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Super-fast vocabulary learning techniques

 Language Learning Forum : Learning Techniques, Methods & Strategies Post Reply
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Super Polyglot
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 Message 161 of 255
11 July 2008 at 4:22am | IP Logged 
"Armarda is another word for fleet"

My association for "armada" would be that it is a regular participle form of the word for 'to arm', armar, - i.e. it's simply an armed fleet. Which illustrates that for someone who already has some command of a certain language intra-linguistical associations may be just as useful as other kinds of associations, including visual representations. Normally I would prefer a 'true' eymological explanation to a simple pun, but the important thing is that it works - anything that makes you remember a word or an idiomatic phrase is in principle allowed, though remembering a word through a notoriously false analogy or etymology is somewhat risky.   

There is absolutely no reason to limit this use of intralinguistical associations (including etymologies) to one target language. If a word in Chinese helps you to remember a word in Georgian then it's just fine.

But true etymologies work better for me, - especially if they are fun too. For instance a hair dresser in Russian is known as a "Парикмахер", wig maker - it's a German word imported while men still wore sumptuous wigs (peruques). Btw. Russian, like German and Danish, is dominated by 'families' of words formed from one simple word by adding all kinds of affixes. It would be stupid not to exploit this fact when memorizing words.

While working with wordlists I have noticed that it is hard to remember 5-7 words from the target language if I'm new to a certain language, - I then have to resort to the kind of artificial associations mentioned earlier. But when I pass through intermediate to basic fluency it gets much easier to remember new words, and I don't need the extralinguistic associations anymore - almost any new word will ring a bell somewhere (maybe also because I have seen it many times before but just didn't memorize it). And at that point I also gets most pleasure from wordlists drawn directly from dictionaries (of course in conjunction with devouring as much genuine text as possible in the target language).

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William Camden
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 Message 162 of 255
11 July 2008 at 8:35am | IP Logged 
I used several techniques at the time, including Vis-Ed vocabulary flash cards, but one technique I used at school to learn German might be of interest.

I had a hard-bound exercise book (useful for standing up to a lot of handling, being carried around). I started writing in it the English translations of German words I was learning. I got the German vocabulary from my schoolbooks or from words I thought should know while flicking through a pocket dictionary. I numbered the words so I had an idea of how many I was learning. I did not write the German down - I would look at the English and it was a kind of cue for the German. If I needed to refresh my memory, I would look in the pocket dictionary but no translation of the English word was written in the exercise book. I got up to around 1,800 words in this way, and did well in the subsequent German exam.    
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 Message 163 of 255
11 July 2008 at 10:01am | IP Logged 
Like Iversen, I try to avoid creating funny linguistic associations or images to remember vocabulary. I find for most Indo-European languages, a common root can often be found.

E.g. Traffic Lights (Semafor-Czech) (Semáforo-Spanish) (Semáforos-Portuguese)
all deriving from the early hand cranked signals, and related to the English semaphore.


E.g. Fork (Spanish-Tenedor) from tener - to have (hold) and -dor implying an instrument or device.

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 Message 164 of 255
11 July 2008 at 10:27am | IP Logged 
That's a good point DaraghM makes about the Indo-Euro languages. It makes me think I could pick up French rather quickly. I have quite a few reasons for learning it, too. French pronunciation is terrible. I would have to hear it day in, day out in order to properly learn French.

I use a lot of mnemonics for Japanese. I also walk around with lists -- like others have mentioned. I have a problem with just naked words and flashcards, though. Nothing sticks! How I wish I could memorize just words, but I need a context to make them stick. Luckily I'm getting to the point where I can pick up new words when I hear the language. I'll write the entire phrase down and look up the unknown words later. The hard part is when I want to read new material. I don't often get to listen to what I read or or vice versa. My reading and my listening practice are mostly separate. (There's only so many times I can hear the same audio-book passage.) I hope more study will make up for any deficiencies.   

Edited by Sunja on 11 July 2008 at 12:13pm

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SwedenRegistered users can see my Skype Name
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 Message 165 of 255
11 July 2008 at 3:43pm | IP Logged 
DaraghM wrote:
E.g. Fork (Spanish-Tenedor) from tener - to have (hold) and -dor implying an instrument or device.

Funny, I once mentioned my association (the same as yours) to a native Spanish, to which he replied: "No, tenedor just means fork!". :)
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 Message 166 of 255
21 July 2008 at 8:41am | IP Logged 
I find that the following technique is very useful to me.
I used traditional flashcards and vocabulary lists until it occured to me "since words are better memorized in context why should I write down the translation instead of writing down the context?"
Now during shadowing or reading I only mark unfamiliar words. Then I build a table with two columns. Left column contains the context sufficient to identify the unknown word with dots in place of the word. The right one contains the missing word with its meaning and transcription if needed.
The vocabulary learning process is just reading the left coulmn and recalling the missing words. As long as the words are inseparable from context it is much simpler to memorize them.
This method might be already known but I hope it is worth discussing.

P.S. Any comments about mistakes in my message would be highly appreciated.
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 Message 167 of 255
21 July 2008 at 9:33am | IP Logged 

I agree that context is better, but there are also some things for which any context I can come up with is somewhat trivial.   Food is a decent example. The context for using the word hamburger ("I'll have a hamburger", "I made myself a hamburger") is the same as that for ordering a hot dog, and at some point with these things I think you just have to put them into your head somehow. There are lots of things like this ("I saw a ___ at the zoo" (has picture of zebra in head), ("My car broke down because the ___ failed")

I agree that context is always useful (remembering the context that you encountered a word is definitely useful, for helping to remember if nothing else), I just am not sure that for learning new things that it is useful to generate context.

Edited by Ortho on 21 July 2008 at 9:37am

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 Message 168 of 255
21 July 2008 at 10:30am | IP Logged 
Chamberlain wrote:
"since words are better memorized in context why should I write down the translation instead of writing down the context?"

Some people prefer to learn in context, some don't. If you read through this entire thread, you'll find several members who never take anything out of context (Linguamor and the Professor for example). In fact, they would probably consider what you do to be "out of context". Where you draw the line is a matter of personal preference.

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