02 Mar 2022

Handwriting vs Typing: Which Is Better For Language Learning?

Handwriting vs Typing: Which Is Better For Language Learning?

In the case of language learning, whether you are taking Chinese lessons or Thai classes, a common question is whether you should write your notes down manually or type them up on a computer.

A recent study found that writing notes by hand helps you retain the material more effectively than typing it. But when it comes to choosing which method to use, the answer is more complicated than that, because there may be situations where typing your notes would be far more efficient than writing them by hand.

Read on as we explore the different memory strategies you can use when learning a language, and find out which one suits your learning style the best.

1. Note-taking for your memory

Taking Notes by Hand During your SkillsFuture Language Course

For the most part, taking notes by hand during your SkillsFuture language course is a better way to retain information than typing it. This has been shown in numerous studies on the topic, ranging from those examining memory in general to those examining note-taking methods in a classroom setting. Here are some examples:

  • Researchers found that when people write vocabulary words by hand, they remember them better than when they type them on a computer.
  • In a similar study, it was found that handwritten notes lead to better recall than typed notes.
  • In a study of note-taking in the classroom, students who took notes by hand, performed better on tests than students who typed their notes on their laptops.

With regard to taking notes during Chinese lessons, the main issue is that people tend to take notes directly when they type rather than when they write them by hand. Due to this, people typing on laptops tend to just type what the speaker or lecturer says, which involves a relatively shallow level of cognitive processing.

The process of writing down material by hand, in comparison, usually involves a more detailed examination of the material, since people give more thought to the points they want to record rather than just capturing the speaker’s words word-for-word.

2. Note-taking: Important factors to consider

  • Conceptual versus factual learning

In your SkillsFuture language courses, identify whether you will engage in conceptual learning, such as understanding the underlying concepts, or factual learning, such as memorising specific details in the material.

In other words, if you’re taking notes for a subject that requires a conceptual understanding of the material, it would be wiser to take those notes by hand instead of typing them. However, the cognitive benefits of writing notes by hand are less important if you’re taking notes on a subject requiring a factual understanding of the material.

  • Access to and distractions from information

Typed notes require the use of an electronic device, which provides you with access to a wealth of tools. The use of these tools can either enhance or impede your learning.

With access to such tools, you can check things out during the lecture if the speaker is unclear, or if you want to look up supplemental material.

Conversely, having more tools for taking notes also means you have more distractions at your disposal, which can be detrimental to your learning, as multitasking during lectures greatly hinders learning.

  • Length and type of text

As typing is generally faster than handwriting, taking notes by hand forces you to be more concise. Since you include only the most important details in your notes, this can be an advantage. In any case, if you are forced to be so brief that you leave out details that are still important but more minor, then this conciseness can hamper your writing.

3. Figure out what works best for you

Sometimes you may not feel comfortable taking notes by hand, either because doing so is too slow or because you are not familiar enough with the content to process it during the lecture. Typing the notes instead of writing them down by hand could be a more viable option in this scenario.

The same applies if you plan to review the material after the lecture, typing the notes may be more effective for getting a better grasp of the material, even if you’re not processing the information as much as when you write them by hand.

If you are in the midst of taking Chinese lessons, here are some quick note-taking tips to ease your learning process:

  • Choose a learning method that works best for you
  • Take smart notes and understand each character’s meaning
  • Learn the correct meaning of phrases and sentences by writing them down
  • Put the phrases into an absurd story, read it out loud, and listen to it
  • Make use of spaced repetitions


Take Up Chinese Lessons With Stanford Language Center

Whether you prefer writing your notes by hand or typing them on your electronic devices, we recommend finding out what note-taking method works best for you. At Stanford Language Center, we offer both in-person and online SkillsFuture Language courses. For those who prefer more of an individualised setting, our language coaches can also offer one-on-one tutoring.

There are many different Asian language classes available at our language school, allowing students to learn a new language with ease. Visit our website to learn more about our Chinese lessons and get in touch with us today!