The Science

7spell is scientifically designed, and utilizes principles based on decades of research in learning, retention, and psychology. Here is a summary of the theory and research behind 7spell's effectiveness.

Craik, F., and Tulving, E. "Depth of processing and the retention of words in episodic memory." Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, Vol 104(3) (1975): 268-294. Print and PDF.

In this seminal study performed at the University of Toronto, Canada, the authors performed a series of tests in which they gave the study participants a sequence of words to learn, with information related to each word as it appeared in order. They discovered that when the information provided stimulated the participant's brain to process the word on a more involved level (referred to as "deep encoding" or "degree of elaboration" in the study), that word was more effectively learned and remembered. With 7spell, the user is given a wide range of additional information about each spelling word, including the word's definition - one of the key factors in enhanced memory, according to this study - as well as usage examples, synonyms, and antonyms.

Garcia, S.M., Tor, A., and Schiff, T.M. "The Psychology of Competition: A Social Comparison Perspective." Perspectives on Psychological Science, November 2013, 8(6):634-650. Print and web.

Each person is influenced by a unique set of factors related to their own status and progress towards goals, but is also affected to a greater or lesser degree by the achievements and perceived standards of the people around them. This analysis of past and current studies looks at the way people view and are motivated by individual goals as well as societal achievement (competition). The authors conclude that effective use of motivational strategies must take both into account. This is something that 7spell accomplishes by providing each user with the ability to set personal goals, earn reward points, and view their own progress tracking reports, and also to publish all of those results on public social media platforms.

Kivetz, R., Urminsky, O., and Zheng, Y. "The Goal-Gradient Hypothesis Resurrected: Purchase Acceleration, Illusionary Goal Progress, and Customer Retention." Journal of Marketing Research, February 2006, 43(1):39-58. Web.

In a study focusing on the influence of reward-scheme programs on behavior, the authors found that when people see visible progress towards their goals they are more likely to increase the activity required to reach those goals. The study also confirms that most people are also motivated by receiving rewards for completing specific activities, even if those rewards are not immediately transferable to actual material or monetary benefits. Status points, rewards, and real-time progress tracking are all methods used in 7spell to encourage frequent spelling practice by awarding points for the completion of exercises and activities. Because the user can access their progress charts at any time, they will always be able to see how close they are to achieving their personal spelling goals.

Buton, M., Winterbauer, N., and Todd, T. "Relapse processes after the extinction of instrumental learning: Renewal, resurgence, and reacquisition." Behavioural Processes, May 2012, 90(1): 130–141. Print and web.

Instrumental learning, also called "operant conditioning," is a method by which behaviors are learned in connection with a stimulus, a reward, or both. In this research done at the University of Vermont, the authors studied the ways in which the information connected to a specific behavior is retained when the stimulus is removed, and how subsequent repetition or reward reinforces information recall and a resumption of previously learned behaviors. They conclude that there are two primary methods of reinforcing active memory and behavior: by creating a different way to test the subject's memory, and by providing the opportunity for intensive focused repetition of that stimulus-behavior response. These two methods are widely used in the 7spell activities and games to create the link between instruction and memory that is so crucial in effective spelling learning on the student's part.

Xue, G., Mei, L., Chen, C., Lu, Z-L., Poldrack, R., Dong, Q. "Spaced Learning Enhances Subsequent Recognition Memory by Reducing Neural Repetition Suppression." Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience 2011;23(7):1624-1633. Print and web. http://doi:10.1162/jocn.2010.21532

In this study comparing long-term and short-term memory, the study authors tested the neural activity of participants as they memorized a set of images. Half of the study participants used massed learning techniques, in which each new image was presented multiple times in a row; the other half were given the images in a spaced repetition mode, where the images were shown in alternating order. Although each participant saw each image the same number of times, the people in the spaced-repetition exercise were able to accurately remember more images, and for a longer period of time. Repetition is a key technique in learning spelling, and 7spell incorporates spaced repetition in two ways. First, the system uses randomized selection of spelling words from the user's current list to populate the activities and exercises, ensuring an interval between word reviews. Second, the system's Word Discover feature provides pop-up instant review of the words on that list, again in random order. By providing users with multiple opportunities throughout the day to read and review their words, 7spell provides all of the benefits of the spaced repetition methodology in its spelling instruction.

Blocki, J., Cranor, L., Datta, A., and Komanduri, S. "Spaced Repetition and Mnemonics Enable Recall of Multiple Strong Passwords." Cornell University Library, January 3, 2015. PDF.

Spaced repetition is a memory training tool that relies on frequent and consistent review of information; mnemonics is a memory technique that involves multiple ways of looking at that information, such as the incorporation of images or story lines. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University focused on the combination of spaced repetition and mnemonics in evaluating how best to train people to remember specific pieces of information: computer passwords. They found that by combining the two methodologies, the results in both ease of learning and retention were increased. 7spell uses each method separately and together to help users learn and remember new spelling words by using the same words in multiple exercises, presenting spelling words in a variety of formats, and encouraging users to add information related to each word to make a personal connection that helps them to remember that word and its correct spelling.

Words (Guest Post)

by Michael Stavropoulos

Learning our mother tongue is easy and takes a few years to be able to talk about the basics of the world we live in. When we learn a foreign language, though, things get more complicated. We have a number of obstacles to overcome. At first, learning is facilitated as we connect our new words with everyday objects, real things. But as our lexical input increases, we often stumble on obstacles. “What’s the right word for this?” we wonder. Or we learn a vocabulary item, but a few days or weeks later we can no longer remember it, especially when we need this word to do a speaking or writing task where we can produce language and prove we have made progress.

My teaching experience has shown me there are a few methods we can use to boost our lexical learning capacity and our ability to remember and retrieve the right word at the right time. Here are a few things I tell my students to do:

When first learning a new word, never learn only its translation into your first language; this is a common mistake made by many students who are in a hurry or who have never been shown another way. The reason for this is that words have connotations: in other words, they carry “feelings” and “colours” with them. Does the same word carry the same “feelings” and “colours” in our first language? Maybe yes, but more often than not, no.

“So”, my students say, “let’s say we don’t learn the translation only. What should we study?”

Here is my answer: “Always use a good monolingual dictionary that will have an accurate definition of the word. Study this definition carefully, but you need not learn it by heart as you will rarely be asked to define a word in any real context in everyday life.

“And why should we study something we will not learn?” they go.

“Because by reading the definition, you keep in your mind all -or most of- the essential knowledge you need to know about this word”.

“And then what?” they say.

“Every good monolingual dictionary will always have an example of how the word is used. Study it. Carefully. Repeatedly. Notice other words in the example that you can connect with the target word i.e. the word you are trying to learn. If you want, learn the example by heart. This will not do you any harm. If you learn things more easily by writing them down, then write the example down in a vocabulary notebook. If you can dedicate more time to this, write your own sentence with this word: this will enable you to connect the new word in your memory with a personal experience you may have had, somebody you know or any connection that is uniquely meaningful to you and your mind.”

My students look at me in disbelief. “It’s not right that learning a word should take so much time.” The class laughs.

“You may be right about the time”, I say. “But it is time well-spent and time saved.”

And I always finish this didactic conversation with my classes with a bang:

To paraphrase Ludwig Wittgenstein: “The meaning of a word is its use”. Prove to me you can put the word in the right context and I will know you have really learnt the word.

Cross-posted on the Vocabulary Software blog.

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How Does It Feel To Learn A New Language?

Learning a new language is a wondrous adventure. You travel in history, experience the culture, and taste a new way of living simply by learning the words that culture uses to express those concepts. But do you remember feeling the same emotions and sensations when you learned your first language – the one belonging to the culture you were born to? Probably not.

Acquiring Your Mother Tongue vs Learning a Foreign Language

There’s not much critical thinking involved when learning your native language. You learn to speak at a lightning fast speed, and amazingly you make up for anything that’s unknown or yet not solidified as a language rule through creative improvisation and substitutions. Children have an amazing capacity for vocabulary and communication that allows them to pick up a language without formal education, in a process that’s mostly unconscious.

Learning a language as an adult, however, is a different story. You already possess your native tongue, and you have experiences, emotions, beliefs, and opinions that influence and even interfere with your new language learning.

When you learn a second or third language your very own language often gets in the way. It leads you you make false assumptions about grammar rules and syntax, it confuses you with rules that do not exist in your language, and it leaves you feeling frustrated that you cannot find a corresponding entity or function in your mother tongue.

But that frustration, that ennui is surprisingly pleasureable if you look at it from the right perspective. You can in fact derive great satisfaction from learning a language so unfamiliar and disconnected from your own. You’re forced to reconsider the universality of your own language and understand how language defines your thinking and permeats your reality so extensively.

As the renowned Austrian philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein has said:

“[T]he limits of language (of that language which alone I understand) mean the limits of my world.

Expand your reality, expand the place you inhabit

What’s so marvelous about language is the way that it expands your reality. Where you used to have only one tool to make sense of your world, now you have two. This is true especially if you’re learning a language that’s vastly different from your own because it belongs to a different language family; the linguistic and mental shock can be even greater.

It’s one thing for a Spanish native speaker to learn Italian. It’s an entirely different thing for an English native speaker to learn traditional Chinese.

When you learn a totally unfamiliar language, you can’t help feeling like a child. You are a clean slate. You learn everything from scratch. It’s not just a new language, it’s a new culture and a whole lot of history. A brand new world awaiting discovery.

As you advance your language learning and you shyly start speaking the language, a sense of empowerment arises. You feel a growing pleasure, and you feel more in control because you can use a language – a string of words and sounds that was previously completely unknown – to communicate. Even something as simple as learning how to express a feeling or statement in another language makes you feel powerful.

There are many reasons to learn a new language, but one of the most pleasurable is to get the freedom that comes from the ability to communicate in and understand a different language. Yes, learning a new language has many professional and social benefits, but none can compare to the euphoria experienced when you achieve the previously unimaginable: gaining a new tool for communication.

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How Does It Feel To Learn A New Language?

10 Useful Websites For A Smarter You

Do you think you know everything? If you answered “yes,” then you can stop reading! But if like most people you answered “no,” here are 10 websites you should bookmark.

These websites are brimming with fascinating facts, motivating articles to improve your skills, and lots of ideas on how to channel your creativity and innovative thinking into your work and personal life. Yes, it’s high time you stopped looking at cat videos all day long.


How often do you get a chance to improve upon a crucial life skill and at the same time contribute to society as a whole? Freerice lets you have your cake and eat it too. Freerice lets you improve your vocabulary, and for each correct answer you get, the company donates 10 rice grains through the World Food Programme. Cool, right?


Forget YouTube hits playlists. Gibbon is the self-learning playlist many people swear by. With Gibbon you can collect various articles, videos, and other types of content under a particular theme or category. Think of it as the Pinterest for self-improvement. You can learn virtually anything under the sun, from how to code to getting into the basics of 3D printing.


Ever think your memory could use a boost? Lumosity is the site you want to head to. It’s a science-based game website that exercises your brain. From memory and verbal fluency to spatial skills and attention performance, Lumosity ensures you don’t lose your edge.

Khan Academy

This is your chance to master a subject you were too sleepy to wake up in college in order to attend. Khan Academy offers a multitude of courses, including Math, Science, Computing and Microeconomics, just to name a few.

Nerd’s Fitness

A CrossFit junkie goes to the gym, but where does a nerd go to? Nerd’s Fitness. This website is for the geek in every one of us. There’s no such thing as being too devoted about your body and your health,  and that’s why Nerd’s Fitness exists. It gives you informative articles and how-to’s on getting fitter and stronger – and always from a nerdy viewpoint. Their number one rule: We don’t care where you’re coming from, only where you’re going.

Information is Beautiful

This website uses the magic of visuals to represent interesting information. We must agree, information never looked so appealing before. You can get data visualized on everything, from who rules the world,to figuring out the potential tax revenue if drugs were legally sold.

Elite Daily

Self-proclaimed as “The Voice of Generation Y,” Elite Daily should be your browser home page. You can read anything about and for Generation Y, or find great tips on how to improve your skills and master new qualifications. Plenty of cute, inspirational content is always available too.


Attending star-studded seminars doesn’t need to cost you a fortune. TED brings them all to you for free. TED shares  the best stories and ventures right on your screen; you can watch inspiring videos on initiatives that seek to change our thinking, our world, and our future.

Unplug the TV

This website lets you shun the urge to sit on your couch passively watching whatever’s on TV. “Unplug the TV” recommends interesting videos you can seek out and watch on your computer or device. Once you start using these links, we can confidently say there will be no more NCIS reruns for you!

The World FactBook

Get mind-blowing facts about your own and other countries, and you will have ample conversation starters for the next office cocktail party!

What’s the One Word Everyone Uses and Understands?

“I’m sorry, could you repeat that?”

“What did you say?”

“Did I just hear what I think I heard?”

No matter where you are or what language you’re speaking – and especially if you’re someplace where you don’t speak the local language – you’ll no doubt find yourself using one of these phrases, or something like them. Or if you’re like people everywhere, you’ll just say one brief syllable …


… and you’ll be understood. According to a new study done by researchers and linguists in The Netherlands the sound of the question word used to mean “please repeat what you have just said because I didn’t understand it” in many languages around the world is very similar. They’ve proposed that it’s a nearly global bit of language, and might actually be tied to the earliest form of language, one that humans all spoke in the days when spoken language was first beginning. While there are some differences to exactly how the “question sound” is expressed the one-syllable word has essentially the same pronunciation. In other words, although people in Iceland say “ha” with a downward-falling inflection, and people in Japan say “ei” with an upward inflection, all of the languages the researchers looked at had approximately the same syllable for this questioning sound: a vowel with or without the “h”-sound at the beginning, and without a closing consonant sound.

English has become a global standard for communication, but if you’re traveling you’ll still come across situations where you can’t understand other people, and they can’t understand you. It’s a good idea to improve your English to help you communicate around the world, and to learn another language like Spanish or Mandarin to better relate to people in other countries and improve your job prospects, but it’s nice to know that no matter where you go, there’s at least one word that everyone will understand.

You can read the full article on this study at the online journal PLOS ONE.

Get Better at Spelling With Mnemonics

Studying hard and practicing your spelling can help you become better at that particular skill. But sometimes you need to study smarter and not harder. Mnemonics are fun memory aids that you can use to help you recall the correct spelling of words.

Mnemonics can be phonetic, rhyming, name-creating, based on a keyword, or using an expression you create based on the first letter of the word.

Here are some tips for creating and using mnemonic techniques. They’ll help you get the right spelling, every time.

Acrostic Mnemonics for Spelling

An acrostic is an invented expression where the first letter of each word can be put together to form another word. For example, you can remember the spelling of ‘necessary’ with this acrostic:

“Never Eat Chips, Eat Salad Sandwiches And Remain Young!” (H/T to EduBlox)

Here are some other widely used acrostics for frequently misspelled words:

Because – Big Elephants Can Always Understand Small Elephants

Arithmetic – A Rat In The House May Eat The Ice Cream

Chili -  Cats Have Interesting Little Ideas

Ocean -  Only Cats’ Eyes Are Narrow

Caught – Cats Always Use Great Heavy Toilets (H/T to LadayLumleys School)

Argument – A Rude Girl Undresses; My Eyes Need Taping!

Rhythm – Rhythm Helps Your Two Hips Move

Pretty – Pretty Red Elephants Turned Totally Yellow


A Word in a Word: Nestable Spelling

Apart from acrostics, there are many other ways you can recall a word’s spelling effortlessly. Here are some well-known examples using the “word nesting” technique:

A piece of pie.

There’s a rat in separate.

Jealousy is a lousy feeling!

What has a hat in it.

You use your ears to hear.

You eat meat when dining alone, but not when you meet a friend in the street.

Take the bus to your business.

A secretary has a secret.

Liam went to the House of Parliament.

Don’t believe any lies.

A friend is there to the end.

There’s an eight in height and weight.

Please be quiet about my diet!

Soldiers sometimes die in battle.

Double-letter Mnemonics

You can also make fun associations to remember the spelling of words with double letters by linking them to images.

In the kennel you’ll find accommodation for two cats, two mice and a dog.

There are two sugars in a dessert.

Can you come up with a mnemonic for words that give you trouble? Think of a different mnemonic for each of the words, “trouble”, “guarantee” and “sculpture”. Here our own ideas to give you some food for thought.

Trouble – Teresa Regrets Owning Umbrella Bought Last Easter

Guarantee Under two Antennas, Two Ears are Hidden.

Sculpture – Sculpture is a 3D picture.

Mnemonics will help you retrieve the correct spelling of a word from the back of your brain, and can also help you remember a fact, or a list of words, more easily.

When you’re practicing your spelling, make sure you use this spelling technique when you have trouble learning a word’s spelling. You can use mnemonics to improve your memory for almost anything: people, names, faces, and facts. You can use mnemonics to remember things such as the names of the Supreme Court Justices of the US:

Studying Scandals Keeps The Giant Bride Robots All Sober
Stevens, Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, Ginsburg, Breyer, Roberts, Alito, Sotomayor

Or for remembering the classification animals in biology:

King Phillip Could Only Find Green Socks
Kingdom, Phylum, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species.

Get Better at Spelling With Mnemonics

Cultural Unity Shown in 7-Minute #HipHopIsHipHop Music Video

Hip hop is for everyone, no language barrier – the same love!

Cultural Unity Shown in 7-Minute #HipHopIsHipHop Music Video

How To Improve Your Spelling Skills Teacher-Free

While a teacher or tutor can offer you valuable support when learning spelling, you don’t actually need one to perfect your orthography skills. There are plenty of activities you can practice on your own and improve your spelling efficiency, starting now.

Let’s do a short quiz to start out with. In the comments section below, let us know which words are misspelled. If you’re a good speller, give us the correct spelling, too!








What You Can Do To Improve Your Spelling Level Today

Online Spelling Games

Spelling doesn’t have to be a bore. You can improve your spelling with fun games and interesting activities. There are several free online games you can play that help you perfect your ability to spell even the hardest words.

Fun Brain offers its own spelling game online, in which you need to mark the misspelled word and provide the correct orthography for it.

Try this interactive YouTube spelling game or play the addictive (but oh so efficient) Spelling Bee game by Visual Thesaurus. In this multimedia game, you’ll first hear the word being pronounced, and then get a chance to spell it in the space provided.

AAASpell is another web tool for practicing your spelling. Create your very own spelling list and focus on getting those words right. This is ideal for practicing words that you constantly misspell.

Once you create your spelling list you can play various activities with it, listen to the audio pronunciation and type the word out, figure out its spelling with one or two letters missing, or remove an incorrect extra letter to get the right spelling. Here’s an example list using the names of parts of the body.

Mobile Apps

If you’re into apps, you can try Brilliant Spelling, a free app that offers you activities such as an interactive tutor pronouncing words. It also provides customizability by letting you enter your own word list for practice.

A top rated spelling app that’s free to download is Skill Builder Spelling which is available for Android smartphones and tablets. Spelling Bee is another Android app with over 2,300 words available to learn.

Spoiler Alert! Watch out for the Ultimate Spelling™ OS / Android App SOON.

Ultimate Spelling™ Web Application

For a more rigorous and science-driven spelling practice try Ultimate Spelling™, a cloud-based software that offers you hundreds of lessons, games, and fun activities to improve your spelling.

Not only do you get expert-designed activities but you also benefit from progress tracking, goal setting, and social media sharing features.

What’s more, you can use it on any device that’s Internet enabled so you can practice whenever and wherever you go.

Get a Spelling Buddy

You can play Scramble to your heart’s content online, but nothing can improve your spelling more quickly than a spelling buddy.

Not only will you hold each other accountable for your progress and motivate each other to try harder, but you will also find it more enjoyable and interactive to practice together.

Whether it’s the old classic Scramble or coming up with fun mnemonics for difficult to spell words, a buddy will help you achieve your spelling skill goals faster and in a way that feels more like play rather than boring learning.

Remember that spelling doesn’t have to do with talent or some innate ability. It’s all a matter of practice. You can be a spelling bee champion if you put enough effort in to it!

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How To Improve Your Spelling Skills Teacher-Free

English Spelling Oddities Explained In Just 4 Minutes

If you’ve ever wondered why English spelling is so weird, watch this video for a global and historical perspective on modern English spelling rules.

English Spelling Oddities Explained In Just 4 Minutes

7 Strategic Ways to Improve Spelling

Does spelling give you a hard time? You’re not alone. Due to our growing reliance on autocorrect and spellcheckers, we generally pay little attention to spelling rules and patterns these days.

Of course, you might wonder why you should bother to learn how to spell “committed” (which is with double “m” and double “t” by the way) since your spellchecker will automatically fix it for you?

For one thing, great spelling gives you confidence in writing and typing without the looming fear that you will miss a misspelling and embarrass yourself. These seven tips will help you improve spelling and get to be a spelling Master — something to boast about to your friends.

Use a Dictionary

Print dictionaries might be soon going extinct but until then nothing can match a good, bulky dictionary. If you don’t own one, there are great online ones: Merriam-Webster and Oxford to name a few.

Spelling is not only dependent on how good your memory is. Because your mind can recall only so many words, it’s important to have a reliable reference point for when memory abandons you.

Get Your Mental Orthographic Images Right

Researchers argue that although we learn spelling rules at school, like the notorious “I before E except after C”, our brains don’t refer to these rules when we write or type out words. Rather, our brains resort to their own mental orthographic images bank.

It’s a bank with photographs of every word you know. Consider these mental images as slides that come up in your brain and tell you things like,  “Hmm, ‘noticable’ doesn’t seem quite right, does it?” Because you’ve read and possibly written “noticeable” the right way many times, this image in your head will pop up and insist that this is not how it’s supposed to be written.

To ensure you get your MOIs right you need extended, focused, and repeated exposure to a word. That’s why flashcards are so popular and effective in teaching spelling. The good news is that you don’t really need printed flash cards. Many programs and online tools help you study words with virtual flash cards equally effectively.

Pick a Side

It’s important that you stick to one spelling of English. Are you using British, Australian or American English? Make up your mind and stick to that spelling practice to ensure your writing is uniform and misspelling-free.

Know Your Weak Spots

Even the best spellers — and we’re guessing Spelling Bee champions, too — can misspell words with the ever-confusing suffixes often referred to in pairs: -able and -ible-, -ent and -ant, -ance and -ence, and –tial and –cial.

So, if you’re stumbling upon the spelling of “beneficial,” “dependable,” and “elegance,” double check you’ve spelled them correctly.

Over time you will be able to get it right, as long as you go about practicing in the right way. In the meantime you can brush up your spelling rules to give you a hint. For instance, verbs that end in –y such as apply and ally will form a noun with an –ance suffix; appliance and alliance in this case.

All-around Practice

A common mistake people make when learning to spell is that they only focus on the orthography of the word, leaving out pronunciation and actual word production. To learn a word’s spelling is not enough. You need to write it out, and you need to hear it and say it too. This exposure to all linguistic aspects of a word means you can recall its spelling even without having to write it out or spell it out loud later.

Be a Smarter Speller

Smart studying means that you learn with less effort and in less time. Instead of indiscriminately practicing your spelling with a jumble of unrelated words, try learning spelling in groups. For instance, learn all words that end in –ious together. Such a list would include words such as “deleterious,” “ingenious,” “captious,” and “voracious.”

Test Yourself Often

To make the most headway in your spelling study, you need to monitor your progress, so it’s crucial that you test your spelling skills often. You can do so with online quizzes or with a friend or parent. By testing your spelling with another person, be it a tutor or a friend, it ensures you get feedback instantly. This will help you to recognize your weaknesses so that you can then focus on them in your next spelling practice.

Over to you. What’s your go-to strategy for learning to spell?

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7 Strategic Ways to Improve Spelling