In school, teachers usually teach the “phonebook” method of learning a language. With this memory technique you were given a list of vocabulary words to memorize, along with their meaning. The object is to repeat the word so often it will “stick” in your memory, and then you can move on to another word. This method is the old-fashioned way to learn, and it hasn’t proven to be as effective as other methods. It also takes longer, and our brains are simply not wired to learn this way. By the time you have moved on to the next list you will have forgotten the previous one.

Memorization and vocabulary are encouraged ways to learn a new language by most educators and language coaches, but it takes time because you have to bounce back and forth between your normal language and the new one, a requiring extra steps that are not necessary. The idea is to start thinking in the new language, but it is not effective if you are in a hurry to learn.

I would like to show you a couple memory techniques I have learned that will help you to memorize faster and retain your new language longer. These tips will be just as effective if you simply want to improve on your native language skills, or in learning a new language.

Association has been proven to be the most effective way to retain what you are learning. You associate the word with something you are familiar with, and you use all of your senses (hearing, touch, smell, vision and taste) in order to do it. By involving your senses you are activating your brain cells to make new connections, and strengthening the ones you already have. This extra push helps to retain what you have learned.

Language courses often focus on imagery when learning vocabulary words. You create a mental picture of the word you are trying to learn. When you hear the word your mind automatically pulls up that image. For example: When we hear the word “dog” we automatically pull up a picture of a dog. When you hear the word “perro” (dog in Spanish) you will also see a picture of a dog in your mind. When someone says the word “apple pie” we naturally picture apples in our minds, and can smell the fragrance of apple pie. You are linking the word to one or more of our senses.

Flashcards are a learning tool where you have a picture on one side of the card and the word on the other. This is effective for teaching toddlers their colors and shapes as well as for adults learning new language. Flashcards are the most common tool used for imagery and association because you get a visual image along with the word.

Another tool that allows you to build a visual bridge in order to associate words is called “language mnemonics.” The bridge represents the link between the new word and your native language version of it. An example: In French, the word “pan” means bread. This is a simple association, since you can visualize a piece of French bread baking in a long pan. When you think of “bread” in French you will automatically think of bread in a pan, which links them together in your memory.

When using mnemonics you want to make your image as bright, colorful, and vivid as you can. You want it to stand out, so the brighter and more outrageous the better for you to remember. Humor also is important as a memory tool, so add humor to your image as well.

This is Ron White, two-time USA Memory Champion , memory training expert, and memory keynote speaker. Make use of your senses and these interactive tools when learning a new language. Repeat the words often, because repetition helps to imprint the word in your memory. Make learning a memory game and you will find you are not only learning faster, but also having fun doing it.



Resources: – How To Memorize Words Faster And Better, by Michael Gabrikow

eHow Family – How to Memorize Fast and Remember More: