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Learning how to use Chunking for ease of remembering

Which ordering of letters do you think is easier to memorise: “orhezo esn rinyg bivt”, or “snoozing by the river”? You would probably find the latter much easier to remember, though both contain the exact same letters. 

This is because you are already familiar with the constituent parts. 

You’ve already memorised the correct spelling of each word and their order fits comfortably in the patterns of language you find intuitive (it is grammatical).

This idea of already-learned aspects of language is a concept referred to as “chunks” or “chunking”.

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Known aspects of language constitute chunks which don’t require effort for you to comprehend or use. 

These known chunks are an aide that will help teach you how the new word or piece of grammar is used.

It’s far easier to learn something new when other aspects you are presented with at the same time are already easily understandable. 

For example, learning the meaning and usage of a new word in an example sentence will be much easier if you already know all the other words, just like how it is much easier to remember all those letters once they are organised into words. 

Grammar will be easier to memorise if one concept is presented to you using words you already know. The additional context provided by known chunks will assist you in understanding the new part and you will learn faster overall.

Once you learn something, it becomes a new chunk to help provide context for learning new concepts.

Building new chunks is difficult and takes focused effort. The core insight of this idea is that it is almost impossible to learn a lot of new chunks of language at once. 

Learning using a text or example sentences chock full of new grammatical constructions and words might seem like a really efficient way of learning, but there will be no familiar connections or context to aid understanding, and your learning will actually be slower. 

Recollection will be particularly hard, akin to recalling random letters in order. Focusing on learning a single aspect at a time allows you to build new chunks easily while minimising the chance of forgetting.

This principle does not mean “don’t try to learn quickly”. 

It means that when you learn a new word or grammatical construction, you will learn it much faster if it is presented to you in the context of other chunks of language that are already familiar to you. 

If you are learning something difficult, learn that difficult thing in context of already known things and rely on that context and knowledge to help you learn. 

The texts you use to learn should already be mostly comprehensible, and learning words or grammar is best done with understandable context, either in text or with example sentences for your flashcards.

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