John Biesnecker of WooChinese (and ChinesePod) had an interesting post on a learning method he calls “Experience Repetition” (I’m not a big fan of the name). Experience Repetition is focused on actively communicating, not passively doing drills like SRS repetitions. It boils down to setting up and repeating real life experiences to practice Chinese (or any other language). I see it as a combination of experiential learning and spaced repetition.
The devil’s in the details
In the comments, I asked how someone could go about creating experience repetitions. I decided to answer my question here. First the caveat: it is extremely difficult to try experience repetition without a teacher or tutor. As someone just starting out (and even if you’re an advanced learner), you won’t have the knowledge you need to set up the experience repetition effectively. If you had enough knowledge to set it up, you wouldn’t need to practice it!
In another post that touches on experience repetition, John B. sets up the argument that you should learn what’s right in front of you. In that case, experience repetition would consist of working with a tutor/teacher/friend to understand what words and phrases come up in your daily activities. Then you learn those words and phrases with the goal of making each activity go smoother and deeper.
We do this all the time without realizing it, but by setting up the experience repetition, you will potentially learn more and have add more depth to your interactions. Let’s take meeting someone as an example again, if you worked with a teacher on setting up an experience rep, you might learn some other concepts besides just saying hello. You’ll learn phrases for asking and describing where you’re from, what you do, and describe yourself. It’s not essential to get the whole experience correct the first time. You’ll get better the more you do it.
It’s quite different from textbooks where they try to separate and teach each different parts of an experience once. Experience repetition gives you a fuller framework for communicating and makes you do it over and over again. You might not be able to recreate a whole experience the first time, but by having an understanding of how the experience could play out, you’re less likely to get stuck when the person you met asks you where you’re from.
A good idea worth trying
Experience repetition is an interesting concept. It’s counterintuitive in some ways: why should you should prepare yourself for a situation you encounter every day? But there are numerous advantages to such a strategy. Like SRS, experience repetition is not a complete solution to learning a language. It’s a tool in your arsenal. But a potentially powerful tool. Experience repetition is a relatively new concept, and like any new idea, there are still some unanswered questions. Here are some of mine: Does this work best for beginners? Intermediate learners? Advanced learners? How do you keep interactions fresh and interesting? I hope as more people try it out, we’ll get a better understanding of when and how one can best use this method.
Have you ever tried anything like experience learning? Tell me more about it in the comments.