How to remember words – the seven steps
One thing is to collect new words, the other is: how to remember them.
To find new words is easy – they are there.
However, remembering them – that’s hard! How can we manage? This blog tells you the seven steps to take.
Author: Margreet Kwakernaak, Dutch for Dummies e-book
Our starting point
To start with: we assume that you know how to find new Dutch words. Our blog Word learning: make it part of your daily life may be helpful. However, the blog that you are reading now, focuses on how to remember them.
Secondly, we assume that you are very motivated to learn the new language. Let’s say that you live in a country where the language is spoken. Living in that country, gives you a lot of opportunities to come into contact with the language naturally.
Personal circumstances and word learning
Time, time and once again time. You maybe too busy for anything. Fortunately, part of language learning is informal: Dutch texts are everywhere in the street, you can watch Netflix with subtitling, and the internet provides Dutch 24/7.
However, when you have decided to learn Dutch, be happy when you are an adult. In the first place, you know how to study. Moreover, strong motivation will help you to persevere and take the 7 steps for each word you want to remember.
Finally, which are the 7 steps that are required?
The first two steps for language learners
Step 1. You’ll find a new word, and you want to know what the new word means. The Delft method, if you use that, makes it easy: you just click the word and get the translation in your language. Otherwise, you look it up, using your phone. And, when using Google translate, do you add a star to the important words so that you can find them back easily? Finally, a conscience question. Do you ever reread your starred words?
Bravo if you do so! However, it is much better, to write the interesting words, the ones you want to remember first, somewhere. That might be step 2. You could write them in a word-learning app, such as WRTS or Quizlet. Let’s dive deeper into step 2, but first I have a question. When you studied at university, did you make notes of lectures, or did you receive a hand out later? And which lectures do you remember best: the ones that had interesting subjects, the ones you made notes of or the ones with handouts? Probably both options one and two. Copying and pasting is easy, but to type each letter yourself and exercise with the word later, is best.
The order of the 7 steps. The steps 3, 4 and 5
In which order you take the steps, can vary. Most important is that they are all in the process.
The third step is thinking over the word, but that could be step 2 as well. Often, you take both steps at once. Writing down – or, copying and pasting it- gives you time to consider the word. Does the word look like another word, is it related to some word in another language you know? Or is it a different form of some other Dutch word?
Step 4, may be step 1 as well, is hearing the word. To remember, some people need to see the written or printed word, others want to hear it. However, to store them in your memory, both actions are required.
A natural step after hearing it is to say the word aloud. You try the pronunciation, it’s like tasting the word. When trying out, tongue and brains are at work – and that helps.
How to remember words, step 6
Beware! Part of step 6 is illegal – some teachers say. Others tell us that it is quite natural: deciding whether you want to remember the word or not. However, a good language learning method made the selection for you: that method uses frequently used words only. And frequently used words are important words.
But, isn’t it a quite natural process that you remember names of people who were important in your life and that you forget those who did not play a role in your emotions? Yes, it is, and thus, permit yourself to not do your best for words that are not useful for you now. Did you take the wrong decision on that? No problem, life will teach you and you will relearn the word later. Work on the words that you need, and repeat.
Step 7, turning theory into practice
The last step it the most difficult one. But not when you are studying with the Delft method with conversation classes, because step 7 is included in it. You turn theory – the text that you prepared for your conversation class – into practice in the conversation class. Actually the Delft method has most of the mentioned steps. Besides, the Delft method is so intensive that during the course, you have no time for anything else than the conversation classes require. The 7 steps are available for later.
But, for others, how to find opportunities for practicing? How to make contact with Dutchmen is beyond the scope of this blog. One option is available for all of us: talking to an imaginary person. You can invent conversations with Dutchmen you meet at a party, with a Dutch friend, with a Dutch colleague. Apple’s Siri understands Dutch, Google’s assistent does, but not for domotica. Unfortunately, Microsoft’s Cortana does not speak Dutch with Windows 10. Can you ask for internet information in Dutch on your phone? It is fun!
Where the 7 steps come from
Language learning specialists would not be specialists, when they would not quarrel. However, their common advice is 4+1+1+1. The first 4 actions include hearing, reading and semantisation, so getting to know the meaning of a word, writing it or storing it, preferably embedded in a sentence. Next comes consolidation: you repeat it in a spoken or written exercise, or you hear it and you read it once again – preferably in different sentences and situations.
The last step is control, maybe at school, maybe in real life. You want to use the word, is it available, does it come up?
Best is with some time in between – the whole process may take several weeks, up to three months.
Do you think: I will never manage?
Then it is good to realize that language learning is a long process, but you can make the word learning process a part of your daily life. No need remember 100 new words per week all your Dutch life! The hardest part is in the beginning.
Moreover, it is a natural phenomenon that you understand much more words than you can use yourself. The times of learning long rows of separate words by heart are over! Remember words in sentences that mean something to you – the rest will follow.
To remember a word, take 7 actions. They are:
Read, hear, look up, overthink, pronounce and write the word. Take some time and repeat it, read, write or hear it, best in a different context (situation). Control: use it in real life.
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