Memorizing Vocabulary

Getting it in and Keeping it in

Many language learners have problems getting new vocabulary into their long-term memory. Some words are memorized easily while others stubbornly refuse to go in. So here is a simple method which many students have found helpful.

Buy a large box of chocolates. First eat the chocolates. (That’s the fun part.) Then partition the box into six sections:







Purchase a few boxes of blank name cards from a local store that prints name cards. You can buy them in boxes of 100 cards in different colors.

Write each vocabulary item of your new lesson (let’s call this Lesson 1) on a separate card – the Chinese character and/or pinyin on one side, and a picture/drawing of the word or the English translation on the other side. When you have written a card for each of the new vocabulary in Lesson 1 and have thoroughly memorized them, place them in section (1) of the box. While you are still studying that lesson in class, get the cards out each day and test yourself.

When you commence the next lesson (Lesson 2), test yourself once more on Lesson 1’s vocabulary cards. Those words you remember, place them in section (2) of the box. Those you fail to recall, leave them in section (1) together with the new vocabulary cards from Lesson 2. While you are studying Lesson 2, get out all the cards from section (1) and work on them daily. Also, as time permits, test yourself with the cards in section (2).

When you commence Lesson 3, test yourself with all the cards from sections (1) and (2). Those in section (2) you remember are now moved up to section (3). Those in section (1) you remember are moved up to section (2). Any vocabulary items in sections (1) or (2) that you fail to recall are all placed in section (1) together with the new vocabulary cards from Lesson 3. And so on. The principle is that, if at any time you fail to recall a vocabulary item, it is returned to section (1). Be strict with yourself – if you can’t remember the tone, you’ve forgotten the word! It will therefore be necessary to make section (1) larger than the other sections! Those in section (6) that pass the test can be stored away and reviewed as time permits.

Memorizing Vocabulary:  pdf file