Vocabulary: How to memorize vocabulary faster than ever
Want to memorize vocabulary? Be prepared to be amazed. Using mnemonics, you can easily learn vocabulary at 400% your previous speed. And even if you already know about mnemonics, unless you’re a Master of Memory reader, I highly doubt that you’ve been introduced to the stressed syllable tactic.
1. Stressed syllables
It’s a bit of a mystery why this works, but for some reason, the brain likes to focus on sounds that are stressed, but it’s able to remember unstressed syllables without concentrating on them. So the trick is to concentrate on those stressed syllables and don’t give much thought to the rest of the word. This is how I memorize language vocabulary (you can speak any language fluently with just the 2000 most commonly used words). Memorize based on the sound of the stressed syllable, and somehow, it will be easy to remember the rest of the word. This has many practical applications… as well as some less practical uses. For example, I taught my sister the pronunciation of an 11-syllable planet name from Doctor Who (“Raxacoricofallapatorius”) in less than 15 seconds, while it took another friend days to get it down. But more seriously, below are some tactics you’ve probably never heard of before now that will remarkably strengthen your ability to tie the meaning of a word to its pronunciation.
2. The mnemonics
You may have heard before that the best way to learn a new word is to create some sort of mnemonic, maybe a funny story, that strengthens the connection between the word and its meaning. I agree with this method. It’s definitely the best way to learn vocabulary and never forget what a word means. You start by using a funny story, and eventually, the more you use that word, the gap in your mind between the word and its meaning will grow smaller and smaller, and soon you won’t even have to remember the mnemonic any more. I’m about to show you how to make this work for any word in any Western language. Remember, here’s the model for remembering anything:
For vocabulary, the word is the trigger, the mnemonic is your funny story about the word, and that points to the meaning.
Now here’s the part of the method that’s never been seen before. When you create your mnemonic, always base your mnemonic on the stressed syllable of the word. So this…
…becomes this: Using the stressed syllable helps with three things.
- First, it makes it a ton easier to choose a mnemonic. Instead of trying to create a story from the whole word, you know which part of the word to use to create your mnemonics
- Second, it ensures that every time you read a word or hear it spoken, you know where to find the mnemonic to tie it back to the meaning. If you always use the accented syllable, you don’t have to spend extra time trying to remember which part of the word your funny story spins off of. In other words, the trigger will always be easy to identify.
- Third, it significantly strengthens your ability to pronounce words like a native speaker. If your mind’s focus is on the stressed syllable every time you say a word, your pronunciation will automatically sound better.
Let’s use a couple of examples from the 50 most frequently used Spanish words. Here’s “alguno”, which means “some”, or “some one”. The stressed syllable is “goon”. Let’s say you have a main character trying to pick out someone for his team, but all he sees is a big crowd of goons. He throws his hands up in frustration and says, “well, I have to pick SOME guy, I have to pick alGUNo guy.” Now let’s try “otro”, which means “other”. The stressed syllable is “oat”. Imagine your character looking at a bunch of grains in a shop. The corn and rice and wheat are all on a shelf, but the oats are on the floor, because they’re just that “other” grain, that “otro” grain. Finally, let’s use “estar”, one of the four most commonly used verbs in Spanish. It means “to be”, but in a different sense than the other “to be” verb, “ser”, in that “estar” refers more to characteristics we consider non-essential to one’s identity, things like location. Imagine your character looking up at the night sky and wishing to be up there, saying, “I wish to be with the stars,” or “I wish estar with the stars.” Like anything it takes practice, but it gets really easy as you get used to it. (We have effective mnemonics for all essential Spanish vocabulary in our guaranteed-fluency training program: Accelerated Spanish.)
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