How can you remember new vocabulary?
I can’t remember that word… What is it called?
Does it sound familiar to you? There is not a single foreign language student who has not struggled when remembering new vocabulary comes. We all think: ‘I am just not good at memorising’, and we keep making long vocabulary lists which actually, don’t help us at all.
The German psychologist and scientist Hermann Ebbinghaus was the first to perform elaborate and scientific experiments on how we learn and forget. His fundamental finding is the forgetting curve. He found that the forgetting curve is exponential. That means that we forget almost 80% of all new learned items within one to two weeks. That’s right: from what we originally learned we remember only about 20% after a couple of days.
So, what can we do, then? the key is REPETITION.
Do you know how many times you have to repeat something before you can memorize it?
The average person needs between 10 and 20 repetitions of something to store it into long-term memory. Repetition is the magical word of learning.
Tips to remember vocabulary
- Review often and practice
As I said, repetition is the key in order to remember new vocabulary. The goal is to transfer the short-term knowledge of new vocabulary into your long-term memory. Review is essential. As soon as you learn a new word, start using it, when you talk, when you write. Pay attention when you watch a film or listen to someone, if it is used. Writing down the word and definition usually helps you too. Furthermore, do a search on a word to get many examples of how the word is actually used.
- Being realistic
Experts say that learners are capable of retaining 10-20 words per study hour. If you do 15 minutes of self-study per day, set a weekly vocabulary goal of 20-25 words and phrases.
Focus on a single theme each week. The mind associate connected words together, so learning works with your brain’s natural system for classifying information.
- Graded readers
When you read, you have the chance to revisit learned vocabulary. Furthermore, you dont learn isolated words, ýou need to see those words in new sentences and contexts. Graded readers will be very helpful, as they will make your reading easier and you will not get frustrated as you might know most of the vocabulary of the book. Those few words you dont know, try to figure out their meanings from context and then look the words up.
- Improve your context skills.
The mayority of words are learnt from context. To improve your context skills pay close attention to how words are used. When you read or listen to someone you are exposed to many words, so try to pay attention to how words are used. You will see your context skills improve.