As I learn new Turkish words, I think about the best way to retain them. My methods so far have been mixed and haphazard, and I have no conclusion about the ‘best’ method. To get the conversation going, though, here are five methods that I have used or run into.
This is a popular digital flashcard system that you can use on your computer or smartphone. The system is designed to remind you of new words just before you forget them.
Upsides: Fast to make; fun; easy to do when you have a spare minute; good for the long-term because the cards never disappear–they just get more spaced out.
Downsides: I find my brain gets a little frazzled from flipping quickly through a bunch of cards; the memorization feels shallow; you need an electronic device with you to study.
2. Old-fashioned flashcards
Paper or index cards. New language on one side, first language on the other.
Upsides: You can carry them in your pocket and review any time; fun to share with people sitting next to you on the bus; you can pull out a pen and add a new vocabulary item as you hear or read it.
Downsides: Time-consuming to make; maybe you lose the cards over time.
3. Strange associations
A friend does this for learning Japanese words. She finds a personal association that links the new word to something in English; maybe a sound, or image, or reference. I remember doing the same thing when I was memorizing the Arabic alphabet.
Upsides: It’s sticky–it will probably stick in your memory; you are forced to take some time with the new word, so you are more likely to retain it.
Downsides: A long time to recall the new word, as you go through the pathways of connection; possible confusion for yourself.
4. Write it down, look at it later
In the moment you read or hear a new item, you write it down in your notebook. When you return to your handwriting, you can probably recall the exact context of writing it, complete with emotional and environmental details.
Upsides: No extra time for making study materials; you can review anytime you have your notebook with you.
Downsides: It’s easy to forget to look back at old writing.
5. The ‘no method’ method
Some people seem to cruise through language learning without electronic devices or any pen and paper. The theory seems to be: If the word is important enough, it will be retained. If it is not crucial, then it can wait.
Upsides: Instead of worrying about how to retain words, you can just focus on enjoying yourself in the new language and communicating as best as possible.
Downsides: Maybe you encounter a new word again and again and end up searching for its definition multiple times, instead of committing it to memory early and saving time in the long run.
There are so many ways to retain new vocabulary. This is just a starting list to help you think about the possibilities and reflect on your own methods. What do you do? Do your methods work well for you?