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3 Reasons Not to Study Too Many Words per Day

You may have seen people posting videos on YouTube saying that they learned a language in seven days or learned to speak a new language fluently after 30 days. As you can probably guess, these videos are just clickbait and they are not true.

No, you can't learn a language in seven days

What we know from memory science is that the process of learning a language—from zero to solid speaking skills—takes at least three months if you really want to feel confident in the language. And even that’s pushing the envelope because let's be honest: learning a new language is not just memorizing a bunch of new words. ☝️

It is, among other things, a biological process that requires your memory to make the necessary changes that form the language in your brain. This takes real time—certainly more than seven or 30 days.

But such irrational clickbait works because it speaks to our inner values. We always want to be better, faster, and smarter than everybody else.

And from a language-learning perspective, this translates to, "If I learn 100 words per day, I will know 1,000 words in ten days." But in reality, this is a destructive way to go about learning anything. Believe me, I have helped thousands of people reach their language-learning goals; such a superhero approach has never worked. 😉

Slow and steady always wins the race

What we see from years of research and learners' data is that people who learn a little bit every single day in a steady rhythm will outperform the "heavy-hitters" (i.e., those who study for many hours a few times per week, but then drop off) by far! 😎

The story about the tortoise and the hare applies to everything, language-learning included.

💥 So, for today's study tip, I'm here to let you know that the key to language-learning success is to consistently learn a little bit every single day! And here are three reasons that will help you understand why. 💥

Reason 1: Be gentle with your memory

As mentioned above, learning a language is not only "memorizing" a bunch of new knowledge. It's also a biological process in which your body and brain need time to adjust. And each day, your memory can only work as quickly as this process. 👌

Also, what people usually don't understand is that most of the "learning" actually happens after you have ended your daily learning sessions. It's during rest and sleep that your brain organizes the new content that you’d acquired that day. And if there is too much new content to process, it won’t be very efficient.

So, be gentle with your memory. While learning with Speakly, learn about ten new words per day. Based on years of research, this has proven to be the most balanced approach.

Reason 2: You don't need motivation, you need a habit

Many people start to learn a language at the beginning of the year because of their New Year's resolutions. But 99% of them drop off. What goes wrong?

Research shows that these people have one thing in common: they were unsuccessful in forming a new habit and therefore failed to achieve consistency in their language studies.

How can you form a habit? It's actually fairly simple. You just need to set an intention every day for 14 to 33 days (the results of scientific research papers differ that much because it also depends on the person).

When you do that, it's not a question of "having" or "not having" motivation. If you have a formed habit, following it becomes automatic and you won't need to force yourself. 👌

Referring to the previous point, that's also why it's important to study a little bit (i.e., five or ten words with Speakly) daily because it's easier to keep this up consistently. After you have reached the magic number of days when your habit is formed, it becomes second nature. 🚀

Reason 3: You can't force your memory to do something it doesn't want to do

This may sound a little strange. How can't you control your own memory? It's your own memory, for crying out loud! You should be able to control it, right? Well, research shows that this isn’t the case at all. If your body and brain decide to take over (yes, in fact, they can independently decide for you), you won't have the ability to veto it.

Okay, but how does this relate to daily language-learning? Daily, we see learners who start with a massive pace of learning 30 words per day, but for "some reason," they "lose their motivation"—that's how they describe it—within a few days and will then experience an extended study hiatus.

Even though it may seem like people stop studying due to a lack of motivation, the research says that if you overheat your memory with too much new information, your brain will need time to process it all. This leads your brain to take control and steer you away from learning new stuff, to prevent it from overheating further. Mind-blowing, isn't it? 🤯

💥 So, respect your memory and don't overheat it. Consistent study will always lead you to better results. 💥

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Sophia Truman
Sophia Truman
Dec 11, 2022

This makes a lot of sense.

I've experienced the "shut down" when I was studying Spanish a few years ago.

I spent a minimum of three hours each day, six days a week cramming as much as I could. Suddenly, I couldn't bring myself to study. As hard as I tried to keep up the self-imposed pace, I had to take a break.

I took a day off, which led to a few weeks off and then I had to review what I had already covered before I could continue.

I was still very motivated, but my brain wasn't cooperating. Now I know why.

Although I finally became conversational in Spanish, it was a hard journey that took almost two…


Daniel Frost
Daniel Frost
Mar 17, 2021

An interesting viewpoint however, I believe people, like myself, drop off from language learning because we are not getting results quick enough. The slow and steady wins the race doesn't achieve that result. I haven't got time for slow and steady and that is why I pay for something, because I want it now. Every single app seems to claim something new, but they are all just a re-hash of each other...when is anyone going to come out with someone that achieves significant results fast??

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