A limited vocabulary impairs the ability
to communicate. Anyone who has ever tried to learn a second language knows
this. Learners must first learn and then remember vocabulary, and this is where
the difficulty lies. But there are ways to facilitate the memorization of
words. And they’ll even work for busy professionals like you.
Mnemonic techniques involve trying to
attach the word to something you already know. Perhaps the word reminds you of
a word in your own language or a word you know well in the second language. You
can create a visual picture of what these words represent. The association
doesn’t have to be sensible. It just has to be novel enough that it creates an
impression to make it easier to remember. For example, if you want to remember
the word “dim,” maybe you could picture a “dimly-lit dim-sum restaurant.”
Another strategy to help you remember a
new word is to write it on a flashcard. On one side of the card you could write
the word, and on the other side, you could write a sentence using the word, but
leave a blank space where the word would be (see Picture 1).
You should keep all of your flashcards
together, and you should organize them systematically so that even their
organization will aid your memory. For example, you could group them by part of
speech such as by placing all of the adjectives together. Or you could make
several groups of adjectives: one for adjectives that describe people, one for
adjectives that describe things, etc.
If you don’t want to bother with
flashcards, you could just organize words on a paper. Related words organized
on a paper this way are called a classification map. It is created when you
organize vocabulary by dividing words into categories. You are simply taking a
group of related words and breaking them into smaller categories. This will
allow you to both understand and remember the words better. An example of this
is as follows:
You should keep your classification maps
on hand and add to them whenever necessary. As they grow, you’ll probably see
different ways to reorganize them to increase their effectiveness and further
facilitate your memory.
To make a semantic map, start in the
center of the page with a word or idea, and then write related vocabulary around
it in clusters (see Picture 3). This is similar to a classification map but it
is more flexible and can involve categories for rules of usage or whatever
information you want. You should use pictures to represent ideas and different
colors to highlight different aspects. For example, you could use blue for the
vocabulary, green for collocations or usage tips, and red for common errors.
Again, you’ll want to keep your semantic maps on hand and add to them or re-do
them whenever necessary.
Remembering vocabulary may
seem difficult, but the use of flashcards, mnemonic techniques, classification
maps, or semantic maps will help. If you use these strategies, you will improve
your vocabulary. Don’t
forget the best way to remember a new word is to use it. Seek out
opportunities to do so or create one – even if it means having a conversation
with an imaginary friend! Just find some way –
– to use it. Then you’ll
remember it forever.
（Written by the
English Coordinator at the Language Training & Testing Center）