Accelerated Learning


What is Accelerated Learning?

Accelerated Learning is a field of knowledge that concerns itself with improving the time efficiency of learning. It is made up of knowledge, understanding, techniques & tools.

Why Accelerate Learning?

Most teachers feel instinctively that if students spent twice as long working on their French or Spanish that they would perform considerably better.  It must then be equally true that if they doubled their learning efficiency, that they would achieve the same improvement in performance.

Therefore, the difference between an A grade student and a C grade student is not ultimately one of potential but of either time invested or the efficiency of the time invested.

The three macro components of language are vocabulary, grammar and phrases / idioms.  Just considering vocabulary for now – the GCSE curriculum is based around a 1500-2000 word vocabulary depending on the GCSE chosen.  The average student when taking the exam has a lemmetized vocabulary of 850 words*.  If we assume 5 years of language exposure, we come to about 960 school days.  Meaning that the net rate of progress of building vocabulary was just under 1 word per day represented by line A on the diagram above (we are aware that not every school day is a day on which a language is taught – but because schools give different periods of time to studying, it is simpler to use this more uniform measure of time available).

Why accelerate learning?

  • Results:  by improving the learning rate by 15% the average student mark would rise by not less than one grade. This can be easily achieved within a year.
  • Enthusiasm: it is demonstrably true in humans that the faster they improve the more enthusiasm and motivation they have for the subject.
  • Value: the greater the proficiency with a language the greater the value to the learner.  Learners are smart people. They will gravitate towards more useful and away from less useful.
  • Freedom: homework can be reduced, cramming can be eliminated, confidence strengthened, anxiety reduced.  Teacher creative freedom enhanced.  Relief of teacher anxiety by feeling they are constantly up against deadlines etc.

What does Accelerated Learning look like in a classroom?

This depends on to what extent you want learning accelerated.  Efficiency is a demanding mistress.  You have a thousand choices about how to get from London to Paris inefficiently and only a very small number for how to make that same journey with maximal efficiency.

For this article let’s examine what it might look like if your goal was only to improve learning rate by a modest 25% and you wanted to do so with minimal disruption to a classroom.  What options do you have?

  • If you varied the number of words in each vocabulary learning assignment learning rate would change.  If today you typically assign 10 new words and you altered that to be twice as frequent but only 5 words each time the net learning rate would improve.
  • If you changed the order in which words were acquired that would also improve learning rate
  • If you eliminated attempting to learn the Gender of French words and replaced that learning with learning just 7 rules you would not just improve learning rate by saving 10’s of hours of boring and repetitive and frustrating work but, in our experience, you would improve the percentage of words where the student got the gender right.

There are many, many techniques for accelerating language learning. Not all of them may suit your school. Fortunately, there are so many ways to accelerate learning that there will be plenty of techniques that are acceptable to any language department.  Some are simple and quick to apply and some take more effort and time and study.  The good news is that if your initial goals for improvement are modest, then your desired level of improvement can be made without any significant change to how things are done.** 

*Professor Milton, Swansea University, 2012

*We have not touched on grammar and idioms. There are techniques for those also, as there are techniques for generating fluency and improving listening ability.  We start by discussing vocabulary because not only is it the simplest aspect to quantify and understand but it is also, according to professor Milton of Swansea University, the best predictor of exam grades.




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