How to learn a lot of words...fast! Part Two

This article is part two of a two part series. Click here to read part one.

Now that we’ve got the correct tools for learning our words, we need to explore the best ways of remembering them.

One of the most powerful memory techniques is called ‘mnemonic’ learning. It involves making imaginative images or stories around a word and its sounds. By wrapping a word and its meaning in an unusual narrative picture, we can engage many different parts of the brain that all assist with memory. Let’s look at an example using a particularly difficult word in English:

Discordant: disagreeing or contradictory; lacking in harmony.

Break up the sounds of this word into three parts:

‘Dis’

‘cord’

‘ant’

Each of these sounds are a lot like real words in English:

Diss (slang): to insult someone

Chord: a harmony of musical notes, often played on a piano or guitar

Ant: a small insect that lives in large colonies with a queen

Already these words put together suggest certain images in our minds. Let’s form a story using these words:

‘Discordant’ mnemonic story:

Imagine an ant playing guitar. He’s strumming some chords, but one of the strings is out of tune. His friend is listening and tells him that he sounds terrible – he ‘disses’ his friend and insults his music. They argue, and the two ants are now discordant; they are disagreeing over the sound of the music.

This story acts as a thread that ties all the pieces of the word together with its meaning. The images and stories you create don’t have to make sense – in fact, the strangest mental images are often the easiest to remember! The important part is that the sounds and meaning of the word itself are contained within the image.

Try to use words from both your native language and your target language to create your stories. The more familiar you are with the meaningful word parts, the easier it will be to remember the original word. You don’t have to write all your stories down, just replay them in your mind whenever you study your words.

After practicing this technique with lots of different words, you will find it easier to remember even more. Let’s try to add another word to our ant story.

Accord: to be in agreement or harmony

‘Accord’ is the opposite of  ‘discord’ – the noun form of the adjective ‘discordant’.

The word ‘accord’ sounds a little bit like the name of a musical instrument – the accordion. Now we can add in another member to our ant band! This time, the accordion playing ant is perfectly in tune and isn’t upsetting any of the other ants – he’s playing in harmony with everybody else.

As your stories grow and develop, it becomes easier to remember more words because there is more meaning in your stories. This is the secret of all memory masters – they know that remembering more things is actually easier than remember fewer things!

Use your imagination and come up with lots of stories that are meaningful to you. When used together with spaced repetition learning, you will be able to learn lots of words very quickly and impress all your teachers and friends!

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