A spaced repetition system (SRS)”) is one of the best tools for language learning. It lets the computer handle all the background organisation to give you the most efficient study session possible. This efficiency means you can learn the maximum amount of material in the minimum possible time, and retain it long term. A very good, free SRS program is Anki.
Make SRS even more efficient
Most SRS software has the option to display grading buttons after you review each flashcard. Making good use of these can improve your learning experience even more. Most often you’ll be using the default grade #3: remembered the material without problems. When you forget an item, you’ll use grade #1: forgot.
The other two grades, though, are often under-used. When you find a flashcard very easy, let the SRS software know - select grade #4. Why waste time reviewing easy material more often than you need to? By marking the flashcard as ‘too easy’ you can schedule it further away and give more study time to items that need it.
Grade #2 can also increase efficiency. If you got an item only slightly wrong (forgot one stroke in a character, for example) or didn’t remember it quite as quickly as you’d like, mark it as grade #2: so-so. If you mark it as grade #1 (totally forgot), you’ll waste time going over it several times, when really you just need to correct a little fault and move on. Again, grade #2 let’s the SRS software focus on more important items.
These might seem like trivial differences, but when you’re reviewing hundreds or even thousands of items (which will happen as you build up your language ability) these little changes add up. By using the grading buttons effectively, you can reduce the time needed to do your flashcards quite significantly, and free-up time to study other things, or just get away from studying and have a break.