How to review vocabulary
An effective vocabulary learning does not mean how many words you learn everyday, but how many of them you can retain and recall when you need them. It means this, how effectively you can make use of words you learn is more
important than how many words you study everyday. Immediate daily number of words you learn don't always count in language learning as we will see throughout this article.
As you learn more and more words, the ones you have previously learned begin to lose strength without proper vocabulary reviews. Let's imagine you learn 100 new words everyday, and never turn back to the one which you have previously learned. Without a proper review, you will begin to forget those previously studied words. Actually, this is nothing more than wasting your time and efforts.
Vocabulary review is one of the challenging parts of learning a new language for intermediate learners. You can begin to sense the importance of its importance in language learning now. Building vocabulary is the core feature of learning any language and it is not an easy task. Learning new vocabulary requires you to build new neural networks in your brain. In order for those networks to be created, you need to expose yourself to the words you learn in different activities (reading, listening, writing, speaking). By doing this again and again, you also strengthen those existing networks. This is the only way to speak any language fluently. For example, normally beginners try to translate sentences they see or hear from the language they learn into their native language. When you truly develop your vocabulary skills, basically you begin to think in that language, that means you don't need to translate everything into your native language but function smoothly in the language you learn whenever you read, listen, write or speak. You can get to this level through many repetitions. Doing this you create all those necessary neural networks to communicate normally in any second language..
Let us examine it in more details. According to a recent research done by scientists in Cambridge University, it takes 14 minutes to learn an unfamiliar word. According to this results, when you try to learn 3000 words, you will spend 42000 minutes which makes 700 hours. I don't think everyone needs exactly 14 minutes to learn a word. Some people might have better memorizing skills or tactics. Maybe some learners squeeze the very best of their learning abilities through discovering the way of effective learning. Nonetheless, this figures give us an idea about an overall situation.
According to another study, in order to have a 50% chance of recognizing a word form again after three months, learners have to meet the word at least eight times during those days. So you may never get 100% change of remembering some words that quickly but you will need to repeat more than 8 times if you want to keep a word in long term memory.
All these results mean REPETITION, A LOT OF REPETITION. Yet, this is where the real challenge begins. As the vocabularies you learn reach to a few thousands, it can become a big burden to retain that vocabulary size. Previously, we were talking about 14 minutes per word and 8 times repetition for a 50% change of vocabulary retention during three months. Now try to apply these figures for a few thousand words. Now, you get a picture the real difficulty of learning a new language. It is not grammar. It is VOCABULARY LEARNING and RETENTION. At times, that can be really frustrating.
However, there are some strategies which you can follow and they don't have to be all boring and time consuming. You should try a few ways and see which of them suits you the best. Thanks to technology, good vocabulary review tools and methods have been developed.
Now let's take a look at two memory techniques that you can use when you learn a word for the first time. You can make the vocabulary learning easy by trying to find cognates. Mnemonic learning methods will also make you retain more words easily in long-term memory. Let us look at them a little closer:
Cognates are the words that have a common etymological origin. It does not mean that they have the same meaning, but somewhat close meaning. You can use cognates mostly within the related languages which belong to the same language group or family, such as English-German, Italian-Spanish...etc. You can learn more about language families here.
Ex: English: Night English: Fruit
German: Nacht Spanish: Fruta
French: Nuit Italian: Frutto
Mnemonic learning is a technique that aids information retention by translating information into a form that the brain can retain better than its original form. This is an effective way to relate the information to the long term memory. You might regard them as some sort of word games.
Ex: Mathematics: PEMDAS- Parenthesis, Exponents, Multiplication & Division, Addition & Subtraction can be remembered by the phrase: "Please excuse my dear Aunt Sally". This is the order of operations and can be hectic when you try to remember it during an exam. However, mnemonic learning makes it easier to keep this information in the long term memory.
These were some techniques to learn new words effectively. After you learn new words, you will need to remember them. In order to do that, you need to find an effective way to review them. One of the most effective ways is Spaced Repetition. Spaced Repetition is commonly applied in contexts in which a learner must acquire a large number of items and retain them indefinitely in long-term memory. For this reason, it is suited for vocabulary acquisition. How you can use spaced repetition? Well, with flashcards.
In the 1970s, German science journalist Sebastian Leitner proposed a new method called the Leither System. It is a simple implementation of Spaced Repetition into flashcard learning, where cards are reviewed at increasing intervals. In this method flashcards are sorted into groups according to how well you know each of them. By the way, flashcards are a set of cards which bear information, such as words, numbers, etc. on both sides On one side you write a question and on the other you put the answer of that question. This feature of flashcards make them suitable for memorization through spaced repetition.
This is how Spaced Repetition works: There are five or six groups for vocabularies where the first group represent the new words which you haven't mastered yet and the last group where all well learned vocabulary belongs to. You first learn the words and later practice them by using flashcards. You try to recall the answer on the flashcard. If you succeed, you send the card to the next group. But if you fail, you send it back to one previous group. Each succeeding group has a longer period of time for repetition. For example, words in the second group are to be review 4 days later again. Words in the third group are to be reviewed 10 days later and so on...
There are very good free online flashcard services. Later, I will make a fair and decent review for these flashcard services and language learning products. So, keep following my articles. You can follow me on my Facebook group or simply by Twitter (Be warned my Twitter account is still a baby to grow. You may not find a lot of stuff there) You learn some techniques and hopefully you can find ways to make use of them to expand your vocabulary easily.