How to Memorize Vocabulary Fast?

When I was in high school, I got high marks for almost every subject I’d studied for. I know, you may not be surprised. You’ll think, Kamila, you have studied so many languages, you know how to learn. You know how to memorize vocabulary fast!

No, to be honest, I didn’t know how to learn. I tried to repeat words and phrases several times in my mind.

The house… la maison… la maison… the house.

To walk… marcher… marcher… to walk

I learned languages this way. I learned geography this way. I learned every subject this way.

As a result, it took me a lot of time until I felt ready for my exams. I started studying 2-3 weeks before my exams and tried to repeat things every day. I felt stressed, ate a lot, gained weight, and forgot everything 2 days after my exams.

However, I discovered how to memorize vocabulary fast after reading a book about memory and learning languages on my own. These techniques are fun and help you remember words for a long time.

Use images

How to memorize vocabulary fast - la maison

Images help you define words in a meaningful context. They enable you to understand and utilize vocabulary in different aspects of life. In addition, they help you remember the words every time you see the object. 

Let’s say you are learning the French word la maison, which means the house. Look at the picture and repeat a couple of times “la maison”. Now, you are more likely to remember the French word when you walk by a house than when you are learning this word without using the picture.

How to memorize vocabulary fast by using images?

  • Add images to your flashcards
  • Don’t use the translator or the dictionary to look up words and their definitions, but use Google images. Then, make a screenshot and use it as a flashcard
  • Use Pinterest and look up ‘vocabulary [language]’. For example, ‘Vocabulary English’
  • Stick post-its to objects in your house
  • Use applications that teach you words with images or vocabulary books that include images (check out the project vocabulary maps)

Use your imagination and mnemonics

memorize vocabulary faster

How to memorize vocabulary fast by using your imagination? If you don’t have an image of the word you are learning, you can imagine the word. For example, while learning the word la maison, you can imagine yourself walking in a house.

In your imagination, anything is possible. You can use your imagination to create so-called ‘mnemonics’ (pronounced as ‘nuh-MON-ics’). That’s a complicated word for techniques that help you remember words faster.

You may be wondering how you can create those mnemonics. It’s easy. I’ll explain it.

Remember that you already know a part of the word

You already know a part of the word you are learning.  Sometimes you can relate the first letter of the word to that of the word in your native language. For example, both the French and Spanish word for ‘to know’ start with an s, savoir and saber.

Sometimes you can recognize some syllables and relate them to a word you already know. That information is enough to can create a mnemonic.

Let’s create a mnemonic with the example I gave earlier. While walking through la maison , try to imagine something you can relate to the word itself. For me, the word maison is similar to the Dutch word for corn, maïs.

Make an imaginary story

To make this technique work, you have to create an imaginary story with the word you are learning (la maison) and the word you already know (maïs).

So I try to imagine myself walking through la maison and watching people sitting on the ground eating maïs. In this case, the mnemonic I created for the word la maison are the people who are eating maïs in a house.

Repeat your mnemonic

You have to repeat your mnemonic a couple of times in your mind. Think of maïs, a house, and imagine yourself walking and watching people eating corn. When you don’t remember maïs, you will forget the word la maison and it’s definition.

So imagine maïs. Imagine a house. Imagine people eating corn.

Maïs. House. People eating corn.

Imagine and exaggerate

Exaggerating is the key to remembering vocabulary. We are able to remember unusual things and funny things quickly. The more you exaggerate, the faster you can memorize vocabulary.

Imagine that people are eating HUGE corn. Or imagine that the house is made of corn. The more details and humor you add, the better it is.

But… How to memorize vocabulary fast when I have to learn complex words and verbs?

You can also use mnemonics to learn verbs and complex words. It works the same way.

For example, the French verb marcher means to walk. You can remember marcher by remembering the word March. Say marcher and imagine that it’s March and people go outside to make a walk.

March is the month when spring starts and the temperature starts rising. People are like to go outside and make a walk. It doesn’t have to be true and it only happens in some countries, but you can think this way to memorize this verb. Exaggerate it and imagine that everybody is suddenly leaving their houses at the same time.

Do you want to know more about mnemonics and how you can use them to improve your memory? The book “How to build a mnemonics memory palace” may be interesting to you. 

Use the words. Make sentences.

how-to-memorize-vocabulary-fast

Now, you know how to memorize vocabulary fast, but it’s important that you make sentences with the words you have learned. It makes you feel prepared and helps you use these words in a conversation.

Write sentences down on paper and use them in conversations with native speakers. If there is no native speaker in your environment, imagine yourself speaking with a native speaker.

Let’s return to my example. If you imagine yourself walking through la maison and watching people eating maïs. You say something like Je marche dans la maison to respond to someone’s question about what you are doing right now.

Choose the perfect time of the day

If you want to memorize vocabulary fast, you have to choose the time of the day when you are able to learn vocabulary faster.

Some people are able to memorize lots of words in the mornings, while others find it better to learn in the evenings. Test what works for you and turn it into a habit.

Review the words

Our memory is like a muscle. If you don’t use it, it will atrophy. If you don’t review or use the words you’ve learned, you will forget them.

So use the tips above to memorize vocabulary fast and review those words frequently to make sure they will stick in your mind for a long time. Don’t just review the definition of the word, review your mnemonic. Maïs. House. People eating corn.

Create memories with the words

Things we have strong memories with, we will never forget. When you try to create memories, you can memorize vocabulary faster.

For example, don’t use a notebook to just write down the words you have learned. Specify them. Write down where you have learned these words and how. Include details.  It will help you connect every word to a memory/moment. You will always remember the definition and the context of the word.

When you look up a word you read in a book, you can cite the sentence that includes the word.

When you are translating a sentence on your phone to use it to a native speaker via a language exchange app, make a screenshot of the conversation.

If you want to review the words, you can take a look at your notes and screenshots and remember the meaning of the word.


How to memorize vocabulary fast pinterest-thumbnail-2

Congratulations. You have learned 2 words in this post you’ll never forget.

Now, you have learned how to memorize vocabulary fast. And if you don’t speak French, you have learned the words la maison and marcher by reading this post (in less than 2-3 minutes). That wasn’t so hard, was it?

Now, move on to the next couple of words. Discover how to expand your vocabulary in a foreign language and use my tips.


Featured image by Paul Itkin via Stocksnap

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