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Linguaholic

How to remember foreign language vocabulary


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Hi,

One of the keys to speaking any foreign language to a high level is building a big repertoire of vocabulary and being so familiar with it that it rolls of the tongue at any (correct) given moment.

It takes a long time to build vocabulary and you have to have a lots of patience. But it is imperative that you plan your approach and are constant and consistent.

Here are some great tips on how best to make vocabulary building a fun and painless part of your everyday routine: http://coursefinders.com/en/studentlibrary/1450/top-tips-on-how-to-remember-second-language-vocabulary

Maybe you could all suggest some more?

Looking forward to hearing your ideas.

Laura

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I really think that one of the best methods in mastering a particular language's vocabulary is to make a huge list of words in the target language, always make time to read each one of them to be able to grasp their meaning and for memorization purposes. Just like what you have mentioned, this should be done consistently.

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Each time I've learnt a new language, I always found that repetition and continuous practice is what really works for me. Although it can take a while to stick, especially with the more difficult words, once the words stick, they really do stick. I've also found that learning words by association works for me. It could even be something that doesn't make any sense to anyone else but me, because it's just a neat little way to help me remember things easily. 

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It would be easy if the new word sounds like the native word counterpart like in the word blue which is azur in French, azul in Portuguese and asul in my native Filipino language. For words that I could not find anything to associate it with I just try to find something else that I can use to make me remember it, it could be personal to make it even more memorable. The labeling and force memorization may only work short term for me.

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My method is simple: watch videos/movies in that language, preferably with subtitles and see if your translation matches with the subtitles. This way, not only you can test your vocabulary, but you can also practice your pronounciation with some native speakers. It is usually a good idea to download the videos/movies in your computer so you can stop and rewind everytime you need to.

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@111kg, I like the idea of watching videos/movies in the chosen language, because it helps a lot with the pronunciation side of things. I don't know if it's just me, but my only snag is that the conversation always seems so fast it's hard to keep up LOL I don't know if it's because I'm not quite there yet or if speakers of other languages speak fast. But I guess there's the benefit of stopping and starting each time you miss something.

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Repetition is the key for me to remember a certain language. When I watch and re-watch certain tv series, I find that I've memorised the lines and dialogues. So with constant exposure and repetition, you sure can remember words or phrases from certain foreign languages. It mostly works for me this way. When I'm truly studying, association with other words, experiences or anything helps with memorisation. I find that when I associate a certain word with an experience, I remember it more. So association works great for certain formal memorisation of language.

Edited by lingualbabe
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I just associate a word with an object.  Like when you teach a toddler the name of something.  You point and say, "chair", until they understand it's a chair.  I did the same with some Spanish words.  That's how I learned them.  Granted, this won't work with verbs and other parts of speech.  Those I just read until I remembered them.  I tried putting them into sentences, as well. 

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When I was studying education psychology, when it comes to learning, the keyword seemed to be "significant learning". Memorizing alone sounds as the knowledge hasn´t been completely processed, it is either a question of time to forget or time consuming and repetition to really learn it. The most effective way is when you are learning vocabulary that (due to that situation or the subject or the approach) really means something important to you; you´ll never forget something that it is really significant.

 

Also, doesn´t seem very appealing to sit in front of a 100 word list and try learning them one after the other. Pick up the most important words, in general, the most important verbs, the prepositions and pronouns more used and basically that vocabulary that is essential to just communicate. If you dare to look at the massive vocabulary a language has, you´ll get overwhelmed. My 27 months old daughter can communicate with me with no more than 200 words, she´ll have time to improve, find synonyms, use verb modes, and so on).

 

I used to learn English by translating music magazines that they didn’t publish in Spain. It wasn’t a repetitive meaningless work but rather an interesting search for information in a subject I was interested on. I ended speaking it when I met someone that could only speak to me in English, later when I moved to UK and I learnt in each step vocabulary in a natural order, first those words that were meaningful or close to my own reality, as a Spaniard, as a woman, as a traveler, as a patient in hospital, even as an angry girlfriend. For me the key of vocabulary, now that I’ m learning German is to apply new words to my own reality. For example, go to search furniture in ikea.es instead of ikea.com, try to translate articles of subjects you enjoy or are interested in, try to have a discussion and defend your arguments with a native speaker about a subject that really concerns you, make games that use vocabulary, even, try to teach that same language to someone that knows less than you, and so on.

 

 

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When I was studying education psychology, when it comes to learning, the keyword seemed to be "significant learning". Memorizing alone sounds as the knowledge hasn´t been completely processed, it is either a question of time to forget or time consuming and repetition to really learn it. The most effective way is when you are learning vocabulary that (due to that situation or the subject or the approach) really means something important to you; you´ll never forget something that it is really significant.

 

Also, doesn´t seem very appealing to sit in front of a 100 word list and try learning them one after the other. Pick up the most important words, in general, the most important verbs, the prepositions and pronouns more used and basically that vocabulary that is essential to just communicate. If you dare to look at the massive vocabulary a language has, you´ll get overwhelmed. My 27 months old daughter can communicate with me with no more than 200 words, she´ll have time to improve, find synonyms, use verb modes, and so on).

 

I used to learn English by translating music magazines that they didn’t publish in Spain. It wasn’t a repetitive meaningless work but rather an interesting search for information in a subject I was interested on. I ended speaking it when I met someone that could only speak to me in English, later when I moved to UK and I learnt in each step vocabulary in a natural order, first those words that were meaningful or close to my own reality, as a Spaniard, as a woman, as a traveler, as a patient in hospital, even as an angry girlfriend. For me the key of vocabulary, now that I’ m learning German is to apply new words to my own reality. For example, go to search furniture in ikea.es instead of ikea.com, try to translate articles of subjects you enjoy or are interested in, try to have a discussion and defend your arguments with a native speaker about a subject that really concerns you, make games that use vocabulary, even, try to teach that same language to someone that knows less than you, and so on.

 

 

I like your approach on how to learn a new language. A lot of the things you mentioned in the last paragraph are very useful and I am doing stuff like this as well!

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Here's an old thread from a crusty old forum which I still think has the most comprehensive advice on learning vocabulary. I hope somebody archives it because I hear that forum is going down.

It has already been taken care of:
http://web.archive.org/web/20080530201653/http://www.how-to-learn-any-language.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=5307

 

In my honest opinion, learning vocabulary lists through rote memorisation is the worst thing you can ever do when it comes to learning vocabulary.
Not only you'll forget it quickly, it also gets you de-motivated quickly.
Seriously, you should work WITH your brain, not AGAINST it.

Instead, I highly encourage learning through spaced repetition and mnemonics.
Using these methods may take more time to learn new vocabs, but words will stick in your brain in the end, unlike rote memorisation.
Spaced repetition and mnemonics can both be automated through Anki (flash cards app) and Memrise (website and app).
Most ideally would be to put the word in your own language on the "front" of the flash card and the word in your target language on the "back".
This forces you to think in your target language.
It's also a good idea to include a mnemonic on the back if possible.
Like: Caber (Spanish) = to fit (English), so: "It's BARely possible to fit a BEAR in a CAB".

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I agree with you in principal, but want to add that nothing will work if you're not putting in a lot of time using the vocabulary. In other words, time spent doing exercises like flashcards and wordlists should be only a fraction of the time you spend using the language. 

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I forgot to mention that, but it's true.
You have to apply what you learn in practise too in order to commit it to your brain.
Theory is one part, practise is another part.
Most people tend to work exclusively on the theoretical part, which results that in the end they wouldn't even know how to say "How much is it"? when the time comes they have to say that.

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