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Vocabulary

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This pdf file examines why second or foreign language learners have such troubles remembering new vocabulary. It proposes ways to improve ways to remember vocabulary, which if adopted can eventual lead to seamless learning. Much the same way as we learnt vocabulary for our mother tongue.

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Vocabulary

  1. 1. Strategies in Language Learning Volume 1. No. 5 August 23, 2011   How  to  powerfully  remember  new  vocabulary      Most   language   learners,   that’s   not   correct,   them.     Well,   for   the   vast   majority   of   people  virtually   all   learners   I   have   come   across   that  is  far  from  the  truth!  attempt   to   remember   vocabulary   by   drawing   Of   course,   there   are   those   students   that   this  up   vocabulary   lists…usually   translations   in  their   mother   tongue   next   to   each   word.     Then   works   for   but  I  suspect  very  few.    And  the  few   that   it   works   for   they   are   doing   something  most   students   come   up   to   me   and   say   my   else,  possibly  unconsciously,  to  enable  this  to  memory  is  so  poor,    I  can’t  seem  to  remember  the   words.   There   is   an   excellent   reason   for   happen.     I   will   not   pursue   right     here   what   they   might   be   doing…but   by   all   means   if   you  that   and   that   is   because   they   are   using   the   are   one   of   them   and   you   are   aware   of   what  wrong  method.   you   do,   I   would   be   pleased   to   have   some  Imagine   trying   to   hammer   a   nail   into   a   piece   input.  of   wood   using   your   hand   alone.     Surely   after  not  too  long  you  would  be  saying  you  can’t  do  it!    The  secret  is  the  tool  or  method.    Use  the  wrong   one,   like   a   hand,   a   spoon   or   virtually  anything      and  you  will  get  nowhere  fast.  The  secret  is  the  right  tool.  Don’t   get   me   wrong   it   is   not   your   fault   that  you   are   using   the   wrong   tool.   If   you   look   in  most   language   learning   books,   exercises,  language   classes   you   will   find   that   it   is   even  recommended   that   you   should   learn   your  vocabulary   using   lists.     In   fact,   why   not   work  at  memorizing  10,  20  words  a  day  in  that  way!  Most   students   persist   with   this   method   and  may   even   memorise   them,   but   then   how   do  you   get   memorized   lists   of   words   into   your    WORKING   vocabulary.     That   is   not   often  talked   about…just   assumed   that   once   you   So   what   is   a   good   method?     To   understand  memorise  them,  bingo,  you  will  be  able  to  use   that,   we   need   to   have   a   fundamental   understanding  how  our  brain  works.    I  will  not   E:    andrew@strategiesinlanguagelearning.com                              W:  www.strategiesinlanguagelearning.com   ©Copyright    Andrew  Weiler  2011    
  2. 2. Strategies in Language Learning Volume 1. No. 5 August 23, 2011   How  to  powerfully  remember  new  vocabulary      be   talking   here   about   the   neurons,   the   our   needs,   what   is   important   to   us,   or   what  synapses   etc.   Instead   I   will   be   reflecting   here   might   be   important   to   us.     I   am   sure   that  on   commonsense   understandings   we   have   there   are   many   people   who   would   walk   past  based  on  experiences.    You  will  find  that  there   the   same   butcher   and   not   even   notice   it.    is  a  lot  of  research  to  substantiate  what  I  am   Why?   Because   it     has   no   value   or   interest   to  writing  about  here.   them  at  that  point  in  time.   Here   is   a   very   important   key,   that   is   overlooked   .     Memory   works   best   when   we   are   dealing   with   things   that   are   important   to   us,  there  and  then.    The  second  thing  to  note   is   that   there   were   links   made   to   our   life,   to   what   was   already   in   our   brain.     From   all   the   research   we   know   that   memory   works   best   when   the   new   item   is   hooked   in   to   what   we   already   know.     The   more   the   hooks,   the   better  it  is  going  to  be  remembered  .    So  the   more   the   hooks,   or   the   links,   the   more   likely   that  we  are  going  to  recall  the  item…  and  the   more   personal     and   immediate   are   the   links,   the   more   chance   we   are   going   to   remember   it.   So   let’s   give   you   an   example.   For   arguments   sake  you    want  learn  the  meaning  of  “bottle”   for   example.     Note   I   didn’t   say   memorise.     Well,   lets   say   you   came   across   it   in   a   picture  In   life,   we   do   not   usually   set   out   to   remember   dictionary,   or   an   article   and   you   looked   it   up    things   but   we   do.     When   we   walk   down   the   in   your   dictionary…     for   now,   let’s   say   a  street   and   see   a   butcher   in   a   shopping   area   bilingual  one.  close   to   our   house,   if   we   are   interested   in  cooking   or   we   have   been   asked   to   buy   some   You  see  the  word  or  the  picture  of  bottle  and  meat,  we  will  put  that  into  our  memory.    We   you   will   immediately   know   the   meaning,   but  make   no   real   effort   to   memorise,   but   we   do   how   will   you   retain   the   meaning   of   that  put  it  into  our  memory.  How?    By  linking  it  to   E:    andrew@strategiesinlanguagelearning.com                              W:  www.strategiesinlanguagelearning.com   ©Copyright    Andrew  Weiler  2011    
  3. 3. Strategies in Language Learning Volume 1. No. 5 August 23, 2011   How  to  powerfully  remember  new  vocabulary      word…or   how   will   you   avoid   forgetting   it…or   hang   of   it,   you   will   learn   to   do   it   so   fast   that  how   will   you   put   it   into   your     working   you  will  be  hardly  aware  that  you  are  doing  it.      memory.   Another   reason   why   this   works   well,   is   that  The   trick   is   to   put   it   into   your   life,   into   you  have  mobilized  your  brain  to  get  the  new  sentences   in   the   language   you   are   learning.     If   language  involved  in  your  life  .    AND    you  have  you   use   your   mother   tongue,   you   will   be   been   forced   to   make   sentences…hence   you  asking   your   brain   to   do   gymnastics   of   the   kind   have   made   linguistic   contexts   for   the   new  that  are  difficult.    Remembering  words  in  two   words.    Can  you  see  now  why  it  is  much  much  languages  at  the  time  you  are  speaking  one  is   more  likely  that  once  you  have  done  this,  you  difficult..   and   this   is   because   different   will   never   forget   the   word   in   question…or   if  languages   occupy   different   part   s   of   the   you  do,  it  will  only  be  temporary.  And  because  brain..so  when  you  speak  one…stay  in  that.     you   have   placed   it   into   a   linguistic   context,   you  have  also  strengthened  the  language  you  Ideally   write   3   sentences,   each   of   which   are   are  learning  at  the  same  time.  Now  isn’t  that  personal   …   the   more   emotion,   or   memories   a  bonus.  they  evoke  in  themselves  the  better  they  will  be.     There   are   clearly   other   issues   in   remembering   vocabulary   but   this   technique   I   have   just  #  My  new  shampoo  comes  in  a  blue  bottle.     shown   you   will   transform   your   mnemonic  #  I  dropped  a  bottle  of  milk  yesterday  and  my   skills.     That   is   of   course   if   you   utilize   the  sister  got  angry  with  me.     technique  and  persist  with  it.  #   That   bottle   of   perfume   that   my   wife   just  bought  has  a  gorgeous  scent  .      #The  bottle  is  on  the  table  is  not  a  good  one…  as  it  has  on  the  surface  no  personal  element,  does   not   appear   to   evoke   anything   and   in   fact  is  a  dreadfully  flat  sentence.  This  process  might  seem  cumbersome  at  first  (  and  it  is  for  a  time!  J)  but  once  you  get  the   E:    andrew@strategiesinlanguagelearning.com                              W:  www.strategiesinlanguagelearning.com   ©Copyright    Andrew  Weiler  2011    

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