Vocabulary Memorization Techniques

by thememorypage

2.2 • Vocabulary and/or Foreign Words

I received an Email message from someone who got a little confused about how to memorize vocabulary words. Actually, it’s quite easy. Here’s the Email message and my response.

Every week I have to take a vocabulary test. Very hard words AND definitions. I cant think of any lists to do which to use pictures for the word AND definition. Any suggestions?

You do not need to make a list to memorize vocabulary words. All you need to do is make a picture for the word, a picture for the definition, then link them together.


polemic: a verbal attack on a belief or opinion

You might think of a MICrophone on a long POLE (a pole-mic, even though it’s pronounced differently), then you might think of it tipping over and falling right on top of a policital candidate giving a very passionate speech to a crowd… then the microphone itself starts talking and criticizing the politician! That’s a very vivid picture that will instantly come to mind during a vocabulary test. Try it! You may be slow at first, but with a little practice, you will surprise yourself!

Here’s another Email and response.

I’m having trouble using mnemonic systems for memorizing foreign words. >I’ve been reading the memory book by lorayne and lucas, and there example >works for concrete words, but for abstractions, it’s not easy. I try >forming ludicrous movies in my heads between the German pronunciation >and its meaning in English, but i’m not finding myself all too successful >in remembering the meanings of those words. Like sometimes, I can see >the movie in my head, but I cant interpret it, since the English >meaning is also an abstraction; e.g., words like sorgfältig for meticulously.

I think you’re on the right track. But yes, abstractions are a bit more difficult since you can see an object like “chair” but you can’t see “meticulously”. One way is to think of some stereotype for the word. For example, you might think of Pinnochio for “lie” or Abraham Lincoln for “honesty”.

If you can’t think of a stereotype, you can just pretend the English word is a foreign word. So let’s work withsorgfältig. I don’t know the correct pronunciation, so I’m just going to use Sorg-fall-tig. I might think of “Borg” (from Star Trek) and “fall” (a verb). Now for meticulously. I might think of “metal tickle lousy”, which kind of sounds like meticulously. Now to put that all into a story. A Borg robot creature walks along a plateau top and clumsily walks right over the edge of a cliff and falls — kersplat! — to the bottom. Someone walks up to it to see if it is dead. He touches its metal to tickle it. It moves and laughs, but it does so in a very lousy and unconvincing way which would be typical of an emotionless Borg robot creature.

So, when I start with sorgfältig, I think of the Borg-fall story, and at the end the Borg “metal tickle lousy”, which reminds me of “meticulously”. That’s a long way to go, but it works. After seeing sorgfältig about 10 times I’ll probably start thinking “meticulously” to myself without having to recall the whole movie. After about 20 times I’ll probably think of the concept of “meticulously” without even thinking of the English word to represent it. That is the ultimate goal. But the little movie is very helpful at first because you can learn the word quickly without having to run to the dictionary all the time.

You can think of your own story for sorgfältig that uses the correct pronunciation and that works best for you, using objects and pictures that you personally are familiar with.

I hope this example/idea helps you!

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Charlinia March 17, 2013 at 3:23 pm

I love this! It really helps!


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