Here are my top tips for learning and retaining words in another language and some proven ways to boost your memory:
1) Learn with pictures. Instead of learning endless lists of vocabulary, make you own picture dictionary. Seeing the word with an image will definitely help you to remember it for longer. Label household items and rooms in the house (as long as this doesn’t annoy the people you live with!)
2) Think in Spanish every day. When you go shopping or when you go to a restaurant, think of what the foods and drinks are in Spanish. These are also ideal opportunities to practice the numbers and paying. If you come across something you don’t know, look it up later.
3) Take regular trips to Spain if possible. You pick up words and remember them more easily when in the actual situation where you need to use the word. For example, someone recently had to buy a mouse trap (una ratonera) to catch mice in their Spanish home – I am sure this will be a word they will remember for a long time!
4) Word association. Try to link words with other words by creating a mental picture. Even if you associate it with an English word this will make it easier to recall new vocabulary. For example, the Spanish word for cat is “gato” you could create a mental picture of a cat eating a “gateaux” which is pronounced the same as the Spanish word “gato”. Even if the word association only means something to you, this will still do the trick.
By having a mental picture which links to the foreign word helps the mind to connect the picture with the word. The trick is to embed the word into your short term memory and with repetition it will eventually stick. After a while your mind won’t have to resort to the picture method to recall the new word as your mind will have converted it from your short term memory to your long term memory. Word associations seem difficult for some people at first but they do get easier with practice.
5) Listen to songs. If you like music, listen to the lyrics of a Spanish song and if possible read the lyrics. People often learn a lot this way because they can associate with the lyrics.
6) Follow your interests. If you like cooking, get a Spanish recipe book or follow a Spanish recipe from the Internet and make a new dish. By using Spanish to do what you enjoy, this is another proven way to learn and remember more easily new vocabulary. If you like keeping fit, get a workout DVD in Spanish. Read Spanish novels if you like reading or download Spanish audio books “audio libros”. Maybe you like watching films, so why not rent a Spanish film, many are available under the “World Cinema” section on Love Film or Netflix for example or search on YouTube.