Educational flashcards are deceptively powerful. They might seem pretty simple, but when used correctly, they promote something in the brain called active recall – the process of retrieving memories. It involves regularly testing yourself throughout revision so that your brain retains the information.
So, do flashcards help with language learning? Yes, they do! Flashcards are actually one of the best ways to go about learning anything, new languages included.
The brain’s neuroplasticity is highest in the early years. Most child prodigies in music, for example, started playing under the age of 10. Learning a new language will be far easier during these formative years than starting from scratch as an adult. You can take advantage of this educational prime time with your kids by using effective devices like flashcards to start learning.
Read on as we explore the ways flashcards speed up children learning a second language.
1. They leverage the picture superiority effect
The picture superiority effect describes a phenomenon where the brain makes stronger connections when pictures are paired with words. When you consider how we’ve evolved, our brains have been trained to store information tied to visual elements in the wild for survival. This is opposed to studying with words alone, which we’ve evolved to use purely as a communication device.
A study titled “Picture Recognition Improves With Subsequent Verbal Information” explores this learning mechanism used also with flashcards. As the paper states: “Subsequent yes-no recognition tests for the pictures demonstrated better memory for those pictures that had been followed by descriptive sentences.”
The illustrative pictures on Strong Minds flashcards are a reliable way to start strengthening connections in your child’s brain to help them learn a language.
2. They use mnemonic devices
A mnemonic device is anything that develops a mental association between two pieces of information. A common example is ROYGBIV, which refers to the colors on the light spectrum.
Flashcards use associative imagery to achieve the same result. They support mnemonic memorizing by connecting the visual representation and the meaning associated with it. By using eye-catching images with key phrases, good-quality flashcards make for effective mnemonic devices when learning new languages.
3. They’re simple (which the brain likes)
How can flashcards help children? Another advantage of flashcards that appeals to both the brain in general and kids of younger ages is simplicity.
When overcomplicating learning, it’s easier for your brain to fall into the trap of the illusion of competence. The problem arises when you’re studying, but not taking much in, and you begin to think you know more than you do.
By having just one piece of information on your card, you encourage active recall, rather than just recognition. It’s easy to conflate the two and assume that you’re learning, but not actually be able to retrieve the information when you need it.
To avoid this, flashcards keep things simple and allow those associations to form by taking it one phrase at a time. If you try to put four points to remember on one card, your child is a lot less likely to remember all four than if you were to include one point per card. It creates a binary right/wrong result rather than a spectrum of success, which is easier to skip over information with.
Flashcards are also presented in a simple, usually rectangular space. This shape, combined with expressive colors, is effective in retaining attention. Vocabulary study is made up of micro pieces of information that can be randomized, making the learning flow of flashcards the perfect tool for studying a language.
4. They engage the brain
How is language taught by using flashcards? The random order in which flash cards present information prompts the brain to engage spontaneously. This is in contrast to more linear, lengthy formats like lectures.
Flashcards help build neural connections between the meaning of a word, its phonetic value, and its spelling. Try calling the answers out loud and incorporating movement into flashcard sessions, which keeps the information refreshed in your child’s memory.
5. They store information through controlled repetition
How do children learn a second language? One word: repetition. Repetition is key for effective learning, which flashcards naturally support. Memories are prioritized by usage, and since our brain uses up to 20% of our body’s energy, it will discard information that it thinks we don’t need in order to conserve power.
Flashcards keep information fresh in our brains and convince it that we should hang on to that data. The speed at which feedback is delivered is another advantage. Your child doesn’t need to await test results to find out how they’re doing – flashcards provide immediate pointers on where they might need to focus their attention.
Additional Tips For Using Flashcards Effectively
Learn Gradually and Take Breaks
Downtime helps the brain process and store information. Schedule your lessons with enough breaks for children to come back refreshed and ready to build on their knowledge. The Center for the Advancement of Teaching describes how resting is one of the most important factors in creative problem-solving and learning new things.
What is the best way to teach a child a second language? By making it fun! Gamification is a great way to engage younger children. By turning a lesson into a game, they’re more likely to look forward to learning and stay stimulated throughout the process. You could also offer prizes to the winner to encourage kids even more.
A few popular examples of games you can play with flashcards include:
- Scavenger hunt: For this game, simply take a selection of flashcards and stash them around the house. Then give the child a verbal or written cue to head off and find the right one. Once they’ve found the cards, they win. For Spanish language flashcards, you might as them to find “bread”; the child should return with the card that says “el pan”. If you’ve got multiple kids playing, you can turn it into a competition.
- Flashlight hunt: This is the same as the scavenger hunt – but in the dark!
- Tic-tac-toe: Play against your child and pick either ‘X’ or ‘O’. Create your own tic-tac-toe board and take turns solving flashcards. If you get the correct answer, you can play your move, until somebody hits three in a row and wins.
- Beanbag toss: (If you don’t have any beanbags, you could toss a cuddly toy or something similar instead.) First, spread the flashcards around the floor with enough space to target them individually. Then have kids toss the beanbag/cuddly toy onto a card and solve the problem. If they answer it correctly, they can collect it, and the child who has the most at the end of the game wins.
Some flashcards are too flimsy to withstand the danger zone of playing children – but Strong Mind’s ultra-durable design ensures your purchase will be child-proof from lesson one to fluency!
Keep it colorful
You should always pick colorful flashcards over plain white ones. Using colorful flashcards creates connections in the subconscious that aid learning. Colors can be used to indicate things like parts of speech or grammatical gender. Colorfully illustrated flashcards not only increase the rate of learning, but also help you to keep things organized.
Let the students be the masters
The Feynman technique is very effective for the brain to remember things. When you teach others what you know, it forces the brain to recall the information and explain it in simple terms. This reinforces the knowledge within your own mind so you can recall it for personal use.
To use the Feynman technique, have your child simply go over what they learned today a few hours later or the next day, as if they were teaching you. If you can incentivize them to do this every day, it’ll get the job done – but even better, if you can have them motivate themselves, it’ll create a flywheel of growth.
Go for the gold standard
As with any product, flashcards are produced across a spectrum of quality. By choosing flashcards that are made with learning efficiency in mind, you can be sure you’re investing in the best tools to help your child learn and grow.
Even premium flashcards are a highly cost-effective learning tool – and in order to get the most out of flashcards, you need quality. The sensitivity of mnemonic devices we mentioned above means connections will be formed much more easily if the visual cues are more attractive.
Speed Up Your Child’s Language Learning With Strong Minds Flashcards
If you’re ready to equip your child with the huge life advantage of learning a second language, Strong Minds provides the tools necessary to make leaps and bounds in a matter of days. Our high-quality language flashcards for kids are durable and captivating, and can be ring-bound to customize your lesson.
We’ve helped countless children already and can’t wait to add yours to the growing list of super-learners! We stock both educational and Spanish flashcards. Head over to our store to unlock your child’s potential today.
Featured image by Karolina Grabowska on Unsplash