Language in Bloom

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The hand remembers

I’m not certain where I heard this expression first, but I seem to recall that it was a student whose mother used to say it to him all the time. Clearly, I needed to write down my source!

I used to think that this saying just applied to some people, and I would recommend writing notes and re-writing vocabulary words to my Spanish students if they asked for advice on how to study. But, according to this study by Pam A. Mueller and Daniel M. Oppenheimer (appearing in the journal Psychological Science), if you really want to remember something, you are almost always better off writing it down on paper than writing it on your laptop or some other electronic device. Mueller & Oppenheimer’s study shows that electronic note-taking results in “shallower processing.” You can read the details of this fascinating study at the link above.

In my French class last night I didn’t even consider using my laptop or iPad to take notes. It felt much more natural to use pen and paper, and I also felt more involved in the actual conversation than if I had been behind a screen. I plan on transferring those notes to an Evernote folder, since I do think that having notes in the cloud is extremely useful, especially if you want to search for notes by date or keyword. But the act of writing on paper will always be my first step in note-taking. If you’ve tried to study languages before and had trouble remembering what you were studying, try out some of these note-taking techniques compiled by Cornell University, including some good tools to evaluate your present note-taking skills (we can always improve, right?).

So take advantage of those back-to-school sales at office supply stores and get yourself a nice notebook and new pens and take some notes!studying

Written by

Tammy Bjelland
Language lover, teacher & coach.

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