You’ll find many language learning sources stating that the best technique to learn a new language is to memorize words and improve vocabulary, as this will lead to a better understanding of the language, you’ll be able to start “thinking” in that new language, due to the fact that you won’t have to pause and research what a particular word means and so forth. Here are a couple of tips and tricks that should help you memorize words faster, easier and most importantly, for a longer period of time.
Avoid the Phonebook Method
This is the old fashioned, traditional vocabulary improvement method used for a long time in schools as a language learning technique. You probably used this in your primary and high school foreign language classes as homework. Remember your teacher going “I want you to memorize the words on the list at page 5, take them one by one and learn what they mean”. Basically that’s what the phonebook method is all about: having a long list of words, usually written in the column and another parallel column containing the translations. You will be asked to memorize each word, pronounce it a few times so it “sticks” inside your memory, then move on to the next, just like you would be memorizing entries from a phonebook.
First of all, I find this method of memorizing words terribly inefficient. By the time you reach the second part of your list, you’ve already forgotten the first ones, or most of them, simply because our brain is not used to acquiring so much information under the form of character strings, so your memory will lose out on some of these words. It’s also a very annoying and boring language learning and vocabulary improvement method and I suggest you focus on some other activity that also adds a bit of fun, since we all learn better if we’re having fun at the same time.
Using Imagery to Help Memorize Words
Like I said above, our brain is not in the best shape to memorize character strings, when compared to, say, images or audio. A lot of modern language courses and most of the free language lessons online that I saw focus on adding imagery to the vocabulary improvement process. Flashcards for example, are a great way to stamp a word with an image. Quizzes that let you add a certain word to a certain image are also efficient and so are education games that focus on teaching words based on images.
It’s also important to build links between the word and an image and this linking technique is based on language mnemonics. Language mnemonics use a certain image to link a word in your mother tongue, to a word in the language you’re learning. For example, let’s say you were trying to learn French. You’re learning the French word “grognon”, which means grumpy in English.
Now imagine a visual image of an old grumpy man, visibly annoyed. Now whenever the French word will come up, the image of the grumpy man will pop in your mind and you will instantly know what it means. Try using mnemonics and word imagery, at least for a bit and you’ll soon find out why this is one of the most popular language learning and vocabulary improvement methods of today.
Using Emotion to Help Memorize Words
Yes I know the subtitle sounds weird. After all, how can an emotion help you memorize a foreign word? It sounds silly but trust me, it’s not. And the most helpful emotion that comes into play here is “fun”. If you enjoy doing something, if you have fun with it, you’re bound to learn what everything about what you’re doing faster and for a longer period of time.
Think about playing a computer game about ancient Rome. Although you never were familiar with the terms related to this context, if you have fun playing it you’ll acquire a wealth of new information about the subject and words like Colosseum, Gladiator and Caesar will be naturally added to your vocabulary.
In conclusion, remember one thing: never learn new words like a robot. Try to include them to your vocabulary naturally and not force them in your brain. If you can’t find a way to introduce them naturally, at least get these words memorized with the help of sounds or images (or even better, both – there are plenty of audio/video interactive language learning websites out there and most of them offer free language lessons).
Increase your foreign language vocabulary at http://www.InternetPolyglot.com by playing online games. The site contains thousands of lessons in different languages from English, Spanish, French, Russian to Hindi, Turkish, Ukrainian and many others.