When learning a foreign language, memorizing vocabulary is one of the most important steps. A college-level mastery of Italian grammar or a near perfect accent means nothing without a solid foundation of Italian vocabulary.
In fact, many claim that a vocabulary of at least 3,000 words is necessary to obtain fluency in a foreign language.
If you’re having a hard time getting your Italian vocabulary list to stick – don’t give up, as there are many tactics to help you memorize words more easily. But first let’s discover just how our memory works.
Now, let’s dive into five tactics will help you memorize Italian vocabulary and hopefully ace your next quiz!
Tactic 1: Label the world around you
When you start learning Italian, the first vocabulary words you learn are focused on describing yourself and your surroundings. Make signs to label the various appliances and pieces of furniture in your home. As you go about your day, these signs will remind you that you keep milk in “il firgorifero” and go to sleep in “il letto“.
You can apply this tactic to pictures as well. For example, you can print a picture of a person and label the various parts of their body in Italian, such as gamba (leg), testa (head), dito (finger) and orecchio (ear). This tactic works well because you learn to associate words with mental images.
Tactic 2: Learn words in context
Instead of simply learning that correre means “to run,” you might find you remember the word better by learning it as part of a sentence. Create a simple sentence such as “I like to run.” or “Mi piace correre.”
By learning the word in context, you will remember the word and its meaning easier. As an added benefit, it allows you to practice and learn other Italian vocabulary words at the same time.
Tactic 3: Practice with flashcards
Flashcards have long been a popular memorization technique because they’re a highly effective way to learn new words. While you can use traditional paper flashcards, there are many flashcard apps you might like. Below are our three favorite flashcard applications.
- Chegg Flashcards: This free app made for the iPhone allows users to create their own flashcards or access pre-made sets. The app also tracks results so users can see how they are progressing. Download the app here.
- StudyBlue: This app allows users to create flashcards with text, pictures, or audio files. It also enables users to pause and save study sessions in case they need to cut it short and go back later. Download the app here.
- Flashcards Deluxe: If you want a simpler user interface and design then go with Flashcards Deluxe. The app features a database of over 4 million flashcards and you have the option to create five-sided cards. Download the app here.
Tactic 4: Create mnemonic devices
Mnemonic devices are another great way to memorize Italian vocabulary lists. Basically, you’re creating a familiar phrase or a short song to help you memorize something that would otherwise be difficult to remember. In other words, it’s all about association.
For example, the Italian word for “to believe” is “credere“. The beginning of this word looks and sounds similar to the English word “creed”. Because a creed is set of beliefs, making this connection can boost your ability to remember “credere“.
Tactic 5: Write a story in Italian
When learning a list of Italian vocabulary words, create a story that links the words. It doesn’t matter how silly your story is, as long as it creates a vivid image in your mind. If you don’t know a word in Italian, simply use the English word in its place for now.
As your vocabulary grows, you can start translating the remaining words into Italian and making your story more complex. For example, if you were studying animal names in Italian, your story might start with: “Il cane (the dog) chased un gatto (a cat) that was running after un topo (a mouse).”
No matter which tactics you choose to employ, practicing your vocabulary daily is important for long term retention. In most cases, it is better to dedicate 15 minutes to practicing Italian every day than to spend several hours once a week without reviewing what you’ve studied in between sessions.