The struggle with remembering vocabulary is the big elephant in any language classroom. One of the most important things to note in this regard is that: you are not alone. All students find mastering vocabulary a challenge. This is not a surprise given that the core vocabulary of any language is around 3000 words.
Mastering vocabulary is essential so it is important to find ways that can help you remember the words better.
Here are a few tips and tricks:
1. Songs / Music: wherever possible try to find a song that covers the target language and sing along to that although it sounds like a silly thing to do when you are a grown up. There is scientific evidence that suggests that even individuals suffering from dementia can recall words set to songs better.
If there are no songs available it is really worth it to you to try making up your own. Set the words you aim to learn to a tune you know. That’s what advertisers on TV do… isn’t it?
2. Associations: we remember better when we connect what we are learning to things we already remember. There are many ways of doing this, so you have to find what works best for you and is best suited to what you are learning.
You can associate new vocabulary with words you already know in the language you are learning, similar words in your native language or things you have seen, smelt, heard or experienced. Sometimes you may need to make silly associations. I find that this trick works best for me if I am tackling lists.
Here are some examples:
- Sulphur is yellowish in colour and sounds like the Arabic word aSfar / yellow.
- Azure means blue and has an Az sound in it like the Arabic word azraQ / blue.
- واحد / one : has one aleph in it (highlighted in red).
- The letter ف (fa) looks like a fellow lying flat on his back.
- Tuesday الثلاثاء sounds like the number three ثلاثة the middle chunk of Tuesday looks similar too.
- قطة / cat sounds similar to the English word cat.
- The letter ك looks like Aladdin’s shoe.
3. High traffic Lists: It is not a bad idea to make a short list of about 5 words using a big bright font and pin it up in the high traffics areas of your home like your fridge door for example. Look through the list very quickly when you go to get your next glass of water. Don’t stand and memorize the list, just look through it very quickly as you would a post-it note.
4. Repetition: here I am NOT referring to rote memorization. For example, when you repeat a telephone number over and over in your head to remember it. I mean repeat the learning in different ways. Try to see, read, listen, speak, write and play whenever you tackle any new vocabulary set.
5. Multi-task: Do your Arabic vocabulary alongside something else you do on auto-pilot.
Here are some examples:
- Using Arabic to workout.
o If you are running on the treadmill put your list in front of you. Read your words as your run.
o If you are doing sit-ups use your Arabic words to count.
- If you are showering sing your Arabic song of the day.
- If you are cooking listen to a recording you made/or have of the words.
6. Stay positive: the emotional roller-coaster associated with language learning is a reality. You have days when all is dandy and others when you’ve had enough. On the days when you are struggling to manage your chores, work, kids and vocabulary remember that it is not you and that language learning is a very hard thing to do.
Make a conscious effort to approach the vocabulary set as a fun challenge rather than a horrible burden. However, do not force yourself too much. Maybe this is a day that you should dedicate to watching a film or listening to contemporary music in the target language.