Language Learning: How Do You Get New Words Into Your Brain?
May 16, 2022 11:41 AM   Subscribe

I am learning a language and am struggling with one piece: how to get new words into my brain. I use Anki and also Memrise to re-enforce words/ "break the forgetting curve" (which totally work); I just haven't mastered how to best take a list of new vocabulary and get it into my head (flashcards don't seem to work for me for new words). What's your technique - write them out/ flashcards only/ read and re-read/ something else?
posted by my log does not judge to Education (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
You could incorporate them into memorable full sentences. Quirkiness is good. Bonus: this helps with grammar, too.
posted by Comet Bug at 12:17 PM on May 16, 2022 [1 favorite]

Sticky notes around my house! And then consciously thinking the sentences associated with them — “I need two plates in the cupboard”, “the shoes are under the bed” - nothing fancy, I don’t even worry about verb tenses; just let myself learn language like any other baby/ toddler does - with simple associations to physical objects while I touch them.
posted by Silvery Fish at 1:12 PM on May 16, 2022 [3 favorites]

In the past, I've spoken out loud to myself in that language. It could be simple practice sentences that I already know how to say or it could be an ongoing narration of my actions, like "Now I'm taking some of this spice using the small spoon and adding it to the pan."
posted by charcoals at 1:20 PM on May 16, 2022 [1 favorite]

Step 1. Write out your vocabulary list in English, 20 words or so.
Step 2. Beside the first list, write each word in the target language.
Step 3. For any word you did not get correct, write it 3 times or 5 times.
Step 4. Cover up the English list. Look at the list in the target language (with errors corrected) and write each word in English.
Step 5. Check your list - for any words you did not get correct, write the word (in the target language) 3x.

After you have done the above, make a list of the problem words i.e., anything you missed in either direction and practice them.

Repeat repeat repeat.

I studied languages in university and found that just seeing/saying a word did nothing to put it into my brain. I have to write it down in order to (start to) internalise it.
posted by lulu68 at 2:49 PM on May 16, 2022

Does Memrise have a lot of repetition?

I recently started using Rosetta Stone and Duolingo. They both have a lot of repetition, and that helps me a lot. Seriously, I make a rough estimate that the same 10 words or so are used in at least 10 lessons in a row.
posted by NotLost at 7:18 PM on May 16, 2022

If there are etymological dictionaries for your target language, look up each new word in that.
It will give you context for the word, how it evolved, how it is used, and any similar words in neighbouring languages.

That seems to help me *learn* new words, and then I can use flashcards to help remember, but I am the same, I don't learn from flashcards, or even really repetition. :P
I learn from having a contextual network of information.

(And my problem is learning a language that I couldn't find an etymological dictionary for - Māori! But I found an 1871 Māori-Polynesian comparative dictionary, and wow, breakthrough! Helped so much!)
posted by Elysum at 7:38 PM on May 16, 2022

Seconding the recommendation for Duolingo. For any given vocabulary word you will have many, many exercises where you have to:
Match the words from one language to another in a list
Translate sentences from the language you’re learning to your native language, given a list of potential words to use.
Translate sentences from your native language to your target language, given a list of potential words to use.
Translate sentences in either direction, working from scratch with no cues.
Fill in missing words in a sentence
Transcribe individual words or whole sentences from audio
Answer questions based on audio cues
Given most of a vocabulary word, fill in missing letters
Pronounce individual words or sentences based on repeating audio cues.
And probably more that I’m not thinking of at the moment.
posted by tdismukes at 7:40 PM on May 16, 2022 [1 favorite]

Also, we ought not assume that the native language is English.
posted by NotLost at 7:56 PM on May 16, 2022

In general, boring repetition.

When I get really stuck I write a two or four line lyric using the words, have a native speaker vet it for me, and then sing it to myself while I'm walking or just at random intervals. I realize that's also repetition, but somehow it helps me hang on to words I'm having trouble with.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:10 PM on May 16, 2022

Writing words with a pen seems to cement them in my brain much better than just reading or typing them on a screen, for all that I don't want this to be the case. Handwritten flashcards have always been my best bet.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 3:03 AM on May 17, 2022

Thirding the duolingo rec - I'm not sure if it's an option on the free tier, but there's an exercise in the practice hub you can do called "Listen Up" on the paid tier that has the app speak a sentence (/Tu achètes un sac?/) and you pick the words out of a jumble at the bottom. I've found it helps me both develop an ear for tricky sentences (/Il a un an/) and for getting used to the dictionary I've learned so far.

On the other hand, that means trying to keep duolingo at around the current state of your non-duolingo learning, which.. Oof. I wouldn't even want to contemplate. But if you're already using it, well. It's also a really good way to earn a a lot of XP in a short period of time if you're minmaxing the leagues.

posted by Kyol at 8:10 AM on May 17, 2022

« Older Where to watch Greg Kotis' "Pig Farm"?   |   Quality, Smart Romance Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.