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Teachers tell you what to learn, IDYLL shows you how to learn it

Dr Klaus Bung
68 Brantfell Road
Blackburn BB1-8DL

© 1972 and 2010 Klaus Bung


Klaus Bung
What is the best time of day to devote to language learning, e.g. new vocabulary?

  • This depends on what kind of learning you have to do; e.g.
  • Do you have a write an essay, a translation or a letter?
  • Do you want to do a grammatical exercise from a book?
  • Do you want to listen to recordings?
  • Do you want to practise conversation by phone or in a group?

We answer this question in terms of learning and revising new vocabulary, where memory skills are needed.

Different times of day offer different advantages and disadvantages.

First thing in the morning


  • Your mind is still fresh and you are calm.
  • Whatever you learnt before going to bed is still fresh in your memory. Now is the time to anchor it more securely im your memory, extend your memory span (learning intensity).

Last thing at night
(immediately before going to sleep).


  • Whatever you store in your memory immediately before going to sleep is not likely to be pushed out by new impressions, other information. It has between six and eight hours to settle in your mind without being disturbed. This will increase your learning intensity (memory span).
  • If you revise the same material immediately after getting up, the chances are that you will find 90% retention: most of your answers will be correct, you will experience success, be happy and motivated to spend more time studying.


  • You may be tired and exhausted.

I believe the benefits of learning last thing at night outweigh the disadvantage. The experience of success the following morning will be so great and so exhilarating that it is worthwhile to use your will power to overcome your tiredness and exhaustion.

Try to settle down to learning a bit earlier when you are less tired.

I therefore recommend that you do a session of "initial learning" in the evening, followed by the absolutely essential revision first thing in the morning.

If you fail to revise in the morning, the effort made in the evening will be largely wasted. If you do initial learning in the evening and then do your first revision the next evening (instead of in the morning following initial learning), you are not likely to achieve our prescribed success rate of 90%.

Any other time of the day

  • Any other time of the day is good for a quick revision of 15 minutes or so, e.g. your lunch-break.
  • The important thing is to observe the prescribed revision intervals as closely as possible. The prescribed intervals lead to a retention rate of 90%. This target saves time and is highly motivating. Lower targets waste more time and are less motivating and are therefore not recommended.
  • The more you deviate from the prescribed intervals and the associated special revision rules, the lower your retention (your success rate) will be. A low success rate will destroy the pleasure of learning and will induce you to study less and less, and turn you into an unsuccessful and average learner.

These principles apply not only to vocabulary learning but also to other learning activities, but to a less noticeable extent.

Teachers tell you what to learn, IDYLL shows you how to learn it