Neuroscience is on the cutting edge of how learning changes the physical structures of your brain. One brain imaging study found that London taxi drivers have a larger hippocampus than London bus drivers. Why? The hippocampus specializes in using complex spatial information to help us navigate around our world. Taxi drivers have to navigate around London and take novel routes, while bus drivers follow a limited set of routes.
It’s the same for the brains of musicians as opposed to non-musicians. Parts of the cortex were biggest in professional musicians, moderately bigger in amateur musicians, and smallest in the brains of non-musicians.
What about people who are bilingual? Imaging studies show that the brains of bilinguals are different from those people who are monolingual. The brain changes so that the inferior parietal cortex is larger in bilingual brains. You can actually enlarge parts of your brain and change its structure simply by learning a new language.
1. The Testing Effect
2. Regular Feedback
Jalup uses all of them.
1. The Testing Effect
Modern research shows that frequent, small tests make you work to recall information you have recently learned. Every time you challenge yourself with these regular tests you help to plant these bits of information into your long-term memory. These tests solidify the initial learning and expand it.
Jalup and the Testing Effect
Jalup’s whole system is a system of tiny tests. Every learning system that uses flash cards is a testing system. Yes, this is an ancient method, but it’s still used because it works. What makes Jalup work even better than old-fashioned flashcards is the second strategy:
2. Regular Feedback
It’s not enough to do flashcards and find out if you are correct or incorrect. Great feedback involves constructive criticism and praise. No one likes criticism. We get something wrong and we feel stressed. But that moderate stress is what stimulates our memory. We learn more from our mistakes than from our successes. Where does praise fit in? When we get it right, we need to experience a reward. Knowing we are right gives us a shot of dopamine, which also boosts our memory.
Jalup and Regular Feedback
I know right away when I get something wrong in Jalup. I play the audio and click the links over and over until I get it right consistently. When I get it right and bring my review numbers down, I’m treated to those little Jalup cheerleaders, the cat, the alien or the dragon. (I’m hooked on that cute little cat.)
I also get a thrill when I see the yellow outline and know I’ve reached another milestone in getting my reviews down. I enjoy seeing my level go up and my experience points increase. My exercise guy gets stronger. The feedback in Jalup is constant with both praise and correction.
According to research studies, repeatedly learning and recalling information over an extended time span makes you retain the information longer. If you cram in one day, you can remember it enough for a test, but then you quickly forget what you learned. Spacing consolidates and refreshes your memory.
Jalup and Spacing
I don’t know how the Jalup spacing program works, but my cards seem to appear just as I’m on the verge of forgetting them. I still have to work at the cards I haven’t seen in a long time. That work and concentration means I will remember the sentence longer next time.
This is a learning approach that is an alternative to “blocking”. Blocking is when you practice one skill or topic at a time. Interleaving is when you practice many related skills in the same session. In school I learned French (or rather, didn’t learn it very well) through mostly blocking techniques.
I memorized verb conjugations and grammatical rules. It wasn’t conducive to speaking. Who rummages through their brain for verb conjugations when trying to describe what they saw in Paris yesterday?
Jalup and Interleaving
Jalup teaches you several things simultaneously. You learn kana, pronunciation, kanji, grammar, vocabulary and sentence structure with increasing complexity. At one point I thought I needed to know some of the rules of grammar, so I bought a Japanese language textbook. I’ve looked at it 4 times in the past 4 months (too boring). Just as children learn the grammar rules of their native language by hearing it and internalizing those rules, students learn with Jalup by hearing and reading sentences with varying configurations.
Reassuring myself about studying with Jalup
I like to know that how and what I’m studying is going to actually be effective, with proven results to back up promises. The next time I whine about how it takes so much thinking to use Jalup, I’ll remember how and why it’s good for me. That built-in difficulty is the reason I’ve begun to think and talk to myself in Japanese, making up sentences that are nowhere to be found on Jalup. Now that’s fun!
Slow and steady Japanese learner – taking it one small step at a time.