15 Minutes to Learn A New Word?


Fifteen minutes. 15 minutes is all it takes. That’s fast, real fast, much faster than I ever imagined.

“In December 2010, researchers led by Dr. Yury Shtyrov, from the Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit (CBU) in Cambridge, found that after just 15 minutes of listening to a new word, the brain creates new networks of neurons to make up a long-term memory trace.


According to Shtyrov, “In the latest study, the researchers attached electrodes to the heads of 16 healthy volunteers and recorded electrical signals generated by their brains while they listened to 160 repetitions of new made-up words and familiar words.

Scientists analysed how the brain activity changed over a period of 14 minutes as the made-up word became more and more familiar. Brain activity in response to these new words increased until the new memory traces were virtually indistinguishable from the memory traces of an already familiar word.”

Dr Yury Shtyrov who led the study said “We now know that even a little practice can lead to changes in the brain and the formation of new brain ‘networks’ that help us to memorise words.”

There you have it. All you need is 15 minutes and 160 repetitions. With that formula your brain will make up a new network of neurons for long term memory.

To be honest, I think doing 160 repetitions in fifteen minutes is rather, tedious? Boring? Drudgery?

To conclude, Science is not to be laughed at. Galileo? Remember him? He said the Earth revolved around the Sun and nobody listened to him because everyone was in love with a different theory, namely, that the Sun revolved around the Earth.

So, I’m not being skeptical, not being cynical.

But if it’s all the same, I’d like to hang on a while longer to what Paul Nation had to say about what it means to “know” a word:

(Quote) “Words are not isolated units of language, but fit into many interlocking systems and levels. Because of this, there are many things to know about any particular word and there are many degrees of knowing” (Nation 2001:23).

Nation, I.S.P. (2001) Learning vocabulary in another language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

About profesorbaker

Thomas Baker is the Past-President of TESOL Chile (2010-2011). He enjoys writing about a wide variety of topics. The source and inspiration for his writing comes from his family.
This entry was posted in Education, Education Technology, EFL, Teaching Tips, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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