Pen-and-paper or keyboard-and-screen?

Which one do you prefer for language learning (flashcards, notes, journaling)?

I’m an all-digital guy: I wouldn’t have been allowed to take a laptop to classes even if I’d owned one back when I was in high school, but I got used to taking only basic quick-and-dirty notes on paper during class and rewriting them into proper digital notes at home. Nowadays I can usually do everything on my PC right away and easily synchronize everything, so I can learn vocabulary or check grammar notes on my phone. It’s very efficient, but the process of writing down this or that is such a minuscule part of the entire process of language learning that I consider it a matter of preference.

I certainly see the angle of digital stuff being distracting: when I read anything longer, I use my ebook reader (where I don’t use WiFi) or go straight up for paper if possible. There’s also a certain pathos of writing things down by hand and keeping notes aesthetic without the use of CSS. Claims of modern tools being efficient can be misleading, not taking into account human motivation, need for creativity etc. So I do see the argument for traditional note-taking and such, I consider trying it out.


Interesting read. I’m mostly “on screen” for learning, even for Kindle (excellent for reading, learning, translating) but I always take a real paper book with me if eating out on my own or going to Coffee1. People often say “Good book?” but wouldn’t be so friendly if I was glued to my screen or phone. I also still use my paper dictionary at home.

Happy learning!


Well, a co-worker of mine is from Puerto Rico. A very valuable worker here, however, knows little English. His son who also works here translates for us whenever we need to discuss some things. I found out when his son came to America he didn’t know any English. So I asked him how he learned it so well (he’s fluent, with no accent when speaking English).

He said he joined an online school based in Arizona (not sure where) which promised him he’d be fluent in English in 2 years if he stuck through their entire course. He said he wasn’t confident at first as he knew zero English, but worked hard and stayed the course for the 2 year program. The school’s method was listening and writing down what you hear. Simple sentences at first, of course, and gradually increasing in complexity. He would listen then type out the full sentence of what he heard.

He said after some time everything started to click. The process of writing out what he heard started working it’s magic. After the 2 year program, he could understand and speak English. He lives in America now (Cleveland, OH) and immersion sure didn’t hurt! However, his father and mother (who used to work here) still struggle with our language.

It was around 3 weeks ago when I asked him and he explained how he learned English. I took his advice and had the perfect tool for it…Clozemaster! I mostly use listen, transcribe now. I’m improving my listening skills and noticing a difference. It’s starting to work. Tough phrases, new words - challenges every language presents. Writing out the sentences is a challenge, but a very powerful learning method. With each cloze sentence, I’m utilizing all four skills (listening, reading, writing, and speaking…I recite the sentences out loud a few times).

It’s been 7 months now learning Spanish and 3 months on Clozemaster. Countless programs I’ve tried. None even close to Clozemaster. By far the best program for language learning out there! I have a phrase book at home (Easy Spanish 1500 Phrases, or something like that). The book touts it uses authentic sentences that native speakers use. Before Clozemaster, I tried reading through it but stopped as I couldn’t understand much. I started reading it this weekend and I could understand a lot! Countless hours on Clozemaster helped me to start understanding real Spanish. My Spanish is leaping forward now.

A bit long winded, sorry…

But yes, I think writing down on paper or typing it out are basically equivalent. But digital, for me, is far more practical. More efficient, imo.


I think the answer to your question is related to your learing habits.
t is well known that there are different types of learners.
Some learn by eye. I belong to that group. Sometimes I can remember that a certain structure was in a green box on the top left side of a book but not the structure itself. I try then to recreate the picture in my head. For these types of learner the question paper or screen is not so important. Obviously, silly pictures or the like help but the always-the-same-screen layout of clozemaster does not.

Allmost all my business reading is on screen. But still it is easier for me to find in printed book in the library than in a database. And I like to read a novel on paper and afterwards to have it on the shelf.

Others learm by ear. For these computers are a big help. I remember fellow students dictating whole lectures to their casette recorders to hear them again and again.

And then there is the group that learns by writing. Accoding to my experiences they lose a lot by typing instead of handwriting or drawing. It does not seem to be the same hand-to-brain connection.

Know what type of learner you are and act accordingly. Of course, a lot of people are hybrids.

All have in common that small stories are easier to remember than isolated facts.
So it helps to imagine situations to the isolated sentences we learn here. So do discussions in the forum.
I often remember rules, sentences or words, simply because they were discussed some time.
Good opportunity to thank all participants here! It helps tremendously. :+1:
Therefore it is so benefical to be in the country of the language you want to learn. It puts you in situations you are not likely to forget. Its the same with a lab lecture at the university. You’ll never forget the substance that caused you three hours of glassware cleaning. Just like you’ll never forget the lady explaining the way to the museum in machine-gun-like Napolitanian dialect.