Language On Your Own: Self-Study Tips – Part 3

It’s Memory. Remember?

Memory Makes It Happen 

Focused effort to learn anything activates the brain’s two great tools:  short-term memory and long-term memory.

The more you use and exercise your short-term memory, the more quickly you can learn. Learning vocabulary every day is an ideal way to train your short-term memory. The brain will automatically apply this training to other areas, such as your other school subjects or details of your job.

When you review your lessons consistently, short-term memories become long-term memories.

gears_120 What Turns Memory On

First, you have to be Motivated. Passion! Your desire to learn has to be strong. Motivation – passion — will remind you how much fun it is to tackle another language lesson; how good it is to feel the word in your mouth and hear it in your own voice.

You have to Pay Attention and Focus. If your mind wanders, simply come back and start over.  Everyone starts over. And over. And over. Which becomes …

Repetition. Repetition is your short-term memory’s dear friend. Review words by writing them over and over, or say them over and over for a minimum of 5 seconds. Newly-learned items are transferred to long-term memory through consistent repetition in voice and writing.

Develop a sense of a word’s Context.  Knowing when and how words are used gives short-term memory more “hooks” for calling up a word when you want to use it – because a word’s meaning is connected to emotion and physical sensation as well as its sound and spelling.  Pictures and play-acting movements are handy for this exercise.

Action ...

Action …


... makes ...

… makes …


... meaning!

… meaning!

If you cringe at the idea of forever repeating ever-increasing numbers of words … don’t worry!  Building vocabulary is an important foundation for language learning, but it does not do the whole job.

Part 4 will introduce you to a memory system that has proved to be successful without that kind of boredom.

About the Author