10 Must-Try Memory Boosters for Language Learners

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Think your memory isn't good enough to learn a language? Think again, and try these 10 memory-boosting tips that will help you learn a language faster and retain it longer.

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10 Must-Try Memory Boosters for Language Learners

  1. 1. Must-Try 10 Memory Boosters for Language Learners
  2. 2. When it comes to languages, your memory is like a suitcase. Image © Gideon | flickr
  3. 3. Image © Shockingly Tasty | flickr You want to fit as much in there as you possibly can.
  4. 4. But you also want to be able to access the contents quickly and easily. Image © body_pixel | flickr
  5. 5. Fortunately, there are a few things everyone can do to optimize how they pack and unpack a language within their memory. Image © Cea. | flickr
  6. 6. CHUNKING
  7. 7. The average person can store between 4-7 items in their short-term memory at any given time. Push that limit with the chunking technique. Image © InSapphoWeTrust | flickr
  8. 8. By grouping together several smaller items into one larger, more meaningful item, you’ll be able to store more information. Image © InSapphoWeTrust | flickr
  9. 9. Focus on learning meaningful chunks of a language as a whole, rather than dissecting and memorizing the individual parts.1
  10. 10. Take the expression “to pay out of pocket.” It may seem easier to break it down into its parts, but that will not help you establish the meaning. It’s better to learn idioms and collocations as whole chunks. Image © danielmoyle | flickr
  11. 11. Image © certified su | flickr The more chunks you acquire, the more you’ll begin to recognize grammar patterns.
  12. 12. MNEMONIC DEVICES
  13. 13. Paint vivid illustrations in your mind to link a new foreign word to its meaning in your native language. Image © katerha | flickr
  14. 14. Image © brunosan | flickr Take the German word for parachute: Fallschirm.
  15. 15. Image © William Warby | flickr The word looks and sounds a bit like “fall chimp,” which presents a unique, memorable visual. Next time you need to think of the German word for parachute, you’ll picture a chimp in freefall!
  16. 16. TAKE A HIKE
  17. 17. Improving your memory isn’t all about creative brain tricks. Lifestyle changes, like exercising more often, have considerable effects on brain health. Image © timtak | flickr
  18. 18. Exercising one hour a day, three days each week reduces the cognitive and biological effects of aging and improves memory.2 Image © Ed Yourdon | flickr
  19. 19. Get out there, go for a walk, take a hike, ride your bike, or join a gym. Take care of your body, and your memory and language skills will follow.
  20. 20. CATCH SOME Z’S
  21. 21. While on the subject of lifestyle changes, getting a solid 7-8 hours of sleep each night works wonders for your memory. Image © Morgaine | flickr
  22. 22. While you sleep, your brain commits new information into your memory through a process called memory consolidation.3 Image © Elaine with Grey Cats | flickr
  23. 23. Newly learned material, such as a list of vocabulary words, is very vulnerable at first. Memory consolidation strengthens connections in the brain, preserving new information to be used when you wake.3 Image © thebittenword.com | flickr
  24. 24. So catch some z’s and give your brain a chance to store that new language-y goodness you’re learning. Image © ingodibella | flickr
  25. 25. DON’T CRAM
  26. 26. If you’re learning for a specific deadline, like before a test or a trip overseas, you may be tempted to cram the night before. Image © liewfc| flickr
  27. 27. If you’re learning for a specific deadline, like before a test or a trip overseas, you may be tempted to cram the night before. Image © liewfc| flickr DON’T!
  28. 28. Image © cstrom | flickr Cramming too much information at once forces you to commit it to your short-term memory instead of your long-term memory, from which it could be pulled much later on down the road… like when you actually need it.
  29. 29. You may be able to regurgitate the words for 50 fruits and veggies on a quiz the next morning, but that information will disappear shortly thereafter. When you actually need to buy bananas at the market someday, you may find yourself at a loss. Image © keepon | flickr
  30. 30. Language learning is not a race. Take it slow and learn (and review!) only one new grammar rule or a dozen vocab words at a time. Image © IvanWalsh.com | flickr
  31. 31. FOCUS
  32. 32. Even if you’re a great multi tasker, language learning requires extreme focus. Image © Jeffrey Beall | flickr
  33. 33. No matter how much sleep you get or how creative your visualization techniques are, you’ll never remember what you’re learning if you don’t pay attention to it in the first place.
  34. 34. Avoid studying in distracting environments. Turn off the TV, put in ear plugs, shut the door to your office, turn off your phone, close the blinds, and just focus. Image © Emilian Robert Vicol | flickr
  35. 35. RELATE NEW TO OLD
  36. 36. When learning a new word or grammar rule, think about how it relates to parts of the language you already know. Image © katerha | flickr
  37. 37. By establishing a connection between newly learned information and existing memories, you can increase your chances of remembering it. Image © Bruce Guenter | flickr
  38. 38. Relate new target language terms to terms in your native language. For example, the French expression “quand on parle du loup” (speak of the wolf) is used the same way as the English expressions “speak of the devil.” There’s an easy connection to establish this new expression in your memory. Image © Serge Melki | flickr
  39. 39. Or, relate new target language terms to target language terms you know well. For example, the Spanish word for “scarecrow” is espantapájaros, which is much easier to remember when you relate it to the more common Spanish words “espantar” (to scare) and “pájaros” (birds). Image © Peter Pearson | flickr
  40. 40. SAY IT OUT LOUD
  41. 41. According to a study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology4, speaking a word out loud improves your ability to remember the word by increasing its distinctiveness. Image © SparkCBC | flickr
  42. 42. That doesn’t mean you can read an entire passage out loud and memorize it. That approach lacks that distinctiveness we mentioned. But voicing the key words will help you remember them. Image © photosteve101 | flickr
  43. 43. Considering you’re learning a new language, practicing your speaking and pronunciation skills is a must, so this really kills two birds with one stone! Image © darrenleno | flickr
  44. 44. TEACH
  45. 45. One of the best ways to make sure you understand a grammar concept that you’ve been studying? Try explaining it to someone else. Image © Tulane Public Relations | flickr
  46. 46. Teaching language concepts to your child, friend, or sibling gives you an opportunity for active repetition, and it’s a big confidence booster. Image © udeyismail | flickr
  47. 47. Not to mention it gives you someone to use the language with! This relationship will help you build fun, lasting memories of learning the language, which will also improve retention.
  48. 48. RINSE AND REPEAT
  49. 49. Here’s the truth you may not want to hear:
  50. 50. Here’s the truth you may not want to hear: (Are you ready for it?)
  51. 51. Here’s the truth you may not want to hear: (Are you ready for it?) REVIEW, REVIEW, REVIEW!
  52. 52. Yes, that requires a lot of effort and time on your part. But repetition moves information from short-term to long-term memory. So don’t take that flashcard from the stack until you’ve used it successfully several times. Image © xikita | flickr
  53. 53. Use these 10 techniques to pack your memory well. That way you’ll have the language with you on your next trip overseas, where you can put it to good use. Image © emmamccleary | flickr
  54. 54. Want to build and maintain your language skills for the long haul? Sign up for a free trial of Transparent Language Online and test out our Learned Vocab Refresh system, designed to help you memorize and sustain words and phrases over time! TRY IT FREE

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