Don't just learn. Overlearn.

If you're just reading each PhraseMix lesson, you're doing it wrong.

A story

I used to teach at an English conversation school in Japan. The students were mostly Japanese housewives and businessmen who came in two or three times a week.

There was one student who had been coming to the school for years: Mr. Haneda. He was an older man, very quiet and friendly. Most of the teachers like him, but we also dreaded having him in our class. That's because it took so long for Mr. Haneda to finish his sentences. He would start a sentence and then search for the words to finish his thoughts.

The funny thing about Mr. Haneda is that he had a huge vocabulary. Whenever I tried to introduce a new word to him, he already knew it. He could talk about a wide variety of topics, but just... very... very... slowly.

Shallow learning leads to poor fluency

I think that Mr. Haneda's problem came from learning too much.

What I mean by that is that Mr. Haneda's knowledge of English was very wide: he knew a lot of different words and grammar structures. However, his learning was shallow. He didn't take the time to learn each piece very deeply.

As a result, he always felt like he knew what to say. But it was hard for him to actually find the words quickly.

Four levels of learning

Imagine that you read a PhraseMix lesson and find a new phrase, like the recently introduced phrase "a viable alternative". You read the explanation and you feel like you understand it. "Great!" you think, "I've learned a new phrase!" You write it down in your note book and look at it again a few more times.

  1. Familiarity
    At this point, you have reached the level of familiarity with this phrase. That means that when you hear or read "a viable alternative" again, you'll think "Hey, I know that phrase..." Then you'll start to search through your memory for what it means.
  2. Recall
    What if you spent a little more time reviewing the phrase? You listened to the audio recording on repeat ten or fifteen times. You made sure to come back and review it again the next day. If you did all of this, you'd probably reach the level of recall. That means that, if you were in a conversation and needed this phrase, you'd be able to remember it, maybe with a little effort.
  3. Comfort
    Now imagine that you had a long conversation with someone in English about viable alternatives to fossil fuels. In the coversation, you used the phrase "a viable alternative" five or six times. The next day, you summarized the conversation to another English-speaking friend and used the phrase a few more times. A week later, you heard it again on the news. After all of this, you would reach the level of comfort with the phrase. You would be able to use it again later on without much trouble.
  4. Mastery
    There's one level beyond comfort. It's what happens when you learn to use a phrase automatically. Imagine a term that you use every day at work, or a saying that your parents taught you as a child. You know them so well that you can say them from memory without thinking about them. We can call this level mastery.

You need to overlearn to speak fluently

Mastering English requires not just learning, but overlearning — practicing a skill until it becomes automatic. To do that, you need to practice things that you learn over and over again.

Here's how you can use PhraseMix to master English:

  1. Read the lessons to learn new phrases. Try to imagine the situation clearly and try to understand what each phrase means.
  2. Listen to the audio to help you memorize each phrase. Use the "repeat" button to repeat the sentence again and again. Listen until you can say the full sentence on your own without listening to it. You might have to listen 20 or 30 times to really get it.

    If you don't have a PhraseMix Premium subscription, you can read the sentences out loud to yourself over and over instead. You can also supplement this practice by searching YouTube for videos which use the phrases you learn.
  3. Review and use the phrases to master them. If you're using English out in the real world, you'll start to notice phrases that you learn on PhraseMix in other situations.

    If you don't have as many chances to use English day-to-day, be sure to review phrases that you've learned regularly. In fact, you should probably spend 2/3 or more of your study time reviewing. 

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