Techniques for Remembering Words in a Foreign Language
Guilaine Jean-Pierre | Apr 27, 2015
Title: Contributor
Topic category: Volunteering & Study

Learning a second language is daunting to many adults, but take heart… there are ways you can shorten your learning curve and put yourself on track to foreign language fluency. Try these basic suggestions to help you achieve maximum recall with minimum effort.

Suggestion 1: Learn greetings, goodbyes, or “predictable” daily phrases. By memorizing these phrases you will have an arsenal at your disposal. It will take the stress off when you are interacting with individuals and gives you a sense of accomplishment.

Suggestion 2: Ever thought of using a label maker to help learn a new language? Train your brain by labeling all the things around you in another language. It’s a fast and easy way to grow your vocabulary.

Suggestion 3: Focus on a single theme each week. Our mind naturally clusters connected words together so learning a topic is in tune with our brain’s natural system. Week one, learn about Spring or all four seasons. Next week, follow-up with the weather.

Suggestion 4: Experts say that you can learn and retain 10 to 20 words per study hour. So an investment of 15 focused minutes of self-study per day will let you reach a weekly goal of 20-25 words and phrases, and a full 120-word baseline vocabulary in about is weeks.

Suggestion 5: Immerse yourself in the language you want to learn. As young children, we learned our native “tongue” by listening and parroting sounds. With the internet and technology, we have music, podcasts, TV shows and movies available in almost any language. Remember listening reinforces learned vocabulary and structures and helps us see patterns in language.

Suggestion 6: Reading, reading and reading! It helps you revisit learned vocabulary, and see those words in new sentences and contexts. Most newspapers can be found on the internet. There is another reason why reading through online newspapers is useful – it presents you with vocabulary in a variety of new contexts.

Suggestion 7: Yesterday’s vocabulary is more important than today’s, because you need to transfer yesterday’s short-term knowledge into your long-term memory before you lose it. Recycle those words regularly and often, and you'll embed them in your memory. A good language textbook or online program will review and apply learned vocabulary over and over in later lessons.

Suggestion 8: Mnemonics are memory devices that help learners recall larger pieces of information, especially in the form of lists like characteristics, steps, stages, parts, phases, etc. That means you can help yourself, remember a word by identifying a term in your native language that starts in a similar way. Connect the two in a sentence to give yourself a quick shortcut that will help you with recall exercises.

Suggestion 9: Understanding prefixes and suffixes will immediately expand your vocabulary. The French word désagréable, for example, contains the negating prefix dés- and the adjective-forming suffix –able. Studying prefixes and suffixes can help you make educated guesses about the meanings of new words you encounter.

Tags: Learning a Second Language, Foreign Language Fluency, Language Immersion, Mnemonics and Memory Devices, Language Study
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