I had a lovely bit of correspondence yesterday with a reader that raised an interesting use of email for language learning that I had not thought to mention before. It seems that this reader and I receive the same daily Spanish language word server.
But before I share some sources you might want to peer into, I wanted to quickly recap yesterday’s message about why it is better to store the words of our target language in our Memory Palaces as opposed to using our own language in order to get to the target language.
If you haven’t read yesterday’s message for the full explanation, please be sure to do so.
Why Memorize Foreign Language Words In The First Place?
As a quick recap, here are the core reasons we want to store the words based on our target language, not our mother tongue:
a) We are learning the target language, not our own language.
Although we could use the same system to memorize words in our native tongue we don’t know, such as when learning legal or medical terminology, fluency comes from working with the language we want to learn first and foremost and trusting your knowledge of your mother tongue to assist you from the sidelines via association.
b) If we store the English words first, we limit our ability to store more than one meaning for each word at a single station. That slows progress towards bilingualism, which is so good for your brain.
To take yesterday’s example, it would be very difficult to store the multiple meanings of the Spanish word “antaño” using English words because we would need to create 3 Memory Palaces to get them all in.
However, if we use our ‘A’ Memory Palace to store “antaño,” then we can readily squeeze in three meanings into the station for that word, including “long ago,” “days gone by,” and “last year.”
Great Sources For Vocabulary Directly Into Your Inbox
Speaking of “antaño,” I learned this word from SpanishDict.
If you visit their site, you can sign up to receive a daily word in Spanish.
For German, I really like Learn with Oliver’s German Flashcards.
Although I have long since stopped using the rote learning software put out by Before You Know It, I still use their word of the day service for several languages, including German, Spanish, French and Russian.
You can get daily words sent to you from them by visiting: Transparent’s Word of the Day.
(If you find a different character set like Russian challenging, here are some ideas based on memorizing the Greek alphabet).
For most languages, there are several ways that you can receive several new words a day that will help increase your exposure to a language.
If the links I’ve just provided don’t help you find what you need, then just type the name of your target language into Google and add: “free word a day.”
How To Actually Memorize A Word A Day
Let’s look at the math involved in achieving fluency.
Many people think that you need to memorize thousands of words to speak a language.
Although a big vocabulary is certainly useful, you can achieve a lot of communication with only 850 words and some skill in using those words in phrases.
And as crazy as it sounds, you can proceed at the rate of one word per day and achieve that goal in about 3 months.
- Create a Memory Palace Network (2-5 hours)
- Sign up to a daily vocabulary email service
- Use The Freedom Journal or create your own to set sprints and track your progress
- Use a service like Skill Silo and use the software I suggest for recording your sessions
- Go back to each vocabulary word you’ve memorized and add a phrase
If you need help creating your first Memory Palace Network, I think you’ll find this program useful:
If you have any questions at all about this memory course, just let me know using the contact page.
How to Add Phrases To Vocabulary You’ve Memorized
As you add phrases to words, you’ll dramatically scale your vocabulary.
And if you use the Big Five of Language Learning, all the better!
If that seems to complex, here are memory techniques for language learning simplified.
The question is… How exactly do you add a phrase to a word?
Well, contrary to what my friend and language learning expert Luca Lampariello suggests when not using mnemonics, I feel it’s best to start with words first if you are using memory techniques.
Well, as Rhetorica Ad Herrenium asks us (here I’m paraphrasing), if you can’t memorize words, how do you expect to memorize phrases?
So that’s the first suggestion:
Then, master linking words together. Sometimes it will happen word for word. I usually have to do this when memorizing Chinese phrases. Here’s an exciting mnemonic example with detailed discussion of the process using E.T. and the World Trade Center:
Other times, you’ll be able to memorize an entire phrase with just two or three images.
It really depends on your level of skill. Another language learner you might want to check out is memory athlete and language learner Alex Mullen.
A Word Of Caution For Language Learners
And it really is just a word:
Email services are great because they will give you a wide variety of words. However, in many cases you’ll wind up learning vocabulary that native speakers don’t even know.
Worse, you’ll learn region-specific vocabulary that has nothing to do with the city you’re going to visit. I’ve had this with both Chinese and German. Even in cities like Berlin and Beijing, you’ll find that pronunciation and word selection can change from neighborhood to neighborhood!
And that’s the last thing you want when you’re just trying to use your vacations with Memory Palaces.
However, the fact that you risk spending a lot of time memorizing vocabulary and pronunciations that no one uses is not always not a bad thing.
Let me explain:
When you have your first experience explaining to someone the meaning of a word in their own mother tongue that they don’t recognize, you’re going to have a huge smile on your face and a very good feeling inside your soul.
I’ll tell you about the first time this happened to me with German sometime soon.
For now, if you liked these language learning tips, you’re going to love these 7 mind mapping examples you can apply to language learning in a snap.