the science behind determining exactly when to show you your flashcards, such as forgetting curves and the Leitner system, is a bit more complicated. But you don’t need to worry about that because we at nunci take care of it for you!

The Basics

When you use nunci, you only need to worry about telling us how difficult it was for you to recall any given flashcard. When you are finished answering a flashcard in nunci, you will be asked to rate how difficult it was for you to recall the answer. Take the following examples below:


Figure 1:

Difficultly ratings in nunci when answering a new flashcard


Figure 2:

Difficultly ratings in nunci when answering an older flashcard


Each rating has an emotion associated with it (usually 😞, 😕, 🙂, 😄, 👍, or 👎). When choosing a rating, you should pick the choice that most closely matches the difficulty you experienced when answering the flashcard. For example, if you recalled the answer with no problem, you could perhaps choose the 😄 option. At the other extreme, if you could not recall any piece of the answer, you might want to choose the 😞 option. Imagine you are at a doctor’s office, pointing to a pain chart with the attempt of telling the doctor how much something hurts. This is similar, only it’s much more fun!

Two exceptions to the emotion rule are the “too easy” and “too difficult” buttons, as seen in Figure 1. The “too difficult” (↩️) button on the far left lets nunci know that you completely failed a card and need to show it again within the same study session. The “too easy” (🚀) button on the far right lets nunci know that the flashcard was too easy and you don’t want to see it so frequently.

Each option also specifies the time interval of when you will next see the flashcard. In Figure 2, if you choose the 😄 option, you won’t see the flashcard again until one month from the current date. If you choose the 😞 option, you will see it again in 10 minutes.

These options and time intervals are not fixed. Depending on how many times you have answered a flashcard correctly or incorrectly, the options and their time intervals will change. nunci uses a modified version of the SuperMemo algorithm. If you are interested in learning more, check it out :)

Advanced Topics

If you just want to be able to use nunci to help you generally remember your language better, you don’t need to continue reading. However, if you’re interested in learning exactly how nunci works and how to customize nunci to better fit your personal schedule, keep on reading!

Learning, Review, and Relearning Flashcards

When you create a note, nunci automatically generates multiple flashcards for you based on your single note. When you first study these flashcards, this is called Learning. After you study and successfully answer them a few times, they become Review flashcards. If you completely blank on a Review flashcard, it becomes a Relearning flashcard. Any given flashcard has different characteristics depending on if it is currently Learning, Review, or Relearning.

Learning flashcards are simple. They follow a fixed set of time intervals (defaulting at 10 minutes, 1 hour, and then 6 hours). When answering a Learning flashcard, you only have four options, as seen in Figure 1. If you answer a flashcard incorrectly (and therefore choose the 👎 option), your flashcard will reset to the first time interval (defaulting at 10 minutes). If you answer a flashcard correctly (and therefore choose the 👍 option), your flashcard will be shown at the next time interval (defaulting at 1 hour, then 6 hours, and so on). In order to move from a Learning flashcard to a Review flashcard, you must answer the flashcard correctly at each of the time intervals. After that, you will see the flashcard again after another time interval called the Graduating Time Interval (defaulting at 1 day), at which point it is now officially a Review flashcard. The “Again” or “too difficult” button (↩️) keeps the card in Learning, but moves the card to the end of your current study session, to be answered again later. The “too easy” button (🚀) immediately graduates the Learning flashcard to a Review flashcard, and sets the interval to the specified time.

Review flashcards are a little more nuanced. This is where our modified version of the SuperMemo algorithm comes in. The time intervals are not fixed, but rather determined by our algorithm. When answering a Review flashcard, you have four options. Let’s go through the options, from left to right. Selecting the first 😞 option, tells nunci that you had no clue how to answer a flashcard. This demotes the Review flashcard to a Relearning flashcard, which is almost identical to a learning flashcard. Selecting the 😕 and 🙂 options tells nunci that you recalled the answer, but might have had a lot or a little difficult, respectively. Selecting the last 😄 option tells nunci that you had no trouble at all when recalling the answer.

Relearning flashcards are identical to Learning flashcards, except that nunci remembers how you have studied the flashcard in the past. You still need to pass through all of the same time intervals as a Learning flashcard. However, once to move back to Review, you won’t see the flashcard as often as a new Review flashcard. So, completely forgetting a Review flashcard does not reset the card back to step 0.

Customization

Although the science of forgetting can be applied widely to every person on the planet, we are all a bit different in our memory and forgetting. This is why nunci gives you the ability to customize various aspects of our algorithm. Check out the settings under the Study section. There you will find options to configure everything we mentioned above and more :)


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