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The term speed learning refers to methods of increasing the speed of learning a subject without significantly reducing comprehension of that subject. It is closely related to speed reading and may even involve speed reading, but also involves other areas of learning such as listening, observation and reflection skills. Some methods of speed learning have existed since the Iron Age, between 1200 and 550 BC. Other methods, such as the Forgetting Curves, are more modern as they were discovered around the late 1800s.
Mnemonic systems are any techniques that improve learning or memory retention, and are a key component of speed learning. One example of a mnemonic is an acronym; for example, one that helps a person remember the colors of the rainbow or the biggest lakes in the US. Generally, the acronym HOMES is easier to remember than Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior, which are all the Great Lakes in the US. Mnemonics can also be helpful learning foreign words. These systems have been used for thousands of years.
The forgetting curve is a hypothesis that the pace of how humans forget memories depends on certain factors. Basically, the difficulty of the material and the level of stress and sleep deprivation supposedly affects how quickly a person forgets learned material. Consequently, a person who received the right amount of sleep, suffered from little to no stress, and knew the right techniques of memory retention could hold onto a memory longer. This hypothesis was put forth by Hermann Ebbinghaus in 1885, but it has not been scientifically proven. Ebbinghaus only tested the hypothesis on himself, which is not enough evidence to conclude that it is true.
To begin speed learning, a person must practice one or more techniques to improve his or her reading, retention, and comprehension skills. It can take months or even years of practice to notice a significant difference in how quickly one learns. On the other hand, some people notice subtle differences within hours or days of using new speed learning techniques. For example, a 2010 Purdue University study found that students who practiced simply recalling information by writing short sentences they had recently read performed about 50 percent better than students who were instructed to do elaborate recall techniques by drawing maps. There are both books and computer software specifically designed to help children and adults speed learn new things, in addition to free resources available on the Internet.