When I was an undergraduate student, I had to take 5 classes in a foreign language to complete my degree.
I took classes in Spanish, classical Latin, and ancient Greek to fulfill my requirement – and needless to say – I’m glad that’s over with.
I’ve literally spent hundreds of hours memorizing verb conjugations. And I’ve probably killed many trees with all the note cards I’ve used up.
The more I memorized, the easier it became – not because I was getting smarter – but simply because my brain was used to memorizing a lot of information every single day.
Pretty soon I was able to memorize stacks of vocabulary cards very quickly. It just took practice, and anyone can do it.
Here are some of the strategies I used to help me memorize my vocabulary terms and conjugation rules quickly:
Make Creative Associations
When I was memorizing a new word or grammar rule, I tried to develop a fun way to make it stick. The more outlandish the association, the better it would stick. For example, let’s say that I had to remember that word “domus” is Latin for home. I would simply imagine a huge dome hanging over moose. (The classical Latin pronunciation sounds like “Dome-oose.”) That association would help me remember the word easily. I know this sound simplistic, but it really works. I would sometimes draw out fun associations on the back of my vocabulary note cards to really make these bizarre associations remembered.
Break-up Your Study Time
Our brains tend to remember less the longer we study. That’s why it’s often easier for us to remember the beginning and end of a lecture than all the details in between. So I found that by studying in short one hour stints helped me remember more. Everyone is different, so find out what amount of study time is perfect for you. You might find that you can memorize more in three one-hour sessions than one four-hour session.
Use Your Mind and Body
Sitting at a desk staring at some grammar rules might work for some people, but I always learned quicker by actively doing something with the information. I would draw association pictures or read my book aloud to help make things more permanent in my mind. I also found that studying note cards while walking around campus was a way to keep myself energized and focused.
Repeat What You Need to Know
One way to help something stick in your mind is to recite it to yourself. Read it aloud to yourself – and then read it again. The key here is to saturate your mind with the content in every way possible. One fun way to do this is to imagine your vocabulary cards or textbook being read by someone you think is funny. Imagine your textbook being read by Jon Stewart. It will at least keep things a bit more interesting.
Reduce the Noise
Some people study well listening to music. It really depends on the subject matter. However, if you find yourself drifting off, or focusing on the words of the song, it’s probably best to dismiss the music for a while. If you enjoy music, listen to some classical music or some other music that helps you focus. You basically want to situate yourself in a place with the least amount of noise interference.
Stay Positive (if possible)
You’ll remember far more information about a subject if you try to find it interesting. If you think the topic is boring and useless, than you’re going to make memorization that much harder. Look for some sort of connection on how the subject you need to learn about fits in with your life.
Study When You’re Most Productive
Everyone has their best study time, and often it’s during the daytime. There’s just something about memorizing and studying when it’s daytime that can keep you more motivated and more focused. I find that I’m most productive during the early morning. I often go to a coffee shop around 6:30 a.m. and just drink coffee while I write and study. Find your best time to study and keep on that schedule. It will do wonders for your memory power.
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