Nothing is easy. Memorizing the words is no exception. It does require some work. Even if you are lucky enough to have fantastic memory, you might remember the meaning of the word but you might never “activate” it. Memorizing should not be just about the meaning, it’s more about remembering and understanding of how to use the word. So, the first step on the way to enhance the vocabulary is to understand the meaning, the second is to remember the context in which the word can be used and the third is to apply the newly acquired word to life!
I. Flip cards
Write the word on one side and the meaning/translation/collocation with this word on the other. Use the cards each day for several days to firmly learn the words. Don’t overload yourself with too long a word list!
Draw small pictures that show the meaning of the word if you can. Make a funny picture – it will help the brains to memorize the word easier. We tend to retain more “unusual” pieces of information than the “usual” ones.
Learn words with opposite meanings (antonyms) and words with similar meanings (synonyms) together. For instance, learn thick/thin (antonyms) and thick/fat (synonyms) at the same time. It will be easier to remember similar and opposite things because they “stick together” in our minds.
IV. Running list
Note down all the new words while you read, do a listening exercise, watch a video etc. Later on define all the words and write down the definition in front of each of them. When the list is ready, you can use it as a kind of flash card. Fold it and check if you remember the definitions. Fold it the other way and see if you remember the words.
V. Native Language Support
Some words in a target foreign language have similarities with words in your native language or the language you already know. Some of them will definitely be so called ‘false friends’. But most of them are real friends. That means that to remember them all you need is see the similarity with the other word you already know.
This is a method when memorizing the word is based on finding an association which is close in pronunciation to a word in your own language. For example, let’s take the English word “to mop” which sounds almost like “mops (мопс)” in Russian, which stands for a particular dog breed. According to this method you have to imagine how you use the “mops” to mop the floor, however wicked it sounds. This method is ideal to remember a short list of words.
Use post-it notes with a few words on each of them and stick them in different places of your room or flat, try to recall their meanings whenever you see the post-it.
Use the new word immediately. Use it 10 minutes later. Use it 1 hour later. Use it 1 day later. Use it 1 week later. After that, you’ll rarely have to review.
VIII. Put the words to music
The rhythm and rhyme of music help us remember the lyrics. This idea can be used to help memorize words by turning their definitions into song lyrics or by writing lyrics using sentences that put the words into an easy to understand context.
If you’ve just learnt how to say «seaside» in the foreign language you’re studying, imagine a picture of the seaside and then switch back between the native and foreign language words of what you’re seeing. The image, which is easier to remember than a word, will act as an intermediate between the two languages.
This techniques works for the words you cannot remember the spelling of. Make each letter of the word the initial letter of a new word. For instance: Friend might become Final Reunion of Intelligent, Eloquent and Neat Doctors. (Not the best example, sureJ Try to do better!)
Make up a few sentences with the new word. Make sure you have used the word correctly.
II. Word Formation
Vary the word: try to make it plural, to change the tense, to add -ly.
Use suffix or root words to find the core meaning of the target word.
IV. From the context
Find examples of how each word is used in your text/recording/video. Write a few words before and after the word so that you remember how it is used. This will help you remember what part of speech the word is and how it is used.
V. Silly Story
Make a crazy story that will include all the words you need to remember. We remember stories easily, especially crazy stories that we can imagine in detail in our minds. Repeat the story and you will remember the words.
- Practice the word in conversation, being sure to pronounce it correctly.
- Use the word in writing assignments as often as possible.
- Make a list of words you’d like “to activate” and use them during the conversation/class/making dialogues.
- Make a list of definitions and while having a conversation use the words implied crossing out the definitions.
- Use a word that you are eager to remember even if it doesn’t feet in the particular context. For example, you cannot remember the word “arrogant” and the conversation is about the weather. Try the following: I like today’s weather and I believe everybody should like it. Maybe arrogant people dislike this weather. They think that the weather has to be the way they want because they are arrogant!:)
All of the ways worked for me. I hope you will find something useful too. Good luck!