Before your trip abroad, you hit the flashcards hard. You memorized how to say essential words and phrases like “hello,” “where is the bathroom,” and “I’ll have a beer.” But once you arrived, it’s like your brain had never encountered the language at all. Words would not come.
It’s not you, it’s how you used the flashcards: Learning a language as an adult takes time and effort, but the go-to study methods that most diligent language-learners use are out of date by about hundred years.
There is a moment in every modern language learner’s studies when they discover spaced repetition systems (SRS) and think, “I have been wasting a lot of time by not doing this.” SRS is a learning system that makes the nitty-gritty of studying hundreds of new pieces of information—say vocabulary words—more efficient. If you’re learning a language, you should be using it.