Repetition in Learning English

Wouldn’t it be great if you could just read a word or phrase in English and remember it forever without any effort? Unfortunately, this is not how learning foreign languages works.

We all need to repeat language units again and again until we memorize them and can use them properly in our speech. In fact, one can easily say that repetition is key to learning English. Let’s find out why.

Our tricky brains

The main reason why repetition is important is simply because that is how our brains work.

We have short-term memory and long-term memory. After you read a word in class you can easily repeat it immediately and you will probably be able to remember it during the lesson. That is short-term memory. However, when you try to remember the same word in a week at your next class you are very likely to fail.

For us to remember what we learn after a week’s time or longer the information needs to be transferred into long-term memory – and repetition is the only way to do it. The more the information is repeated or used the more likely it is to be retained in long-term memory and the better the retention.

That is why, for example, most common vocabulary units (such words as “good” or “drink” or “book”) are so easily remembered: we come across them everywhere and seem to memorize them effortlessly. You are even likely to remember such words years after you stop learning English.

Walk before you can run

You cannot start speaking a language fluently without repeating the basic words and phrases first, be it after a teacher, an audio language course or a native-speaker you overheard in the street.

Children learn their first language this way: they hear what people around them are saying and try to repeat it. And when they fail they do it again – until they can speak. Adults learning a foreign language differ from children, of course, but repetition remains a key element.

You need to repeat the sounds of the English language before you can make them into words, words before you can make them into sentences – and you need to repeat basic sentences after your teacher or textbook a few times before you can build sentences of your own.

Free and simple

Repetition is a free and simple tool that you can use in learning English vocabulary and grammar, practicing listening, speaking, reading or writing.

If you listen to a text and don’t understand it – play the recording again, you will understand more the second time. If you cannot pronounce a tricky word – try again. If you are struggling with understanding a grammatical structure, repeating it and maybe even writing it down a few times will help you a lot.

Be smart

Repetition is one of the keys to success when learning English but it needs to be smart to be effective. There is no use repeating a word if you don’t know what it means or memorizing incorrect pronunciation.

Do not just repeat things: study your textbook carefully, listen to audio materials and pay attention to your teacher – and then repeat what you have learned! It may not sound like much but believe me, it is a very powerful language learning tool.


Repetition is essential when learning English. You need to repeat language units to retain them in long-term memory. We cannot start speaking fluently and beautifully before we repeat basic words and phrases over and over again.

Repetition is simple but don’t repeat mindlessly – study carefully and your efforts will start paying off immediately.