Swimming in Words: The Tetris EffectIn the past few weeks I’ve significantly increased the amount of Spanish I read, write, listen to, and watch on TV, and since then I’ve noticed a strange side affect. It’s one that I’ve experienced before, but not for some time, and I consider it to be a good sign. Spanish words and phrases just float around in my brain, it seems, popping into my thoughts at any time. The words don’t need to be connected at all to anything I’m doing, seeing, or hearing at the time. They just show up, reminding me of their existence. I believe this to be a manifestation of the Tetris effect, an interesting and fun psychological phenomenon—well, I think it’s fun anyway.
The Tetris Effect is basically this: If a person repeats an activity many times (like manipulating Tetris pieces) when this person is on the edge of sleep, he or she will have this activity, the stimuli related to it, repeated in their minds. Tetris players will close their eyes and see pieces flying around. These same players will improve their scores the following day. Psychologists study this effect to understand how we learn.
Now, finding myself thinking of words throughout the day–and it’s clearly thoughts, no hearing voices here –isn’t quite the same as dreaming about Tetris blocks, but it seems to be guided by the same principle. It’s all a part of the way the brain reinforces learned material, establishing and strengthening connections between neurons. This is what goes on all the time with any kind of learning, but it’s a rare treat to be able to experience the learning process in such a conscious way.
Furthermore, my internal random Spanish word generator has begun to develop into something more sophisticated: a translation habit. More and more, I find a translation on the tip of my tongue for a sentence I’ve just said, heard, or thought. None of these are particularly complicated sentences, but I find it encouraging. It’s making Spanish a big part of my daily life, even when I’m speaking and interacting with others completely in English.
So, please discuss in the comments. Have you ever experienced the Tetris Effect? If so, how? What do you think it means about how we humans learn new skills? Any language learners out there, are you also swimming in words?
P.S.: Read more about the Tetris effect here.
Nadar en Palabras: El Efecto Tetris
En las últimas semanas, he aumentado considerablemente el uso de español que leo, escribo, escucho, y miro en la tele, y desde ese momento he fijado un efecto secundario muy curioso. Es algo que he experimentado antes, y me parece una buena señal. Palabras y frases españolas simplemente aparecen en mis pensamientos. Los palabras no necesitan tener ninguna conexión con cualquier cosa que estoy haciendo, viendo, o escuchando en ese momento. Simplemente aparecen, recordándome que ellas existen. Me parece que esto es una manifestación del efecto Tetris, un fenómeno psicológico muy interesante y divertido—o, a menos, a mi me parece divertido.