How to learn foreign words effectively. Direct association method.

How to learn foreign words (effectively).

& Direct association method.

 

               Words are the most essential consisting part of any language. Words are those little bricks by which the speech is built. Words name the objects, characteristics, actions or phenomena, specific or abstract thoughts and ideas. They are names, sound (oral) and visual (writing) representations of all the things in our life. Using words to express our thoughts is very important and complicated mechanism of our mind, which has been developing during many thousands of years. We can say the language is a miracle in the human evolution!  No other creature on the Earth has the same highly developed skill. Oral language requires complicated speech organs and fixed, learnt way of using it to make the necessary sounds. Written language uses a set of signs (letters) and special skills, which allow to move the hand specifically, to create the needed sign, or sets of signs to express something in writing.

                 We start using the language as means of communication from our early years. Usually being children we learn our language fast and effective, because then we don’t learn the words, we learn actual phenomena and their names. Things change when we grow up. Many modern schools claim we can learn easily and naturally like babies, but unfortunately we can’t because:

 

  1. We don’t have that blank brain any more, we already have names for most things in our life.

  2. Usually we are not constantly in the language environment.

  3. Our brain, emotions, memory work in different ways now.

                                In the childhood the process of learning is like that:

                We meet a new phenomenon, we name it (hear or read the name), then it goes through our conscious to our short term memory, then to our long term memory and finally the image of the phenomena stores in our subconscious.

 scheme1a

Almost the same way back is used for the recalling the word after it is learnt.

 scheme2a

                  It is the natural and the easiest way. But! Being adults, learning a foreign word, we usually already know the actual object or phenomenon and in fact we just have to learn a new name of it. And here we usually have problems because to learn a new foreign word we usually intentionally try to bind it to the word (name) we already know and often use. And this is not so natural way. Or even worse. Sometimes we use so popular now method of associations. Mostly, this is some book of foreign words and associations for them in your native language made by their sound or spelling or some other similarity. This is the worst way of learning you can choose because:

   a)    those associations have no natural binding or background

   b)   those are other person’s associations (and for sure they have no use in your brain).

 

              Of course, we usually have some associations for the words except its formal meaning, but we usually don’t learn the word by them. Even if they help us to remember the word they have to be our own associations, not the associations of other person, because in such case we have to learn the other person’s association and then learn the word, so this action make the learning of the word many times harder than it’s supposed to be, and leads the memorization of it on the unneeded long and crooked way.

scheme 3a

                 Looking at this scheme, we can logically assume that going by that way a word is not only harder to learn but also is much harder to recall because it also has to go all this way backwards when we want to use it. Our subconscious has to find bound images of the words (which are stored together), then, in the memory, we recall the word-association, it brings the word we need with it, we divide them in our conscious, then it goes to the necessary brain centres and, finally, we can say or write it.

             Scientists say to learn a new word effectively (constantly) we have to meet it 37 times in different sources. I believe it is true. Though it seems to be not easy, in fact it isn’t so complicated. We also can help ourselves using those few practical advises. They are based on my 10 years teaching experience, teaching, learning and psychological knowledge and principals. To you learn a new word effectively:

  • repeat aloud it not less than 5 times while imagining its actual meaning.* It has to be your own image, the first thing which comes into your mind when you hear this word in your language.

  • write down a new word in two lines (you also can repeat it aloud or silently while writing)

  • write down a new word to the vocabulary. I mean a word with the translation in your language.

  • review your vocabulary at last 2-3 times a week.

  • To have the best results try to use words. Make easy word combinations phrases or sentences.

  • Always try to learn words in the particular topic. When some words are from one group, they have some connections, make good natural associations and are learnt much easier and faster.

                * Here you use the method of the direct associations, when the word is bound to its actual meaning, not to its name in your language (or to any other word or thing). Just repeat the word and imagine the phenomenon it means as brightly and real as you can. Try not to remember this word from your language at this moment, or at least don’t concentrate on it.  The mechanism which works when we use the method of direct associations is very similar to that one we used when we were children and this is the best, the easiest and the most natural way to learn the words.

            Some words mean something very abstract and they are really hard to imagine, especially if we don’t understand them completely. In this case you can learn them just mechanically repeating aloud the word and its translation 5-6 times (but this is an exception).

            So, to be always satisfied with your learning don’t invent any new magic methods, just use those natural mechanisms you already have!

                                                               Good luck and have great results!

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