4 Ways to Memorize New Words

4 Ways to Memorize New Words
03 August 2017

There’s endless debate about how many words you need to know in order to be ‘fluent’, I couldn’t try to put a number on it. When you consider learning a language, the expanse of vocabulary to learn can seem daunting but not when you consider it in increments. Here are a few ideas on how to memorize new words in a foreign language.


When you go over a new text, it is helpful to paraphrase what you just read, either out loud or written. You can go over it in your own words, in different conjugations such as the past to present to future tense, from the first person perspective to the third. Rather than just repeating words, this allows you to use them in contexts of your own making, and to use different variants.

When going over a long text, you can break it up per every few lines or per paragraph – however much you can manage. Afterwards, see if you can put it all together.

2. Association Webs

This based on the idea that we remember things better in association to memories. For example, I’ll probably always remember the word ‘чайник’ because when I first got here, people kept asking me if there was water for the kettle, which I didn’t understand until someone told me the word for kettle. It is possible to feign the strength of this association by linking new words to memories or objects. One person described using Central Park in New York. He imagines walking around the park, coming across the fountain to which he assigned the word ‘to drink’ in Japanese. He comes across a shop and thinks of the word ‘to buy’ and so on.

4. Forgetting Curve

There is a predictable pattern as to how you remember and begin to forget words, known as the ‘forgetting curve’. From the first time you hear a new word, you’ll probably forget it within a few days, unless you refresh it.  By this method, you’d remind yourself of the word you’re trying to remember by at first frequent intervals, maybe every twenty minutes for the first day. You’d be able to then gradually increase this interval until you may only need reminding every week, every other week and so on.

3. Root words

Say, you’re trying to remember the word ‘следовательно’. It looks long and hard to remember until you realize that there are actually four words here. Cлед means route. Cледоват is to follow, like ‘follow the route’. Cледовател means Investigator…who follows the route. And finally следовательно, which means ‘therefore’. In trying to memorize one word, you’ve actually learned four.

These are just four ways to learn new vocabulary, there are tons of others. What method you employ ultimately depends on works for you. If you have a different approach to memorization, feel free to share in the comments. Until then, happy language learning.


Posted by Rina Tse

Hi! I'm Rina, I'll be interning at Liden and Denz, St Petersburg. I am currently on summer break from University in Canada. Join me in my endeavours around town!

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