Spaced Repetition to Master European Portuguese Vocabulary

What’s the Best Way to Remember What You Learn?

In school, I’m sure many of you stayed up late the night before a test, cramming all of the “learning” into one marathon study session. Maybe you got a good grade, but how much of the material were you able to remember a week later? Probably not much!

Without adding some kind of repetition to your learning, memories quickly fade. However, if you try to repeat too much at once, your brain gets overloaded or bored.

This article will explain how the method of spaced repetition can help you learn Portuguese more efficiently.

How Do We Hold Onto Memories Longer?

What’s too much? What’s too little? How often should you review?

Let’s say you’re trying to learn the word cão dog. You sit down and review it 50 times in a row: cão, cão, cão, cão, cão… This is very easy for your brain. You just saw the word a second ago, so there’s no effort involved in continuing to recall it.

Now, imagine you only review it once or twice, then you don’t see it again until the next day. Your brain now has to work harder to find this memory amongst millions of other pieces of information it ingested over the past 24 hours. “What was that word…? I know it started with a c… Oh yeah! Cão!” Making the process more deliberate is what helps to store long-term memories.

The best time to review something is actually right before you are about to forget it. This tells your brain, “Hey, don’t lose that! It’s important!” You train your brain to retain this piece of data, instead of discarding it. Over time, this strengthens the neural pathways that keep information ingrained in your memory and easily accessible.

These ideas are all part of an effective method called spaced repetition. This learning strategy involves reviewing regularly across gradually increasing intervals, which adjust based on your performance on each individual piece of information. You review the things you find more difficult more often, and the things you already know pretty well, less often. The time in between grows longer and longer each time you successfully recall something.

Work Smarter, Not Harder

Knowing a language is one thing, but being able to use it spontaneously in conversation is another. This is where quick recall plays an important role. Studies show that you need to know about 10,000 words to be considered fluent in a language. You couldn’t possibly practice 10,000 words per day, or even 500! This is why consistent practice over the long-term is essential. Spaced repetition helps make that process more efficient and less ambiguous. Who doesn’t want to learn more with less time and effort?

Applying Spaced Repetition to Your Portuguese Learning

Trying to use this Spaced Repetition technique to learn Portuguese on your own can be quite complex. That’s why we’ve used these principles to design a new tool called Smart Review (because “Magic Sticky Long-Term Memory Machine” was too long!) Our goal is to strengthen and speed up the connection between your memories and your mouth, so to speak. (Pun definitely intended.)

There are two different options for reviewing:

1. Flash Card Mode

Flash Card Mode is the recommended way to review because it gives you the challenge of producing Portuguese on your own with no hints or structure. You are forced to recall and/or formulate a sentence, instead of just recognizing the right answer. Here’s how it works:

  • See the phrase in English
  • Translate it out loud (or in your head) to Portuguese
  • Flip the card
  • Mark yourself right or wrong

Try it out

2. Quiz Mode

If you’re not quite ready for the no support, self-guided approach, we also have Quiz Mode which includes many of the question types from the lessons. We removed some of the easier question types, since at this stage you are reviewing, rather than learning for the first time.

Try it out

How Does It Work?

We keep track of every phrase you’ve learned in the Units and automatically determine the ideal intervals and frequency, to help you gradually commit these phrases to your long-term memory.

Instead of having to go back through each lesson on your own (which many members have been doing), you can keep all of this vocabulary fresh in your memory by doing Smart Review on a regular basis. Our spaced repetition system takes care of the details behind the scenes so that you can focus on having fun learning European Portuguese.

However, we decided to give you some control too, as we know everybody likes to learn a little bit differently.

Manage Phrases

Inside the Manage Phrases page, you can tweak your phrases to influence when and how often they appear in your Smart Review tool. Right now, every phrase you’ve started learning already belongs to one of these following levels:

  • New Phrases: After learning new phrases in the Units, they will show up in your Smart Review within 24 hours. Once you’ve successfully reviewed them a few more times, they will enter your Short-Term Memory.
  • Short-Term Memory: After successfully reviewing these phrases over the course of a few weeks, they graduate into your Long-Term Memory.
  • Long-Term Memory: These will appear for you to review a few more times over the course of a year. If you continue to successfully recall them, they will become Mastered.
  • Mastered: By the time a word or phrase reaches this stage, you should be able to recall it easily, even if it’s been a long time since you last reviewed it.
  • Removed: You may find that certain phrases aren’t useful or relevant to you right now. You can move phrases to this category to remove them from Smart Review.

As you continue to review over the long-term, your phrases will gradually (and automatically) move up through these categories until they are mastered. But you are free to make these changes manually if you feel a phrase is in the wrong category. Plus, if there are specific phrases in the list you’d like to practice right now, selecting at least 4 will allow you to start your own Custom Review.

Give It A Try!

In short, Smart Review helps you keep your hard-earned skills from fading. We hope you find a good place for spaced repetition in your European Portuguese tool belt, along with our other content and your real-life experiences. If you’re already a logged-in member, you can use these link to access it:

(When you have phrases to review, a button will show up inside your Units page, as well as inside the “Learn” menu)


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