Adventures in Language

Teaching Tips & Tricks | What is the Desirable Difficulty Principle?

October 12, 2021 Mango Languages
Adventures in Language
Teaching Tips & Tricks | What is the Desirable Difficulty Principle?
Show Notes

Does it make you feel uncomfortable to watch your students struggle with the target language? Don’t let it! Research into the Desirable Difficulty Principle suggests that this is often what active learning can look like, and it’s not something to shy away from. To learn what the Desirable Difficulty Principle is, and 4 fun ways you can incorporate it into your language classroom, don’t miss this episode!

Interested in exploring how the Mango app has been built upon principles of Second Language Acquisition Research, or to download our Setting Good Goals PDF? Click here to access:

If you’d like the blog article that accompanies this video, click here: And check out our podcast on Active Learning Strategies, chock-full of ideas for classroom activities in line with the Desirable Difficulty Principle.

If you liked this episode, please let us know by following our podcast! We appreciate you. We also invite you to check out our website at and follow us on social media @MangoLanguages.

Wondering what languages were used in today’s episode?
Guten Tag and Auf Wiedersehen are ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ in German. Mno waben and gwi wabmenëm are ‘good morning’ and ‘I will see you’ in Potawatomi, which is an Algonquin language spoken in the Great Lakes and Great Plains region. Did you know - there is no word for ‘goodbye’ in Potawatomi? This is because Potawatomi believe that we’ll always see each other in another time and place, both physically and spiritually. 前置きはさておき (maeoki-wa sate oki) means 'without further ado' (literally translates as ‘setting aside introductory remarks’).
Interested in learning English, German, Potawatomi, Japanese, Mandarin, or one of the other 70+ languages that the Mango app offers? Click here to learn more!

Want to know more about the scientific research underlying this podcast episode? 
For a nice overview of the principle: Bjork, R. A., & Bjork, E. L. (2020). Desirable difficulties in theory and practice. Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, 9(4), 475-479. 
To explore some little-known caveats: McDaniel, M. A., & Butler, A. C. (2011). A contextual framework for understanding when difficulties are desirable. Successful remembering and successful forgetting: A festschrift in honor of Robert A. Bjork, 175-198. 
For specifics into language pedagogy: Suzuki, Y., Nakata, T., & Dekeyser, R. (2019). The desirable difficulty framework as a theoretical foundation for optimizing and researching second language practice. The Modern Language Journal, 103(3), 713-720. 
To zoom in on vocabulary learning:  Bjork, R. A., & Kroll, J. F. (2015). Desirable difficulties in vocabulary learning. The American journal of psychology, 128(2), 241. 

Meet your guide Emily! Emily Sabo (PhD, University of Michigan) is a linguist at Mango Languages. A Pittsburgh native, her areas of specialization are the social and cognitive factors that impact bilingual language processing and production. Having studied 7 languages and lived in various countries abroad, she sees multilingualism -- and the cultural diversity that accompanies it -- as the coolest of superpowers. Complementary to her work at Mango, Emily is a Lecturer of Spanish at the University of Tennessee, a Producer of the “We Are What We Speak’ docuseries, and get this...a storytelling standup comedian!