Learning a language: is it worth repeating the same level?


Repetitio est mater studiorum

We all want to progress when learning a new language, right? So what happens when we repeat the same level? Language learning is a complex process and requires our constant use of the learnt material (repetition), as well as learning new material. Even though all our more advanced language courses here at Bristol Language School contain an element of revision, occasionally repeating the achieved level again and thoroughly consolidating the learnt material might be just the right step to progress.

Why to repeat

You may want to repeat the same level when you feel stuck and it takes much longer to absorb the new learning material, or when the topics are particularly difficult, e.g. new grammar points which are much more complex to understand and to use. Another example is when you might be an advanced user of the language in some areas, e.g. speaking, but your reading or writing is weaker. Joining a lower level or even a few levels lower might enable you to bring the weaker skills to the same level as the strongest. Alternatively, when you learn a language for some time, but your pronunciation is not your strongest skill, then you can speak with us to find out which level covers the pronunciation in much more detail and joining this class might be a much better option to progress. The final two examples are when you haven’t attended a course regularly due to work / busier life or after having a longer break, and re-joining the same level to revise and consolidate your knowledge might be a good foundation for progress.

Repetition is the mother of learning

Sounds easier said than done. But it’s so true, especially when it comes to learning a foreign language. We repeat the learnt material so many times and in so many different contexts that it finally feels comfortable and natural to use it regularly. Alex Rawlings, in his book How to Speak Any Language Fluently makes the exact same point that “(…) the only way to really make sure you’ve learnt something is to keep revising it. As the saying goes in German: einmal ist keinmal (once is never).“ (p. 201)

Let’s look at our mother tongues: we use them every day in many different contexts and with many different skills. We perhaps learn some new vocabulary here and there, but mostly we repeat and repeat the same phrases every day and that’s how we maintain our mother tongue’s skills. I’m simplifying a bit here, but I hope you understand. To emphasize my point, let’s not forget about language attrition: The Bilingual Brain by Albert Costa highlights how the loss of a native language can happen.

I hope that through writing this blog article, I showed the importance of revision and repetition when it comes to language learning.

What’s your experience in this area? Have you ever repeated the same level when learning a foreign language? Please let me know in the comments below.


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