Best Ways to Memorize English Words
- Dec 21, 2014
A few days ago I was caught up in a dilemma. A friend of mine, who has earned the nickname, 'Grammar Nazi' called me up in the middle of the night and asked me, “Can you tell me a word you have never heard?”
I thought she was out of her mind and asked her to go back to sleep. But she was adamant, “Come on, be a sport!”, she went on until I said, “Cheesetastic”. This is when she calmed down and said, “Congratulations, you just made up your first word!” We searched the internet and found out that it meant something wholly different than what I had in mind on that perilous night. But it was fun!
Apart from the fact that I am the ultimate cheese fanatic, the point which I am trying to make here is, learning can be fun. And with words, it's better than that. Let's find out how.
Make up a story
This, I have found to be one of the most important techniques to remember any difficult word. Since I was a little kid, I had a weakness for stories. Any kind of story excited me and I gulped them down as quickly as they rushed in on me. As I moved on to novels with a few difficult words, which I found fascinating, I realized that I am almost a lost cause for remembering words. And one day I stumbled upon my genius. “Why not combine my weakness and fascination together?, I thought. And a pickle of stories started filling my brain to aid in the process. Here's what I do:
- Every time I come across a new word, I stop at it for one extra second than the time I generally devote to the known ones.
- I keep my phone nearby while reading, so that I do not have to carry a dictionary everywhere along with me. I quickly flip through the dictionary app and locate the meaning.
- I make up a story.
I will give you an example. Let's call this: The story of how cacophony means noise.
When I hear this word, I think of the old green telephone we used to have at our house when I was small. The receiver used to make a terrible noise every time it was picked up, as if it was trying to tell us how much it detested being disturbed from its sleep. And then I made up my own story. It wasn't anymore, the sound of detestation for disturbing the receiver, it was actually secret agents of the police, communicating with each other about the aliens they have spotted down the railway station. And they had altered their voices and were speaking in a code to keep it top secret. This was what made the terrible noise in the green receiver!
There you go. A nice little, story with a bit of suspense to keep you going. It takes less than a second to picture this story and a very less time to recall the word and use it in your vocabulary. And the best part is, you would never forget the meaning again. Why don't you too, try your hand at a story the next time you come across a new word? It helps tons.
How about relating the words with pictures or instances?
In a study conducted by researchers, Paul W. Foos and Paula Goolkasian, participants had to learn 54 words while executing a distracting task for each word, which were either printed, spoken or accompanied a picture. It was found that, words accompanied by pictures and spoken worrds were recalled more easily than printed words. In fact, pictures were recalled about 1.5 times as often as printed words. And you thought, “a picture is worth a thousand words” was just a phrase!
When you find a new word, you can do the following:
- Google it.
- Go to the page containing images.
- You would a few strictly relevant pictures and a few hilariously relevant.
- My suggestion is, go with the hilarious ones. We all love a bit of fun.
You could also find a few images that might inspire you and you might end up making up a story.
Picture done, now try instances. Here's an example. Let's call this:
Relating the instances
When I hear the word 'megalomaniac', I think of the movie MegaMind. The evil genius with the blue bloated head has an obsessive desire for power and thinks up the weirdest ideas to acquire this supremacy. And there you have it. 'Megalomaniac' is a person who has an obsessive desire for power.
Get to the roots of the words
Did you know that learning the origin of a word can work wonders in learning it? Let me show you how. Let's take the word 'caravan'. It originated from Persian 'Karwan' which means a 'group of desert travellers'. This is when the French decided to modify the word into 'caravane', which then crept into English in the 17th century. It the, used to mean a covered cart for carrying passengers and goods. Meanings changed with time and it now, stands for 'vehicle equipped with facilities for living in'. Isn't it amazing how we moved from a rustic Persian desert to camping luxury? And what more, you would never forget what it means. Acquainting yourself with the origin of a word will etch the meaning into your memory.
Include new words in everyday conversation
Try the following activities every time you come across a new word:
- Find out the meaning
- Learn it
- Use it in a sentence
As soon as you understand the meaning, use it in a sentence of your own. The surge of accomplishment at this is worth a shot at forming another sentence. So try once more and if you are really up for it, then you can throw in another one too! Did you know that the next social gathering you attend could use a bit of your new-found vocabulary to spark it up the conversations a bit more? Why don't you go ahead?
New words create their own spots in the memory, which are like the shiny red buttons. One tap, and the images and instances will start unraveling. All you need to do is connect the dots and watch the story unfold. Have fun!
Do you an even more interesting and effective method to memorize new words? Why don't you share with us in the comments section?
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