How to memorise vocabulary: User tips

Babbel asked readers for their best tips on learning vocabulary and shared the results.

We asked you for your favourite ways to memorise vocabulary, and the tips were great. Some are old classics and some are slightly more off-the-wall. Which ones do you use, and what would you add? Tell us in the comments!

1. Exercise while saying the words – Joseph

This has been proven to be effective. A study in 2010 tested subjects who bicycled while learning vocabulary, and found “that simultaneous physical activity during vocabulary learning facilitates memorization of new items”.

2. Singing the words I’ve learned (translated from French) – David (also Charlie)

Singing is a great way to learn vocabulary, and is extremely helpful for language learning generally – check out Benny Lewis’s post on the subject, complete with karaoke. Researchers at the University of Edinburgh found that adults who sang foreign words or phrases were twice as good at speaking them later.

3. Write the words down on small cards and work with the cards wherever possible – Stefan (also Milène)

Using vocabulary cards is a tried and tested technique. Some people like flashcards with a picture on one side and a word on the other, while others prefer to write short descriptions or translations on the back. One advantage is the sheer number of games you can play with them – memory games, mixing and matching, sorting them into categories, combining them to create sentences, and lots more.

4. Using the word in a sentence or mock conversation (yes, I have conversations with myself in foreign languages) – Chris (also Zelu)

Don’t be embarrassed! One of Babbel’s resident polyglots, Matthew Youlden, uses this technique as well.

5. I always watch movies in mother tongue with subtitles in mother tongue; when I find a word that I don’t know, I write it down on a sheet and look for meaning. Then I watch the movie again with all translated words. It works – Claudio

A great one for movie buffs. Time-consuming, but if you love languages and movies, what could be more satisfying than enjoying Almodóvar or Bergman in the original language?

6. Playing video games in the language I’m learning (translated from French) – Julius

Absolutely. Video games constantly reuse and recycle vocabulary. In fact, it’s surprising how little focus there is on the power of video games as a language learning tool: with the birth of online multiplayer games and the ability to change the region settings, it’s about time this was taken seriously. Games often create authentic situations that require real and immediate action – there’s no time to reach for a dictionary when an army of orcs are bearing down on you.

Finally, a hat-tip to Lavinia, Iyes and Nicole, whose favourite way to memorise new vocabulary is… to use Babbel! Thanks to everyone who contributed via Facebook. Please leave your own tips in the comments below.