Transparent Language Blog

High Intensity Interval Training for Language Learning Posted by on Jan 6, 2014 in Archived Posts

Ever tried High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)? This highly-touted method of physical training mixes short periods of rigorous activity with periods of rest. Take running, for example: a runner following HIIT would jog at a comfortable pace for a minute, and then sprint as fast as possible for 20 seconds, followed by another minute of jogging, then sprinting, and so on for 15 minutes. What are the benefits for athletes? They burn more calories in a shorter period of time and boost their metabolism throughout the day!

So, how does HIIT relate to language learning? Learning a language is a lot like exercising: even folks who come to love the process and look forward to each session want to see some kind of result from their work. If high intensity intervals help you reach fitness goals faster, could there be some kind of “high intensity interval” to help you learn a language faster? Why yes, there is—we’re so glad you asked.

At Transparent Language, we have developed and tested a method we call Declaratively Accelerated Blended Learning (DABL). DABL is about a flat-out race against time to practical language proficiency and performance. This method begins with mastering lots of words and phrases quickly with a fast-paced computer delivery system, immediately using those words and phrases in context as you learn them, and then constantly refreshing them on the computer-based system in parallel to continued use in context as much as you can.

Computers are spectacularly good—even better than human instructors—at using game-style activities to help learners quickly master new words and phrases. Our courseware drives you to preview, recognize, and produce words and phrases at a rapid pace. That’s the sweaty sprint – the 50 rapid squat-thrusts.

Using those words and phrases in context in a classroom or real-world situation is the resting period. It might not sound like rest, but remember that in HIIT, runners don’t stop during their recovery period, they keep jogging. For those of you who don’t have the time to join a language class, Transparent Language Online includes a full suite of contextual and cultural activities that will put your new vocabulary to the test. By practicing your new vocabulary in context, you’ll be embedding them into your memory, increasing retention rates. Just as runners boost their metabolism, you’re boosting your working vocabulary and automaticity, so you’re seeing the fruits of your labor long after you’re done running or digesting new words and phrases.

Of course, there’s more to learning a language than acquiring new words and practicing them in context with an instructor. HIIT is effective for cardio and shedding pounds, but there’s more to getting in shape than that, such as strength training and healthy eating. Textbooks, blogs, videos, music, movies, newspapers, and, of course, instructors are all part of an effective language-learning regime. Think of how a large vocabulary could enhance these activities, though.

One of the best benefits of HIIT is it makes you better at the things you want to do. You probably don’t want to be sprinting on the treadmill like a madman, but you are conditioning your body, which will certainly help you sprint down the basketball court faster on a breakaway or keep up your endurance while playing with your young kids after a long day of work. If we continue this comparison for a little longer, DABL is the power path to language proficiency. It gets you to a given proficiency level much faster, making all of the other stuff work better.  Sprint-speed word and phrase learning is game-like and actually more fun than maximum output physical activity for most folks. But like HIIT the best part is that it leaves you better prepared to enjoy other activities: reading a foreign newspaper, watching a foreign film, or speaking with a native speaker. Those are the things you want to be doing with a language, and DABL helps you get there more efficiently.

Have questions about DABL? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Keep learning a language with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it

About the Author: Transparent Language

Transparent Language is a leading provider of best-practice language learning software for consumers, government agencies, educational institutions, and businesses. We want everyone to love learning language as much as we do, so we provide a large offering of free resources and social media communities to help you do just that!


  1. Sergio Rodrigues:

    How could we classify listening activities in the learning process? Does it fall in the same category of mastering new words?

    • Transparent Language:

      @Sergio Rodrigues Listening activities are important throughout the learning process! From the very early stages of acquiring new vocabulary, to far more advanced levels of mastery including acquiring native pronunciation and understanding intonation and nuance.

  2. Constanze:

    Is DABL part of the entire TLI software package, or is it a separate programme?

    • Transparent Language:

      @Constanze Hi Constanze! DABL is not a “program” per se, as much as it is a methodology/strategy that we employ. It’s not a “thing” you can purchase, but you can see it in action particularly in our Transparent Connect courses. We train our instructors on DABL methods, meaning they will ask students to pre-load vocabulary/phrases in Transparent Language Online before a session, then use those learned words/phrases in context during the session itself.

Leave a comment: