Memorizing Vocabulary

Language learning question: Even when the method, level of engagement and level of importance seem to be equivalent, why are some words consistently more difficult to remember than others?

Might it have to do with one’s active vocabulary in their mother tongue? As in, if I use the word “hopefully” a lot in English, learning an equivalent will be easily integrated into the foreign language.
A remedy to the problem is probably just adding more cues to the flash card. But I’m curious why there is this problem in the first place.
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About JoeL

I completed a Master of Music degree from McGill University. I am currently working towards an Artist Diploma also at McGill. I like to do philosophy as a hobby.

One thought on “Memorizing Vocabulary

  1. Alrighty, the Faceboook input has been helpful and has pushed me to make some tentative conclusions. First, I’ll explain my method.

    I find vocab by reading texts (or watching movies) of various genres and difficulty. The words that I do not know I put into anki (a free flashcard program). I put the English word(s) on the front and the German word on the back, as well as the German sentence. For instance, I was watching a short sketch where an old guy just wants to sit and relax. So the word “entspannen” “to relax” comes up. And as soon as I see the word relax, I remember the context and I can remember the word rather quickly, or at least with very few repetitions.

    Christopher Antila has pushed me to determine how truthful I am being. In regards to his question, I think I mostly am. However, In terms of my level of engagement with each word I think it would be wrong to say that each word has the same level of engagement. It is correct only insofar as I discover them with the same method. But there is no question that if the theme of a video is about a man relaxing, I will remember the word relaxing far before I will remember the word “allegedly” in an article about hurricanes. In other words, nouns that are central to a text or video are quickly associated with context, others, like “allegedly” are not.

    Now, I think this leads me to the conclusion that not all flash cards should be made the same. Cards/words that address themes of experienced material need less reminders. Cards that address less memorable material need more.

    So, though they are discovered in the same way, their level of importance is definitely not ‘logged away in the brain’ in the same way

    Liked by 1 person

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