Key 205 – Efficient Vocabulary Learning

by Robbie Kunz

Besides grammatical structure, one of the biggest building blocks of any language is the vocabulary. If you don’t know the words, you won’t understand the language. Most of your time will be spent learning new vocabulary and new uses for words you already know. For this reason, it’s important to take a look at how to study vocabulary efficiently.

Rote memorization of vocabulary without any real method is a slow and inefficient way to learn vocabulary. Using a note card program on the computer will help make efficient the time you spend learning vocabulary, but there will still be a number of words that you will forget and ask the program to remind you of. There are a few ways to help learn vocabulary in the first place.

One particularly popular way of learning vocabulary is the “Harry Lorayne” method that was popularized by Barry Farber. Harry Lorayne was a memory expert who developed various ways to aid memorization. One of his techniques can be used effectively for vocabulary.

It works on the process that it is easier to learn vocabulary if you develop some vivid, graphical, sometimes strange “hook” for the word. Basically, you take the foreign word, break it down into sounds that mean something in your own language and then make a picture using those words.

For example, if you wanted to learn that the word “comer” means “to eat” in Spanish, you might imagine a small girl who will only eat her dinner if you comb her hair. In your image, you can imagine the worried parents telling you “comb ‘er!” (comer) so that the girl will eat her dinner before she passes out from starvation.

As you can see, the examples don’t have to make much sense and are actually easier to remember if they are wild. The point is, by having this image in your head, it will be easier to remember the meaning of the word.

For some people, this method works quite well. They are able to make vivid pictures which aid them in learning the vocabulary and once they have the vocabulary memorized, the pictures which originally helped them will begin to fade away leaving only the words.

However, there are some problems with this method of vocabulary memorization.

One of the biggest problems is that you won’t be able to come up with a vivid, clever picture for every word that you come across. Sometimes, you can get away with approximating sounds or only using half the word for the method but many times, you’ll be stumped.

Another problem people have is that they are unable to think of connections or hooks quick enough. For them, it is a difficult process. Like any other skill, this method is something that needs to be practiced. Also, some people will be naturally better at it than others.

If you find that this method works for you, then by all means use it. If, however, you find that it takes up too much time or you cannot create images readily enough, then there is another option which I personally use and prefer.

The problem with rote memorization of vocabulary is the lack of context and other information. This is what makes it hard to remember. One of the reasons that the Harry Lorayne method works so well is that it provides a great deal of imagery and context for the words making it easier for you to remember.

However, there is another obvious way to add this context which we have gone over before. All you have to do is simply add the sentence to your note card that you originally found the word in and add any other example sentences that you can find.

By having this many examples associated with the word, it will help your mind to remember the meaning. Also, by having the original sentence that you found the word in on the note card, you will also include all the context that comes with it.

For example, if you find a new word in a line from a movie and put the word and line on your note card, you will remember what was happening in the movie at the time and the character who said the word. All of this context will help you remember the meaning of the word and you will soon learn it.

At the same time, the context is real language which will have the added effect of helping you realize the structure of the language. This is, of course, the basis of language learning as we discussed before.

All in all, vocabulary learning is a skill and as you learn new words, you will find that it becomes easier and easier to learn new words as you become used to doing it. Even if you have trouble at the beginning, you will soon get better at it simply by doing it and it will become much more effortless.

Well that’s it for the beginner courses! I hope you’ve taken the time to really digest what I’ve written here and it’s been useful to you. Take a look at my advanced techniques if you would like to take your language learning journey further.

Please feel free to shoot me an e-mail if you’d like to ask a question about my methods or anything about my site:

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