January 22, 2010, Newsletter Issue #65: How People Learn New Words

Tip of the Week

Unfortunately, learning vocabulary is often the most time-consuming part of learning a new language. How much time is required depends on where you begin and where you want to go. For instance, if you are an English speaker who wants to learn German, you will find that there are words in German that strongly resemble words you already know in English. For instance, the German verb stoppen means “to stop”. Humans remember things in one of two ways. The first is repetition; you hear something or read it enough times and you'll recall it. The other is by association. If someone asked you to draw the outline of France, you'd probably find it difficult. But if they asked you to draw the outline of Italy, you'd have an easier time. Why? Because like most people, you know that Italy resembles the shape of a boot. Try to find things you can associate with the words you are learning to help you remember them. Even if they don't exactly make logical sense, they can help jog your memory until the repetition factor fixes it in your brain.

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