Tuesday, February 07, 2006

utilitarianism of the mind

This is something I'd like to look into more, but the principle is this: put the stuff you use most often closest to the front, somewhere where you can find it. The brain puts value onto things based on how often it thinks it's going to need it. If you just memorize a list of words and the brain suspects it's not going to use the memory, the words will go into a back file and disappear in a few days. If, however, you call one of the words up every couple of hours, or days, it will receive "value" and be stored closer to the front, in a more accessible place. Your brain in essence is saying, "I'll probably need this again soon."

The secret of language learning is learning how to control this system effectively. What I call "volume theory" is based on relatively obvious principles: Students should use language as much as possible; that language should be accessible, so that they have a reasonable chance of beating it (Krashen has said this in so many words), and, words should be recycled if at all possible.

Grammatical points are learned "at the point of need," - I'm quoting a Marie Nelson book, the reference of which is somewhere on this page, but this is a utilitarianist idea. More on this later.



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