Learning another language

Vocabulary is a sticking point for many language learners. That’s because words have a certain arbitrary quality that makes them hard to memorize. There are two strategies which are very effective with this task: the keyword mnemonic, and retrieval practice. I have written about these…

As I said in my discussion of different scripts, the Hellenic languages use the Greek alphabet. Here it is. I’m afraid the table is a little complicated, because (a) each letter has a name, which it’s useful to know, and (b) there are some differences in pronunciation between Ancient Greek (…

Find out about the pegword mnemonic

To celebrate Māori Language Week here in Aotearoa (New Zealand), I've put together a pegword set in te reo:

  1. tahi — ahi
  2. rua — ua
  3. toru — tūru
  4. whā — taniwha
  5. rima — rama
  6. ono — hono
How many words do you need to learn?

An analysis of English vocabulary* has found that the first 1000 words account for 84.3% of the words used in conversation, 82.3% of the words encountered in fiction, 75.6% of the words in newspapers, and 73.5% of the words in academic texts. The second 1000…

As I said in my discussion of different scripts, Russian uses the Cyrillic alphabet. Here it is (the 3rd column shows the English counterpart):

А  а   a

Б  б   b

В  в   v

Flashcards are cards with a word (or phrase) on one side and its translation on the other. You can buy ready-made flashcards, and these can certainly be helpful, particularly if you're inexperienced at learning another language. However, it is more effective if you make them yourself. Not only…

Keyword mnemonic

The one mnemonic strategy that has been investigated quite extensively by researchers is the keyword mnemonic. This has been used successfully in a variety of learning areas, but its chief use has been in the area of learning vocabulary.

The keyword mnemonic is…

When considering what will be the most effective strategies for you, don't forget the basic principles of memory:

(1) Repetition repetition repetition

The trick is to find a way of repeating that is interesting to you. This is partly governed by level of difficulty (too easy is…

To celebrate Māori Language Week here in Aotearoa (New Zealand), here's some mnemonics to help you learn 25 common words in te reo. These use the keyword mnemonic. Keywords are written in italics.

aroha (love), an arrow in the heart

awa (river), a water flowing

hīkoi (…

Research with children has demonstrated that the ability to learn new words is greatly affected by working memory span - specifically, by how much information they can hold in that part of working memory called "phonological short-term memory". The constraining effect of working memory capacity…