how to memorize new words and their meanings

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petew83
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how to memorize new words and their meanings

Postby petew83 » Thu Sep 07, 2006 11:33 am

anybody have tricks or a good method to memorize new words and their definitions? I seem to suck at this

thank you

etaxier
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Postby etaxier » Thu Sep 07, 2006 1:15 pm

Three "tricks," ordered from what works the least (for me) to what works best (again, for me)...

Associate the words with something familiar, like familiar sounds, known words, prefixes, etc., and group the words together if you're keeping a list. E.G., Disambiguate: undo ambiguity, like disassemble is "undo an assemblage"; Nefarious: similar sound to neh-fierce; Disambiguate and nefarious can be grouped together

Actually study the words not once, but five times: the first time, and again after an hour, after a day, after a week, after a month.

Use the words. This is the best method; applies to learning foreign languages as well.

Andi
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Postby Andi » Fri Sep 08, 2006 8:26 am

What kind of words do you mean?

aruffo
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Postby aruffo » Fri Sep 08, 2006 9:39 am

I'm curious to know what it means to suck at learning new words and definitions..? How do you try to learn them, and what happens when you fail?

If it's something like those word-a-day calendars that you're into I wouldn't be at all surprised.. I even recall seeing (and shaking my head at) a kind of reading method where you were supposed to remember words by association with phonemic groupings... but how do you attempt it?

petew83
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Postby petew83 » Fri Sep 08, 2006 4:54 pm

I was basically just writing them down as i read and then looked up definition later. then i would come across the same word a couple days later and would have forgotten the definition already! when I wrote out the definitions by hand it didn't seem to help too much either.

I've thought about getting a portable electronic dictionary (I hear Franklin has the best one) that also includes games and stuff, hopefully pronunciations as well, but it's a bit expensive.

Also there is a great website I found recently for SAT words...
http://www.sheppardsoftware.com/web_games_vocab_sat.htm
It's multiple choice and the repetition seems to help nail down the words (I play until 100% accuracy is achieved on each level)

something I've noticed recently is that tying a word to an emotion, feeling, or visual (or other sensory) setting helps me remember it.

aruffo
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Postby aruffo » Fri Sep 08, 2006 5:11 pm

that's peculiar... I never thought about this before. I'm off to the theater right now (opening night tonight) but I wonder if there's something to be found in comparing the differences in how we approach new words. I suspect we'll find them to be quite different.

aruffo
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Postby aruffo » Sat Sep 09, 2006 1:19 pm

Can you describe a specific example of a word that you forget? I have to admit that I don't identify with that experience. I don't remember the last time I had to look up a word (I've never owned a dictionary or a thesaurus) because typically I get everything I need to know from its context. I wrote this in "Phase 12" for a different reason, but touching the same purpose:

Where I don't recognize a word's meaning, I can make strong inferences. For example, given the sentence "I love to eat candied splorg in the morning," I know the speaker loves a thing; it is edible; it can be candied (perhaps it is a fruit); he eats it regularly; it is a breakfast food. There are so many contextual clues that I hardly need to notice splorg; the sound of the word is essentially irrelevant, whether I am hearing it or reading it. Linguistic communication is an active, continuous deductive process.


Also, there were quite a few words in the Poe stories that I'd never encountered before, but the only one I remember being uncertain of was "tarn" (the word was used a few times before being described as a reflecting pool).

So I guess the first thing I'm wondering about is how someone would encounter a word without inferring what it meant (from its semantic function); then I'd wonder why encountering it again would incur the same perplexity, because I'd expect a second encounter-- especially in a different situation-- to provide even further context to more strongly reinforce its meaning.

petew83
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Postby petew83 » Sun Sep 10, 2006 10:34 am

hmmm...can't remember a specific example off the top of my head (or think of how to find one) at the moment.

The context really doesn't satisfy my need for concrete understanding of the word and pronunciation, and I won't remember much if anything from the first encounter. Therefore the second encounter won't help because I will have forgotten the first context and the combination will be of no use. Maybe I am just not that good at contextual deduction, or could also be due to a questioning/perfectionist nature. Basically I'm not satisfied with my grasp of a word and it remains mostly foreign to me unless I hear it prounounced out loud and get its definition(s).

Thus, I would rarely get insight into a word simply by reading it 1 or 2+ times in context.

aruffo
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Postby aruffo » Sun Sep 10, 2006 11:04 am

Hm! What do you mean by "concrete understanding" of a word?

I just took another look at the Poe stories and was rather surprised to see that I actually didn't encounter very many new words (if any) in most of the stories... but then I remembered this one:

The vortex of thoughtless folly into which I there so immediately and so recklessly plunged, washed away all but the froth of my past hours, engulfed at once every solid or serious impression, and left to memory only the veriest levities of a former existence. I do not wish, however, to trace the course of my miserable profligacy here -- a profligacy which set at defiance the laws, while it eluded the vigilance of the institution.


Although I'd never seen the word "profligacy" before, and would be even now rather hard-pressed to provide you with a literal definition of the word, this context seems to make its meaning transparent..?

KosciaK
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Postby KosciaK » Sun Sep 10, 2006 12:00 pm

Chriss - while learning new words in mother language it is enough to just hear/read it several times in different contexts. But it's not that easy in language you are learning. Especially if you are not very advanced (you don't know enough words)

aruffo
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Postby aruffo » Sun Sep 10, 2006 12:22 pm

Oh! Was the question about foreign languages? I can imagine that would make quite a difference.

KosciaK
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Postby KosciaK » Sun Sep 10, 2006 12:41 pm

Can't imagine anyone learning words and definitions from native language so my assumption is that it's about learning words from foreign one.

There's not much I can help. The best way for me is to make up definitions using my own words (in the language I'm learning!) and trying to make up sentences using these new words. Sometimes it's even better if these sentences are a bit silly and fun. But if the words are not ones you would use every day it's much harder to remember them.

etaxier
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Postby etaxier » Sun Sep 10, 2006 3:00 pm

I do think the original question was about native language. English is rife with synonyms and a thousand ways of saying one thing slightly differently, and its origins in several other languages confuses matters more (latin, greek, germanic, welsh...)

In the Poe story, you might associate "profligacy" with "thoughtless folly...recklessly plunged," but you'd take away no reason to ever use the word profligacy on its own, or differentiate it from its context. I would argue that you can't find much use for a word -- you don't necessarily remember it and its meaning -- by inferring its meaning from context. The word must ultimately have something specific that contributes as much to its context as it takes away. A better example of a word like that is "candied splorg," which denotes a definite object, a thing unto itself.
I'd wonder why encountering [the new word] again would incur the same perplexity, because I'd expect a second encounter-- especially in a different situation-- to provide even further context to more strongly reinforce its meaning.
The problem is that there's often nothing in the first encounter to make memorization (or even recognition) of the word useful. This is especially true of strange adjectives surrounded by synonymous phrases.

In the specific case of "profligacy" (which I've never encountered before today), I plan to remember it as a noun, and I'll associate it with 18th century aristocracy. A shameless, wasteful profligate, Queen Antoinette has met her fate.

aruffo
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Postby aruffo » Sun Sep 10, 2006 6:41 pm

Hm! I think that may reveal a difference in expectation. I wouldn't expect to make any effort to remember "profligacy" for later use, because one of two things would be bound to happen. Either I would encounter the word again in context and, whether or not I recall it from my previous experience, I would again infer its meaning; or I would be creating a stream of text and want to communicate a concept for which no word but "profligacy" could be appropriate. Thus "profligacy" would come unbidden to my lips (or fingers) as the best vehicle for communicating the concept. All the same, it's possible to remember a concept but forget a word ("it's on the tip of my tongue!")-- perhaps that's the trouble being described in the original post.

petew83
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Postby petew83 » Sun Sep 10, 2006 8:46 pm

yes, often i have a concept in my mind but just can't think of a word to describe it, so end up using a few words or a phrase to describe the concept.

An example happened today at a festival. My brother began to make a dragon out of clay, starting with large set of dragon feet. I wanted to communicate to him the general concept of "starting a task that cannot be reasonably completed" in 1 word but couldn't think of 1. 'Over-ambitious' would probably have worked.

this is a native tongue topic btw, I have enough trouble mastering just the English language :)

It seems there is a relation to the active/passive ap thing. Knowing a word's meaning when u see it and actively using it in conversation seem to be 2 separate skills, with the latter existing at a more advanced conceptual level.


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