Do not use your mother tongue
In the article “How memories work”, we explained that you have to make links in order to encode information more easily. And this is true. But when learning a language, it is better not to make links with your mother tongue. You need to connect the new vocabulary to the image, smell or feeling you have of that word. Let’s take an example: You are learning the word “Die Tür”. Picture a door and associate the word with that image. Or imagine the sound of a door slamming.
Using the different senses
Information is picked up by our senses. The more channels we use, the more likely the information will reach us. We are alive, we feel emotions and experience life through our senses. Do the same with vocabulary. You are learning the word “Die Tür” so stand in front of a door, walk in, walk out, touch the texture.
Tip for particularly difficult words: Feel the word through all the senses.
Memory needs organization in order to encode information. Space is a great way to help it do this. Here’s how space can be used: Associate a room or a corner of a room with an item. For example, say to yourself, “In the living room I’m learning all the words in the singular. Or “in the kitchen, I’m learning the words of the environment theme”. You are in front of your words: place the singular words in the living room, the feminine words in the bedroom. Go back and forth. You can then mix the words and associate each word with a room. This trick is particularly effective for learning German determiners.
Create theme weeks
Bring your vocabulary to life and make it easier to remember by setting theme weeks. If you are learning words related to the theme “leisure time”, create a theme week and live the words! Learn only the words related to this category, go bowling, watch a documentary on fishing (in your target language, of course), try a new hobby. Not only will the words be related to concrete experiences, but you will also evoke positive emotions that promote learning: the excitement of trying a new hobby, the laughter and joy when you bowl. This will reinforce the positive attitude and connection you have with the language of learning.
Associate words with real life
Continuing or complementing tip 4, tip 5 allows for lasting encoding of knowledge in long-term memory: it involves associating the words learned with everyday life. For example:
– Are you learning the vocabulary “Clothing”? Go try on some clothes and learn at the same time. If you are putting on a pair of pants, say in the language you are learning “Ich ziehe eine Hose an.”
– Are you learning the vocabulary “Taste”? Go out and taste different ice creams and learn consciously by associating what you feel with the word.
– Are you learning “Furniture” vocabulary? Take a tour of your apartment, moving from piece to piece of furniture.
Creating Vocabulary Cards
Small vocabulary cards are a valuable tool: they can be taken and used anywhere, and they can form the basis for a game. But to make the cards even more effective, consider these two points:
– Do not translate the words into your native language.
– Write a sentence and not just the word: we remember a word better in its context and when it makes sense.
Here is an example of labels (front and back):
Use your musical instrument
This tip is ideal for people who play a musical instrument and like to create melodies. Create a little melody to accompany you as you learn and then “sing” your words. Don’t play an instrument? No problem! Create a rhythm with your hands or chopsticks; this also works great!
We hope you enjoy trying out these learning tips. Don’t hesitate to give us feedback.
The SWISS LINGUA team