Whether it is in a foreign language or in a specific lexical field of your own language, that you are not familiar with, it is hard to learn new words, especially in the long run. The scope of this article focuses on assimilating words in a foreign language, however you can use most of these tips if you have decided to learn some obscure terms related to hedge finance or nautical science by heart. Good luck!
1. Flash cards
This technique is quite well known by now, yet it is such an efficient tip that I can recommend everyone to start with these. Their main advantages are that they are cheap and don’t take much time. Get yourself some small rigid cards you can write 4 or 5 words on. Write the translation in the back of them and check your knowledge every now and then. You should have these cards on you all the time and use each dead time to swot – red traffic light, lift, underground, etc. After a few days, these words will have seared on your memory!
2. Read a lot
Anything and everything. If you like corny love stories, go for them. If you are into tabloids, that’s fine as well, after all it’s not about the content, but the words. Look out for signposts or ads in the streets, words are everywhere and the meanings of those are usually easy to guess. Even better, if you read about the same topic in your own language and in the language you are learning, you mind will naturally make parallels between the two of them, helping you to learn key words without even looking them up in a dictionary!
3. Watch TV and play video games!
I am aware it is not everyone’s cup of tea to spend time reading books or even magazines. If you are hooked on visual media, then keep on doing it! Now that you know your favourite TV series by heart and know who says what and when, switch the subtitles on and compare the translation with the original text. Would you not love to possess House’s cynical skills in Italian? Not to mention you will build up a large database of rare medical terms. Likewise, consider stop playing your videogames in your own language – did you check the settings? Most localised versions, especially in Europe, can be set in French, Spanish, English, Italian and German. By playing Gran Turismo 5 in German, I can now buy everything I need for my car (the real one) without thinking twice.
4. Don’t learn too much
Yes, learning is meant to be fun – you realise it after your teenage years. Better learn one word today and remember it than learning ten by principle and having forgotten them the very next day. Know your own rhythm and adapt yourself to it. If you had a horrid day and don’t feel like learning Polish, then just don’t! You will learn better tomorrow and, more importantly, you will remember the words you learn.
5. Use your new words
Learning new words is fine but if you do not use them, they will rust and fall into oblivion. Just like a car, drive it every once in a while and you will hold on to it forever. So, let’s assume you’ve learned three new words this morning. Challenge of the day: place them in a conversation in before tomorrow. Not only will you have to think of these words the whole day, but you will also have to utter them and use them in context. This is a great opportunity to check if are able to do both properly. If you have the chance to go abroad you will most likely even get some feedback about how you used the word!
When is your favorite moment to learn some new words?
- anytime is a good time
- morning right after coffee
- swotting a few new words before bedtime
- while commuting
- over lunchbreak
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