José
Vocabulary

Learning vocabulary is probable themost boring task you face when you are learning a new language. That's why I like to know if you have any trick or mnemonic rule to do it.

I only know the hard way: learning by heart.




Oct 2, 2016 11:38 PM
Comments · 12

I disagree with the part about flashcards being a waste of time. For the last more than half a year I've consistently learnt about 300 spanish words per month (and yes, I remember them). But I build the flashcards dictionary myself (in an app, of course), so it's not only learning isolated words, but it's a way to help me learn words I need and often already have some context and use for (discussions, movies, clases, books, whatever). So yes, having a practical use for the vocabulary helps, but practicing it using flashcards helps too.



October 4, 2016

BTW, as for tricks or mnemonics, I think it's about simply using anything that works. Often it can be something rather silly (I remember "topo" as a mole looking out from the top of its hole) or "obvious" (I used to confuse "rezar" and "regar" until I noticed that Z kind of looks like somebody kneeling and praying). It can be even somewhat convoluted ("cabra" happens to be white like calcium is, and the translation is also used as a slang for woman breasts in my language, and so I remember it as two English words ca-bra; I have no idea how I managed to arrive to this mnemonic, but I'm so unlikely to ever undo it) or unlikely connection (I learnt "tornillo" by learning a salsa dance turn called that way). Really, anything that works, it's your head and it stays there (well, as long as you don't end up describing it on italki :) ).


Oh, and for me going over the flashcards is actually sort of fun. I try to do it as a relaxation after something, or when there's nothing better to do at the moment. That probably helps too. But yeah, as said above, this is just a support tool, probably nothing can beat remembering the words by putting them to an actual use.


October 5, 2016

I don't do any fancy stuff with the flashcards, I try to keep it as simple as possible. I think I have a good memory for written words, which may be a part of why this works so well for me, and for others pictures might make sense. So I use things like "ir" <-> "go", "caminar" <-> "walk" if possible, sometimes with prepositions if there's an obvious one to go with it. I use expressions or sentences only when I can't shorten it, so I have e.g. a card with "por lo que sé", I have a card like "Compra el vestido que tú prefieras" for this specific use of subjuntive, and I have "¿Quedamos a las 10 en la plaza?" for this very specific use of quedar, but generally I consider full sentences to contain unnecessary noise. As for nuances or synonyms, sometimes I can map a pair of foreign synonyms to a pair of my native words, and other times I do things like "arañar" <-> "scratch (animal)" for the context, but only up to a point, if I think my level is not yet sufficient for understanding the difference, I keep just one variant or even ignore the word completely for the time being. If I later advance enough to understand the difference, I add more variants or even redo and reset the cards if necessary. I see little point in getting everything perfectly right from the beginning, and I doubt it matters e.g. at A2 level to know the fine details of the zillion variants of expressing going.


But I think the main trick is that I do not do the flashcards as something isolated. I understand every card I create (as said above, if I don't, I drop it). And I usually have a context or use for it too, it may be a word I needed during today's class, or it may be those 30 words describing various parts of the body, or it may be a particular use of a word that I'd like to remember. So I already do have at least a very weak memory connection and flashcards just help to strengthen it.

October 5, 2016
To keep the vocabulary deep in your database of brain, you had better make sentences or exercise these words more often to consolidate your memory. Flashcard is a good idea I never tried but I have a personal note to keep record of all words that I need to take frequently. Do not forget vocabulary learning is just a chain of learning a language that indicates you have to use them to make useful sentences to express your intention. 
October 5, 2016
Lubos: if Flashcards work for you,  that's great but they never did for me. The words have no context and how many Flashcards can you study at once in one sitting?  Learn the words, then use them in sentences and try it out with native speakers to know you're using the words correctly. They can be very nuanced. Or check an authoritative and exhaustive dictionary of und target language.  Good luck
October 4, 2016
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José
Language Skills
English, French, Japanese, Spanish
Learning Language
English