How long does it take on average to learn new vocabulary words? Of course, it depends mostly on your ability to remember information. But what strategies should you use to improve your vocabulary and ability to remember words in a foreign language?
Use memory tricks!
Do you know that you have a good memory
But first, let us debunk a common belief that you probably don’t know about. We want to emphasize the fact that you have a good memory. Just because you can’t remember where you put your keys, or just because you haven’t mastered a language as quickly as you’d like, doesn’t necessarily indicate that you have a bad memory. You just didn’t pay much attention or put enough effort into memorizing or remembering information.
Maybe you were busy and just didn’t pay attention to where you left your keys. It happens. It’s very natural and happens to absolutely everyone.
Our memory is like a muscle. To develop a strong memory, we just need to use simple procedures and approaches to get it to its maximum potential. It’s like following a well-designed fitness program that includes daily workouts to help you develop a strong and healthy physique. In fact, the same thing works with memory! Memory works better when it is “trained.”
Similarly, when it comes to memorizing new words in a foreign language, the process of training is very important. If you’ve seen a term once, twice, or even a hundred times, it doesn’t mean that you’ll immediately remember it and be able to use it later in your discussion.
There is a common misconception that people with excellent memory have some kind of innate ability, but that is not true at all. An excellent memory can simply be trained. Moreover, learning a foreign language is a great technique for improving memory and overall cognitive abilities, as well as overall intelligence. After all, the more information you get, the easier it is for you to remember it.
You may not believe us that you don’t have memory problems. But just try the following top 10 proven strategies that will increase your memory, allowing you to retain more information and learn languages faster. Each of these memory strategies has been shown to be effective.
10 Proven Memory Hacks: How to Learn New Vocabulary Faster
Now let’s look at how to memorize and learn new vocabulary faster according to these 10 proven tips.
Hack 1: Use spaced repetition while learning new vocabulary words
Repetition is necessary to retain knowledge in long-term memory. Interval repetition is a practice that is popular among polyglots and the language learning community at large because it is effective.
Interval repetition works by simply not letting you forget anything, ensuring that the information stays fresh in your memory throughout the process. When you repeat information, you must not just repeat it over and over again. Instead of this, you must repeat it at increasing intervals.
Consider the following scenario: you’ve learned a few Spanish greetings and other important Spanish phrases to prepare for your upcoming vacation to Spain. You repeat them after a few minutes, then after a few hours, then after a day, then after a few days, then after a week and so on.
This just uses interval repetition, which trains your brain, allowing you to recall information at longer intervals.
Leitner’s flash card system was one of the earliest interval repetition algorithms developed. The method was based on paper flashcards that were divided into different levels and placed in different boxes as the student progressed through the learning process.
Flashcards of different levels of difficulty were repeated at different intervals over time. For example, level one cards could be played every day, level two cards every two days, level three cards every four days, level four cards every eight days, and so on.
How nice that it’s the 21st century, all the ingenious things have been on the Internet for a long time and flashcards haven’t escaped that.
Langavia Personal Dictionary uses a simplified, but much more student-friendly, interval repetition system that has proven to be effective. No minutes or hours between repetitions – all these things are very difficult to follow. All you need to do to learn words is use our app once a day, spending just 15-30 minutes working through all the words you’re learning through playful exercises. Convenient, efficient, and time-saving and you’ll still have time to watch some kitties on YouTube.🙂
By the way, previously, we published an interesting guide on how you can use Langavia to learn new words and prepare for foreign language exams. Check it out!
Hack 2: Convert new words to pictures
Most students are primarily those who pay attention to the visual component. Visual information makes up about 80-90% of the information we perceive. About 65-80% of us are visual learners, which is a large portion of the population. We remember information much better when it is accompanied by images. So why not use visual images and visual learning to help yourself memorize new words?
Here’s an example of how this can be done. Look at a term that you would like to memorize. Is there something it reminds you of? What if the symbols look or sound like a comparable term in your native language or in another language with which you are familiar?
Some languages are already built on a similar technique from the beginning. For example, if you’re learning Chinese or Japanese, there are certain characters that are based on real objects and appear to be the same as objects in the real world.
To summarize, the basic principle of this approach is to create a mental image of a word based on its shape, meaning and/or sound in order to remember it. Creating an additional connection to the phrase can help you keep it in your memory for a longer period of time and remember it more easily.
Hack 3: Create your own ‘Memory Palace’
Memory palace – how regal does that sound, doesn’t it? Nevertheless, it is a very effective method of memorizing language.
Although this method was invented by the ancient Greeks, that doesn’t make it any less useful in today’s world. Many people today use it to memorize a variety of information, including cards in a poker game, names at a party, formulas for exams, shopping lists and, of course, foreign words.
When you see a memory palace in your mind, it’s a place where you can store mnemonic pictures. You don’t have to imagine a palace – in fact, it’s much more effective if you see a familiar place, such as your home.
In order for the memory palace to be effective, you must first make a strong connection between the word and the image as well as the physical place.
The procedure for creating a memory palace is described below.
- Imagine a familiar place in your mind, such as your home.
- Map out your route through it: entering through the front door, moving down the hallway, going to the rooms, etc. Think about the furniture and other items you pass by.
- Make a list of things you need to remember – new foreign words, for example – and arrange the items along the path to help you remember them.
- To make remembering even more vivid, make the items you’re remembering interact with the place. For example, el gato (“a cat” in Spanish) will greet you at the front door, purring as it does so.
- Try it and see how it works! We’re sure the memory palace you create will be unlike any other method and will help you memorize foreign words at an incredibly high level.
Hack 4: ‘Stack’ your vocabulary words with the Stacking Method
A stack is a logically organized collection of things stacked one on top of the other. You probably have at least one stack of things in your house: dishes, books, DVDs, documents, and more. “How could this help me?” – you ask.
Stacking information can also help you remember information more effectively. Stacking is especially effective for remembering lists, such as shopping lists. It’s also very effective for learning the vocabulary of a foreign language. It especially works when items relate to the same topic or are connected by a common context.
This strategy also uses vivid visualization, but you don’t just create a vivid picture for each word, you practically stack them one on top of the other to reinforce the concept.
Take, for example, a situation where you need to learn the names of various kitchen items in Italian. Start with piatto, which means “a plate” in Italian. Clearly imagine it in your mind, how it looks and what shape it takes. Put a tazza (“a cup”) on top of it. What will be next? Should we put forchetta (“a fork”) there? After you put it on top of the tazza, try to balance something else on it.
It may seem a little strange at first, but it really works! Creating a vivid mental picture in your head of a stack of piatti (“dishes”) can help you remember words better, because there is a close connection between words and visuals. The more ridiculous a picture, the more memorable it will be for you.
The only drawback to this strategy is that the vocabulary items are arranged in a specific order, which makes remembering them in any other order a little more difficult than it would otherwise be.
Hack 5: Create fun mnemonics
Mnemonic techniques, also known as mnemonics, are various approaches that help retain information in long-term memory and retrieve those memories more successfully. Mnemonics are based on the concept of making meaningful connections to knowledge through elements such as pictures, memorized phrases, short poems, or even kinesthetic forms (such as clapping hands).
Mnemonics work by creating associations between a word and the rest of the sentence. The word becomes more than just a foreign term, it becomes an idea associated with a picture, a joke, a song, or anything else. The stronger the picture and the more associations, the more effective the mnemonic devices.
There are many different mnemonics to choose from, and you can even mix and match them to create your own unique connections.
Mnemonics can be used to help students learn the alphabet, vocabulary, grammar, and other sections of a foreign language quickly and effectively.
For example, many French students confuse two commonly used French prepositions: au-dessus, which means “above,” and au-dessous, which means “below” (under). How can you remember them if their spelling is so similar? With a mnemonic device, of course!
If you see an airplane in the air, it should be au dessus (because this plane is above you). If you see a mouse on the ground, it should be au-dessous (because this mouse is under your feet).
Sounds strange, doesn’t it? That’s why you’ll never get those two prepositions mixed up again!
Hack 6: Share and Teach Others with The Protégé Effect
A Latin proverb says that the best way to learn something is to teach it to someone else. This is true in many cases. “We learn through learning,” said the Roman philosopher and educator Seneca the Younger. The protégé effect is another term for this phenomenon.
What you have learned should be shared with someone you know. This will help you not only to determine how to apply what you have learned in practice, but also to make sure that you yourself understand what you have learned. No one is home? Tell your gato (“a cat” in Spanish) what you think!
This method works even if you are a complete beginner. When you share your knowledge with other beginners, not only do you reinforce what you’ve learned for yourself, but you also increase your chances of remembering those new words. It can also be a lot of fun to learn together!
Hack 7: Always write down vocabulary words
There’s something about typing on a keyboard, and there’s something about ink and paper that makes your brain automatically process and remember information. Written communication is very successful for different reasons, one of which is that it requires deeper processing. In addition, we often describe information in our own words, which only enhances the processing of that information. But it doesn’t have to stop there. Additional processing is required in the way we choose how we arrange the information on the page, such as which areas of the page to highlight to make them more visual.
The advantage of written notes is that you almost always don’t have to refer to them later, because you assimilate the information right when you write them!
Try it and see how it works! The next time you sit down to study, tear yourself away from your routine and write down in your personal dictionary what you are learning. Rest assured, you’ll remember more information.
Hack 8: Learn new vocabulary words with little effort using The Goldlist Method
Another writing-oriented strategy is the Goldlist Method, which is especially popular among polyglots. The goldlist method is a method of learning expressions that involves making lists of phrases you want to learn and writing them down in a notebook. After 2 weeks, you duplicate them again, this time separating those expressions you remember from those you don’t. You’ll find that you remembered 30 percent of the phrases on each list without even studying them, as if by magic! Is it really that bad?
The Goldlist method is applied as follows:
- Divide the page into four sections labeled A, B, C and D. Fill in section A with a list of 20 words with the translation you want to remember. Read each word and its translation aloud. Set the list aside for a while and “forget” about it.
- For the next 13 days, make new lists with four new parts.
- On the 15th day, go back to the first list (step 1) and test yourself by hiding all the translations. You will notice that you have remembered about 30% of the list – about 6 words/phrases from it. Section B should have the remaining 14 words copied from section A.
- You have probably already begun to see where this is going. You go through the procedure with all the other lists, then go back to the first one and go through it all over again. It is believed that as long as you feel comfortable and enjoy the process, you will spontaneously pick up a few items in your long-term memory with each repetition. Those things you don’t remember, you’ll just learn the next step, the following week.
Hack 9: Focus makes progress
There are many things during the day that can distract our attention, and that can get in the way of focusing on learning a language. When you want to spend time learning a foreign language, make every effort to eliminate as many distractions from your surroundings as possible. If you are sitting at home, explain to your family that you need to spend this time studying. If you are in a public place, wear noise-canceling headphones or listen to quiet music that will help you take your mind off the world around you. Turn off all notifications on your phone or, if you use a mobile study app, turn off all notifications by switching to night mode.
When you are focused, engaged, and paying attention only to what you are studying, you will remember much more information.
Hack 10: Combine words with images with Dual Coding
When you mix visual and verbal information, it’s called dual coding. Creating mental images helps in the learning process. Consider again the concept of “a cat”, which you can store in your mind both as a word and as an image of a cat, and you can recall them both simultaneously or separately from each other.
Here are some examples of how to use this hack.
- Create a timeline of events in your head.
- Introduce a cartoon that will then help you remember stories and words.
- Draw sketches in outlines.
- Use flashcards with images.
Building visual connections is a very powerful strategy, so double coding is very helpful.