It is easy to learn and remember a string of words to put into your short-term memory. However, the real trick to acquiring a foreign language is to allow words to come into our long-term memory. There are various ways to do this: finding ways to enjoy the process, using space repetition, testing continuously, employing cluster learning, and investigating words.
One of the key ingredients in learning a language and putting words into your long-term memory is knowing how to find enjoyment in the process. With a sense of happiness and excitement for gaining knowledge, it is easier for the brain to remember your lessons, training, and tests. It is difficult to forget things you remember fondly. That is why it is key to understand what you enjoy doing while learning a language. Say if you are a musician, you would probably be excited about listening to music in a foreign language and to try your best to comprehend the lyrics. Also, a musician might be motivated to learn a song’s words by heart, which is a great form of practice for pronunciation, memory, and acquiring vocabulary (Machová, Lýdia).
It is essential to review the words you have learned. But, the catch is that you should know when exactly you should look over them again to insert them into your long-term memory. It is commonly understood that one should review words just before your brain is about to forget them. The method called space repetition is along the lines of, as the Guardian states, “you should first review after a few seconds, then after a few minutes, then an hour, a few hours, a day, a few days, a week, a month, three months, a year, three years, and so on” (Cooke, Ed). There are many applications that can help you track the words that you are soon to forget, such as Memrise. Using these tools will ensure that you stay on the road to long-term memory acquisition.
Another way to enter words into your long-term memory is by regularly giving yourself tests. These can be multiple-choice quizzes, checking if you remember words on flashcards, or games that revolve on remembering the words you want to learn. To keep good track of your progress, you can test yourself each month at a minimum (Cooke, Ed).
Cluster learning is acknowledging the fact that our brain processes new words better if they are based on a theme. Learning one random word or phrase a day will not help much. Instead, plan a theme for the week, and acquire vocabulary that is connected to that topic. This way you will get engrossed in a single subject and become more knowledgeable about it instead of learning in a more shallow way (Writers, Telegraph). Also, when you study one area of the language, it is more likely to stick in your mind for a longer time.
A lot of fascinating aspects of words and phrases can be noticed if you start to research the new language you are acquiring. For instance, investigating the history behind a word, knowing what certain prefixes and suffixes mean, and figuring out what forms create adverbs and such can make you much more knowledgeable in your chosen foreign language. By putting in this effort, you create more chances for words to stay in your long-term memory due to the connections you have made (Writers, Telegraph).
Learning a foreign language can be rough, especially when you can forget words easily. The key is to find ways to put this vocabulary into your long-term memory by enjoying the process of language acquisition, employing space repetition, testing on a regular basis, using cluster learning, and dissecting words.
Machová, Lýdia. “Transcript of ‘The Secrets of Learning a New Language.’” TED, www.ted.com/talks/lydia_machova_the_secrets_of_learning_a_new_language/transcript?language=en#t-633371.
Cooke, Ed. “How to Improve Long-Term Memory.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 15 Jan. 2012, www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2012/jan/15/memory-games-brain-training-test.
Writers, Telegraph. “Foreign Languages: How to Memorise Vocabulary.” The Telegraph, Telegraph Media Group, 27 Mar. 2018, www.telegraph.co.uk/education/2018/03/27/foreign-languages-memorise-vocabulary/.