8 Experts Share their Best Tips on How to Memorize Vocabulary in Another Language

Summary

Unlock the secrets of language gurus to turbocharge your vocabulary learning! Dive into the brains of 8 memory maestros and snag their top-notch strategies for mastering new words with ease. 🧠✨

  • Embrace Your Mistakes: Bartosz Czekala says to zero in on words you can’t recall and re-encode them in fresh contexts. It’s like giving your brain a second chance to make a first impression. 🔄
  • Visualize to Memorize: Katie Kermode suggests crafting vivid scenarios linking new words to familiar ones. It’s like directing a mini-movie in your head where the star is that tricky vocab! 🎬
  • Get Personal with SAB-CINEMAS: Sushant Mysorekar’s technique is all about making words your BFFs by using senses, bizarre stories, and personal connections. Get creative and go wild! 🤪
  • Link Up with Stories: John Graham’s Linking Method is like building bridges in your mind, connecting foreign words to their meanings with wacky, memorable tales. 🌉
  • Fun with Visuals and Associations: Nishant Kasibhatla believes in the power of fun. Picture a dude munching an apple for ‘Mela’ and suddenly, Italian’s a piece of cake! 🍎😄
  • Memory Techniques are Your Friend: Francis Blondin encourages even the silliest memory tricks. They’re like quirky sidekicks helping you save the day (and the word)! 🦸‍♂️
  • Memory Palace Mastery: Dr. Boris Nikolai Konrad invites you to build a palace in your mind where each room is a cozy home for new words. Fancy, right? 🏰
  • Immerse Yourself: Edward Cooke stresses fitting language learning into your life like that comfy pair of jeans. Whether it’s Netflix or Spotify, make it part of your daily groove. 🎵👖

My thoughts

Memorizing vocabulary in another language is one of the many challenges faced by foreign language learners.

But the good thing is, irrespective of the language you want to learn, your brain still memorizes vocabulary in the same way.

I’ve asked 8 memory experts for their best tips on how to memorize vocabulary in another language.

Let’s steal their secrets!

Memory gurus and their techniques

A person’s brain has various ways to retain memory. You can memorize a word by using flashcards, picture association, or even association by numbers. These techniques are called mnemonics.

There’s a whole field of science investigating memory. Individuals with exceptional memory are called mnemonists. Some of them also work as memory coaches.

Memory gurus contribute to a ton of techniques similar to these which makes language learning even more fun and productive.

Below are the contributions we’ve received from 8 mnemonists.

Understand their techniques and apply them to your language-learning endeavors.

Bartosz Czekala: Encode and retrieve when you fail to recall

The science of memory is indeed a vast field. There are lots of outstanding memory principles that might help you with memorizing words in another language.

However, the best one I can offer is to pay close attention to the inevitable failure to recall a word. It doesn’t matter if it happened during a conversation or while doing your flashcards.

This failure is the feedback that is ignored by 99.9% of all language learners.

Most of the time, it tells us that you haven’t encoded or encountered this word enough times or/and the contexts in which the information was encoded.

The critical thing is to focus on such words. If you fail to recall them, make sure that you encode them again in different contexts.

The more considerable the overlap between what we encode and retrieve, the more likely we will recall the desired information smoothly.

Pay close attention to the inevitable failure to recall a word. The critical thing is to focus on such words. If you fail to recall them, make sure that you encode them again in different contexts.

“If you fail to recall words, make sure that you encode them again in different contexts.”
– Bartosz Czekala

Bartosz Czekala is a memory expert, polyglot, certified nutritionist, personal coach, and trichologist that learns everything he can lay his hands on. Try out a Language Diagnostic Test.

Katie Kermode: Visualize scenarios to remember a word

Focus on the words that you don’t remember easily. Think of a word or phrase in your native language similar to the term you are learning, then create a short sentence or scene linking the two together.

Mentally place it in the first location that comes to mind when you think of the original word.

For example, if I were learning the Finnish word for fan, which is ‘tuuletin‘, I would notice that ‘tuuletin‘ sounds a bit like ‘to let in, and I might imagine myself feeling too hot and saying, “I need a fan to let in some air”, then switching on the fan and enjoying the cool air.

This sentence helps us cement the link between the word ‘fan’ and the phrase ‘to let in’.

I would visualize this little scenario in the first location that comes to mind when I think of a fan: the area of my bedroom where I would usually plug in the fan.

Then when I am trying to remember the word for ‘fan’, I mentally go to that location and recall the scenario. You can use flashcards with spaced repetition to review these items regularly.

“Create a short sentence or scene linking a word in your native language similar to the term you are learning.”
– Katie Kermode

Katie Kermode is a memory athlete from the UK, competing since 2008, a freelance translator, memory coach, UK memory champion on four occasions. and holds the title IAM Grandmaster of Memory (Silver).

Sushant Mysorekar: Have several interests to understand vocabulary

To understand the vocabulary of any language, the first and foremost requirement is to have several interests. Interest is the mother of memory, and secondly, attention, which is the father of memory. Others are cousins– curiosity, focus, and many more.

You have to sound, smell, hear, taste, and live the language you wish to learn. I have designed and copyrighted a technique to learn vocabulary, and the acronym I created is SAB-CINEMAS.

  • S– Create a scene out of that word in front of you.
  • A– Associate, connect, combine or collaborate with similar sounds or like things.
  • B– Bizarre- Make a weird story out of it.
  • C– Add colors to the words, light-dark, so you know the intensity of the word
  • I– imagine the use of the words, expressions, your mouth movements
  • N– Use number, sound from different languages to connect with ease
  • E– While sounding a particular vocabulary, if you could also add your expression, it helps connect to recall that word better.
  • M– Any word that is connected with yourself as a tag, sentence, or proverb tends to be recalled for a long time.
  • A– Animate the word in iconic representation for doodle with the word to get a better insight.
  • S– Use your senses consciously.

“Interest and attention are the mother and father of memory.”
– Sushant Mysorekar

Sushant Mysorekar is an author and Internationally Certified Intelligence Coach and the author of ‘Super Power Memory for Busy Professionals and ‘Super Tips for Super Memory’, 2019.

John Graham: Use the Linking Method

Use the Linking Method! It’s a memory technique that involves creating a simple, visual story. You essentially “link” an association for the foreign word with an association for the meaning of that word.

For example:
Wind in Italian is vento. My association for vento is a vent. Now I simply visualize in my mind wind blowing through a vent.

Another example is Beach in Italian is spiaggia. Spiaggia sounds like “spee ah juh”.

My associations are “spee = speed” and “ah juh = agility”. Now, I combine the beach with speed + agility in a visual story. I imagine on the beach are people doing speed and agility training. Spiaggia!

There are no rules here. Just sound out the word and create an association based on what the word sounds like to you.

I don’t recommend using this technique for every word you’re learning but use it as a tool to retain the trickier words and phrases that aren’t sticking.

“Creating a simple, visual story with the Linking Method.”
– John Graham

John Graham is the 2018 USA Memory Champion and a Grandmaster of Memory.

Nishant Kasibhatla: When learning is fun, it is easy

One of the best ways to memorize words in a new language is to use a combination of Visualisation, Association, and Fun.

Since most people remember pictures better, visualization helps you to ‘see’ the word in your mind’s eye.

Association means linking the word you want to remember with something you already know. This helps you to pay attention and to remember the term for a long time.

Doing it in a fun way will help you to have fun in the process. That’s why I say: When learning is fun, learning is easy. Here’s an example of how you can do all that.

Let’s say you want to remember the Italian word for Apple is ‘Mela’. The pronunciation of ‘Mela’ is somewhat similar to the English word male.

So, I will visualize a MALE eating an APPLE.

Similarly, if you want to remember the Italian word for Door is ‘Porta’, I will visualize that my front DOOR is a PORTAL to a secret world!

In addition to these points, if you understand how memory works (especially when it comes to retention and recall), it will speed up your memorization process.

“One of the best ways to memorize words in a new language is to use a combination of Visualisation, Association and Fun.”
– Nishant Kasibhatla

Nishant Kasibhatla is a Grand Master of Memory, a Guinness Record Holder in Memory (2011), and also a creator of the ‘Supercharge Your Memory Power’ Online Course, a result-oriented course on quickly remembering names, books, speeches, words, and more!

Francis Blondin: Use memory techniques

To remember the word “lapalissiano” and its meaning (evident), I might imagine a runner running “laps” while being annoyed by some giant “lice” on his head.

This is “evidently” not a great way to run, I would think. “Laps” + “lice” = an approximation of “lapalissiano“.

Far from a perfect trick, but it will help, at least in the beginning. Even a terrible trick that roughly represents only one part of a given word can still be useful.

You don’t need those tricks for easy words, but for everything else, you can always choose to use the dark voodoo magic of memory techniques!

The more you use them, the easier and the more fun it becomes.

Very quickly, some even more important tools:

  • Sleep! As much as you need. At a consistent schedule. Stop functioning at a fraction of your full potential!
  • Pay attention! Shorter periods of full attention are more productive overall than much more extended periods of constant distractions.
  • Use retrieval practice. Don’t just listen or read; test yourself. This isn’t just a way to check what has been remembered, and it’s also an extremely efficient way to learn.
  • Use spaced repetition. Review as often as you need at first, then progressively less frequently after that. Rule of thumb: you can double the interval every time you get it right. Free software like Anki can help simplify the process.

“The more you use tricks, the easier and the more fun it becomes.”
– Francis Blondin

Francis Blondin is a two-time Canadian memory champion. He teaches what he knows about memory and learning for free in French here and in English. He’s also organizing various memory and mental math competitions in Canada and online for anyone worldwide.

Dr. Boris Nikolai Konrad: Use a memory palace

My recommendation is to combine the keyword mnemonic with retrieval practice.

I look for an image for the word I would like to learn, reminding me of the known word. I then combine my keyword image with the actual translation.

In my mind, I picture myself using a taser to heat the drink in the tazza. I see myself scribbling a van on my desk.

To make sure these words enter my long-term memory, I test myself early. A tool like Anki is excellent for that.

Occasionally I will also use a memory palace to collect several words and phrases from a given context.

“I look for an image for a new word reminding me of a known word. I then combine my image with the translation.”
– Dr. Boris Nikolai Konrad

Dr. Boris Nikolai Konrad is a world-known memory coach and a four times Guinness World Record Holder.

Edward Cooke: Learning must fit into your life easily

The ultimate question: how to learn a new language effectively? Where to begin? And do I have time? Before thinking ‘How do I learn?’ Ask yourself:

  • When do I have time to learn?
  • Can I learn a language on my own?
  • Why do I want to do this? And how do I keep myself motivated?

The key to language immersion is to input your target language in different forms.

Free Guide
How to Learn Languages Fast

For example, you can:

  • Learn a language with movies and TV series (Yes: You can learn languages ​​with Netflix).
  • Learn a language while playing games: video or board games.
  • Learn languages ​​through audiobooks and podcasts.
  • Watch TV shows and films in your target language (with subtitles).
  • Learn a language by listening to music on Spotify and following the lyrics as you listen.
  • Learn a language by reading children’s books in the language you’re learning to familiarise yourself with words, phrases, and sentence structure.

Diving into an adult novel is only going to confuse you at this stage. It MUST fit into your life easily, letting you learn at your own pace and on your own time while keeping yourself motivated.

All of the above points will help you pick up vocabulary in any language and remember words easily in that language.

“The key to language immersion is to input your target language in different forms.”
– Edward Cooke

Edward Cooke is a world memory coach and an award-winning memory and language, coach.

Follow this advice from the 8 experts

Here’s a quick recap of the advice shared by our contributors:

Bartosz Czekala

  • Pay close attention to the inevitable failure to recall a word
  • If you fail to recall words, make sure that you encode them again in different contexts
  • The more considerable the overlap between what we encode and retrieve, the more we recall the desired information smoothly

Katie Kermode

  • Create a short sentence or scene linking a word you want to memorize and the equivalent in your native language together
  • Use flashcards with spaced repetition to review these items regularly
  • Visualize this little scenario in the most appropriate location when you think of that word, then mentally go to that location and recall the scenario

Sushant Mysorekar

  • Have several lists of interests to understand the vocabulary of any language
  • You have to sound, smell, hear, taste, and live the language you wish to learn
  • Use SAB-CINEMAS

John Graham

  • Use the Linking Method – Link an association for the foreign word with the meaning of that word
  • Sound out the word and create an association based on what the word sounds like to you
  • The Linking Method is a tool to retain the trickier words and phrases that aren’t sticking

Nishant Kasibhatla

  • Use a combination of Visualisation, Association, and Fun
  • Visualization helps you to ‘see’ the word in your mind’s eye
  • If you understand how memory works, it will speed up your memorization process

Francis Blondin

  • A terrible trick that roughly represents only one part of a given word can still be useful
  • The more you use techniques, the easier and the more fun it becomes

Dr. Boris Nikolai Konrad

  • Combine the keyword mnemonic with retrieval practice
  • Look for an image for the word
  • Use a memory palace to collect several words and phrases from a given context

Edward Cooke

  • Input your target language in different forms
  • Your target language or word MUST fit into your life easily
  • Learn at your own pace and on your own time while keeping yourself motivated

From theory to practice

As a language learner, who is trying to memorize words or vocabulary in another language, the process might be a daunting task at the beginning.

But, if you follow the various methods pointed out by the above memory experts, you will find yourself learning vocabulary in other languages effortlessly.

To learn more about the science of language learning, check out this short review article “How to learn languages fast”.

How to remember vocabulary faster?

To remember vocabulary faster, you can use techniques like mnemonics, visualizations, and repetition. It's also important to focus on the words you struggle to remember and use them in different contexts to help encode them in your memory.

What are tips from the experts in memory?

Some tips from memory experts include using mnemonic devices, such as acronyms or visual associations, breaking information into smaller chunks, practicing active recall through quizzes or flashcards, and getting enough sleep and exercise to support brain function.

Italian word of the day
passeggiata
Example
Hai voglia di fare una passeggiata?
Do you feel like going for a walk?
Follow me to fluency​

Create a free lifetime account to get access to all the free courses and other resources.

One Response

  1. Wow, this is just what I needed! Thank you for sharing these tips, I can’t wait to try them out and improve my language skills.

Leave a Reply

Take a free lesson today!

Create a free lifetime account to get access to all the free lessons and other resources.

I’ll also deliver my free resources my best offers to your mailbox (opt out at any time).

How many languages are there in the world? With globalization, the English language has become the lingua franca of business and many other fields. However, that doesn’t mean that other...
What does it mean to think in another language? Thinking in another language means stopping translating in your native language first and expressing concepts smoothly and effortlessly. It is not...
Memorizing vocabulary in another language is one of the many challenges faced by foreign language learners. But the good thing is, irrespective of the language you want to learn, your...
Struggling with new words? An Italian polyglot has valuable advice about spaced repetition. A quick guide to memorize vocabulary fast, from pain to joy!
Try my courses for free​
Stefano
Log in

Reset password or get in touch.

Not a member yet? Join today!

How long to fluency?

Find out how long it will take you to master Italian!
Get on the right track in 3 minutes.

dolce vita logo

We're already friends!

Coming from Luca and Marina?
Here's a special deal for you!
Just tell me where I should send the coupon.

50% OFF
all language resources

We're already friends!

Coming from All Language Resources?
Here's a special deal for you!
Just tell me where I should send the coupon.

50% OFF
GRAB A COUPON NOW, REDEEM IT LATER
50% OFF

To receive free resources once a week together with my best offers, just tell me where to send everything. Opt out at any time.

Create a free lifetime account to get access to all the free lesson and other resources.