How to Memorize Vocabulary in Another Language

When you are learning a foreign language, one of the most important things you can do is widen your vocabulary. However, for many people, this can be challenging and dull.

In this post, we look at how to memorize vocabulary more quickly, and in more fun ways.

Firstly, we will discuss different styles of learning, then we will look at the science of how memory works. We will then provide 7 top tips for using memorization methods for learning vocabulary.

Finally, we will address the importance of learning vocabulary and answer frequently asked questions about how to memorize vocabulary.

Different Styles of Language Learning

Everyone has their own methods for absorbing new language and when it comes to memory, one size does not fit all.

For some, studying textbooks and vocab lists is the best way to make words stick. However, for others, this method is tedious and ineffective.

You might prefer to watch TV and movies in your language of choice or listen to podcasts and music. If this is your preferred method, check out Lingopie.

Lingopie is a streaming service that is designed to help you learn a new language through immersion in the vernacular and the use of interactive learning features.

You can also take part in language exchange events in which you speak with a partner in your native language and then swap to their native language. This way, both of you can practice your target languages.

Depending on your learning style (visual, auditory, or more hands-on), one method might jump out to you as more appealing.

The Science of Memorization Techniques

We have two kinds of memory: short-term and long-term. Your short-term memory holds information for a brief period of time, while your long-term memory stores information such as how to tie your shoes, what you wore to work last week, and so on.

Your goal when memorizing new vocabulary is to move new words from your short-term to your long-term memory through repetition. There are several memory techniques that will help you with this learning process.

One such approach is to use mnemonic devices. These are techniques you can employ to help you retain information, such as rhyme, rhythm, acronym, or visualizing images to help you learn something.

Mnemonics work by creating connections in your brain between images, words, or tunes and information.

Another great method to employ is spaced repetition. This is the idea that studying in shorter bursts of time with breaks is actually better for your memory than cramming for hours without stopping.

Finally, sleep is your best friend when you are trying to memorize vocabulary. Sleeping solidifies memories in the brain and prepares your mental infrastructure for new memories. So, don't forget to get a good night's sleep before and after studying.

Now, let's look at how to use these techniques to memorize words in a fun and effective way.

Using Memory Techniques to Learn Vocabulary Words

Here are 7 effective and fun ways to memorize foreign vocabulary.

1. Incorporate Your Environment

You can make your home a prime learning environment by sticking new vocabulary words on items they relate to so that when you see the item, the vocabulary word comes to mind.

This is a great way to remember vocabulary without overloading yourself with information.

2. Use Mnemonic Images

There is a theory that if you create a "memory palace" in your head, you can store mnemonic images inside it to help you remember new words.

Your memory palace doesn't have to be a real palace, but any location you know well, such as your home or the office.

You can then start to associate everyday objects in your memory palace with new words.

Take the Spanish word pensar, which means "to think". If you had to conjure an image of someone thinking, they may well be chewing on the end of a pen, and "pen" is the first syllable of pensar.

So, this mnemonic image encodes both the word and its meaning. When you cannot remember the Spanish word for "think", you can imagine this person chewing a pen and the word will follow.

Put the pen in your memory palace and you will remember the meaning of the word pensar.

3. Create Stories with New Vocabulary

If you are creative and like to be hands-on with your learning, you can take your new word list and create a story with it. Words stick better when you learn and use them in context.

You will then have the plot, images, and characters of the story, and any other associations you have drawn from this experience, to help you to remember the vocabulary words.

4. Try to Use New Words Everyday

Coming back to spaced repetition, it is important to keep repeating new words at intervals throughout the day.

Saying a word aloud repeatedly in your target language is a more effective way of getting it to stick in the long-term memory than simply writing it down.

5. Use Language Learning Apps

Language learning apps, such as Duolingo, can be beneficial for vocabulary practice as they provide example sentences for context and focus on specific areas of vocabulary at one time.

This is a fun and accessible way to memorize more words and their meaning and practice recalling information in a safe space. Check out our post about paid language learning apps vs. free language learning apps.

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6. Watch Foreign Movies and TV

If you learn well with audio and visual associations, use TV and movies to help you learn. You can spot foreign vocabulary in real-life situations on shows you love and expose yourself to new vocabulary in an engaging and fun way.

A great thing about using TV and movies to learn new words is that you will come across colloquialisms and slang that you wouldn't find in a textbook or formal learning app

7. Use Flash Cards and Quizzes

Finally, use these classic learning methods to test your memory.

Have cards with a vocabulary word on one side and the definition on the other and see how fast you can come up with the meaning.

Use the quiz features on language apps and Lingopie for practice and memory.

The Importance of Memorizing Vocabulary

Learning languages is a process with many facets, including vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, and the language skills of speaking, writing, listening, and reading. When you are trying to learn a new language, all of these factors are important and necessary.

You can master grammar and pronunciation, but if you do not have the words to express yourself, these other aspects of learning a new language mean very little.

It can be incredibly frustrating when you cannot express your thoughts in another tongue because you don't have the necessary vocabulary words in your memory bank.

Once your vocabulary grows and you are able to express more complex thoughts and feelings, you can start to reap the rewards of being multi-lingual. These include travel opportunities, enjoyment of literature from other countries, and the jobs available to polyglots.

Frequently Asked Questions: How to Memorize Vocabulary

Why do I have trouble remembering the meaning of new words?

You may have trouble with vocabulary memorization because you overload your brain with words and don't use techniques like memory palaces. Or, you've not yet discovered your ideal learning style.

How can I memorize vocabulary faster?

The best way to memorize new vocabulary quickly is to work out which methods work best for you. Once you know this, remember to sleep well and take regular breaks.

Of course, some languages are easier than others to learn fast. Languages that you can learn quickly as an English speaker include French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese.

How do I learn words that do not translate into my native language?

When you come across a word with no direct translation, it becomes very important to pay attention to the context of the word.

For example, the Portuguese word saudade expresses an extreme longing for something or someone stronger than nostalgia.

When you hear this word, you have to focus on the rest of the sentence and the context to fully grasp the meaning of the word.

What are the best TV shows for memorizing vocabulary?

When choosing TV shows for memorizing vocabulary, it's smart to pick a show related to the specific vocabulary you want to learn. For instance, if you want to remember words about family relationships, a sitcom is a great choice.

Moreover, choose easy-to-watch shows with simple plots so you are not distracted by the confusing twists and turns, and you can focus on the vocabulary.

Summing Up: How to Memorize Vocabulary in a Foreign Language

This has been a guide to memorizing new words in other languages. We have looked at the different styles of learning and the science of memorization. We have also provided 7 excellent methods to memorize new vocabulary.

Whether you are more inclined to make a memory palace and envision new words with mnemonic images or you prefer to absorb information organically by watching foreign TV and movies, there is a memorization method here for you.

Remember, use apps designed to help you learn new words, and check out Lingopie's streaming service if you love interactive learning.

This is a powerful tool for natural language acquisition.

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