One of the best ways to learn a foreign language is learning by association, which means using things that are already familiar to you to help you remember new words and phrases.
There are several ways to do this. The first, and simplest, is to find a word in your own language that sounds similar to the one you are learning and use that as a reminder. This is actually something which tends to happen naturally without you even trying. Although it is an easy way to memorise vocabulary, you do need to be careful if the pronunciation is not exactly the same. This could lead to confusion later on!
Another way to make new words stick is to create a picture of them in your mind. For example, you want to remember that the English word for a formal dance is “ball”. You already know that a ball is a round thing that you can throw, so to remember the new meaning of the word, you could imagine people dancing inside a giant football. This may seem silly, but actually the stranger these mental images are, the better. They are the ones that stay in your mind the longest.
A good way of learning how to spell difficult new words is by using a mnemonic. A mnemonic is a way of remembering things in a certain order, for example the days of the week, the months of the year, or the letters of a word. A classic example is the word “because”. People often find this word tricky to spell and to learn it they use the first letters of each word in the following sentence:
“Big Elephants Can Always Upset Small Elephants”
Again, it’s a funny and silly idea that sticks in your mind. You can use any sentence you like to remember any word. Just as long as it’s something memorable to you.
The key to learning by association is to use your imagination and come up with things that will stick in your mind so that you can recall them easily when the time comes.
About the Author
Natalie Saunders is a former EFL educator based in China. She currently works as a writer and translator with a special focus on Traditional Chinese Medicine and health.
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