Many students struggle with memorizing vocabulary in a foreign language. Tutor Joan B. shares her tips for learning new words in French fast…
Is memorizing vocabulary in French holding you back from speaking fluently and confidently? Recalling vocabulary can be one of the hardest parts of learning a language since the words often seem strange to us and the richness of a language means that there are many words to memorize. Use the following tips to “decode” vocabulary memorization so you can memorize French vocabulary fast.
1. Get to the Roots
Memorize words that share the same root at the same time. For example, when you are learning the word “écrire” (to write), you can also learn “écrivain” (writer) and “l’écrire” (the act of writing). This means you will increase your vocabulary exponentially, and words and their meanings will stick more clearly in your memory since you’re learning the whole family of words at the same time.
2. Know Your Cognates
Make a list of French/English cognates (words that sound the same and share the same meaning in both languages). Once you’ve identified some cognates you’d like to learn, write them on a piece of paper in two columns (one for French and one for English) and quiz yourself by folding the piece of paper vertically in half. Test your ability to produce both the English meaning and the French word. Make flash cards for the ones you don’t know, and after quizzing yourself with the flashcards, do a final test with the paper again, making sure you are able to give the French equivalent of the English word.
3. Practice With Your Textbook
Most language-learning books have illustrations to introduce vocabulary. Looking at the illustrations, try to describe them using the vocabulary you already know or have studied, and then read the captions underneath the pictures to see how well you did. Notice how the vocabulary words are used in context.
4. Three is a Magic Number
If you’re really struggling to retain vocabulary words, write each French word three times in French and once in English. Then write the French word again without looking back at what you have just written. Check to see if you have written it correctly.
5. Listen and Repeat
Often you can find digital recordings of vocabulary words, pronounced in French and in English (either as part of your textbook or independent of it). Try listening to these once, then repeat each word in French while listening to it a second time. There are many great French videos on YouTube that can help you memorize vocabulary and practice listening and speaking.
6. Use it in a Sentence
For each vocabulary word, write a sentence using it. Try to choose a memorable sentence. Context is often a key element in remembering new vocabulary.
7. Make Associations
Make associations with words you are familiar with in English. An example of this is the French verb “rencontrer.” While it means to meet or find, another meaning is “to encounter.” Create the association between these two similar words so you will be able to recall the meaning and the word itself in French.
8. Word of the Day
Choose a ‘word of the day’ each day. If you have a week to study for a test, or if you set a goal to memorize a list of vocabulary by the end of the week, you can reinforce your vocabulary study by singling out each word. Each day, take the word you have chosen and write it on a few post-its with or without its English equivalent. Place the post-its in places you will see them throughout the day, like the bathroom mirror, the monitor on your computer, or in your planner. You will see the word many times as you go about your day, and by the end of the day it should be permanently ingrained in your memory!
9. Write it Down
If your goal is to increase your vocabulary rapidly by quickly memorizing additional words in French, keep a notebook of words you’re not familiar with that you encounter in class, in books you read, and in conversations or talk on the radio that you hear. Having a written record of words you are learning allows you to review and track your progress.
10. Do it Daily
Make it a regular part of your day. The key to learning vocabulary rapidly is studying it regularly. It doesn’t have to be a long time; just a few minutes, each day, can make a huge difference in your retention of the words you learn. Studying vocabulary sporadically isn’t as valuable because you may forget the words if you don’t review them frequently and consistently.
Learning vocabulary can be difficult, but it is well worth your time. A richer vocabulary allows you to communicate more fluidly, understand others and express yourself fully. With these ways to memorize French vocabulary fast, you should be recalling and using new vocabulary in no time!
Get more help with your French by working with a private tutor. Tutors are available to help you improve your vocabulary, accent, reading, and speaking skills. TakeLessons French tutors can work with you in-person or online via Skype. Find your French tutor today!
Joan B. lives in Carmichael, CA and has been teaching high school Spanish for more than 18 years. A lover of language, she’s studied French, Arabic, and Italian and spent time living in Spain. Joan aims to help students improve on tests and increase their conversational ability when traveling to Spanish-speaking countries. Learn more about Joan here!
Photo by Martin Sharman