LTL REFLECTION: making word cards work 3

You can read about making the word cards work 1 HERE, You can read about making the word cards work 2 HERE

LTL REFLECTION: making word cards work 3

Memorising Meaning

Remembering the sounds of new vocabulary words is one thing, but I also need to know what the word means – and I need to know it immediately.

Like right now!

So, this is how I’m doing it:

How to memorise meaning

I’ve said before, and it’s not my original idea, that memorising words on a list is more about learning an item in sequence than it about acquiring vocabulary you can use. Acquiring or ‘getting’ new words is for the purpose of naming things or ideas in order to talk with other people. Learning lists is not the best way to go about that if your new word, ‘beetroot’ (let’s say) is fixed into your mind as a part of a sequence that stars with ‘onion’ (let’s say) and ends with ‘knife’.

You have to start somewhere, of course, so I did start with a printed list. I cut the list items up into small cards pretty quickly. I put the cards into a plastic box and then pull them out one by one, saying the word a few times and thinking about the meaning. Then I place the words down on my desk English side up. Next, I look at the meaning (English word) and try and say the Arabic word. This is a good place to start as you familiarise yourself with the new vocabulary.

But I need to fix meaning much more securely in my mind, as I do not have a lot of opportunity at this stage to use my words meaningfully in any kind of conversation.

I am using two strategies to use my word cards meaningfully: Word Association and Word Links.

Word Association

I have had a few run throughs and I can more or less produce every Arabic word from the English meaning side of the word card – but that’s ‘just’ translation. I need to know the words in an Arabic context, so I am thinking about other words with similar meanings. The English meaning ‘banana’ is an easy one for me ‘maoz’, so when I pull the ‘banana’ card, I don’t just say ‘maoz’; I also list all the other words I know for things you can eat or drink (khobz, jelati, kahwa). Food is an easy category to come up with, but I’m also trying to group other words into similar contextualised groups that work for me.


I’ve also attached a few common words to people i know as word association clues for meaning; Patj often says ‘clearly’ in everyday conversations and Lucy talks ‘non-stop’. These are great memory connections for me and add more layers of meaning and association than I could get just from memorising word/meaning pairs.

Word Links

You need words to make sentences. Right now, as a beginner learner, I’m not freaking myself out with complicated grammar rules; I’m just building my word bank. Obviously, I’m going to need to make sentences sooner rather than later, but in the meantime I’m adding meaning and context to my words through what I’m calling word links, rather than proper sentences. I like cheese, and I like bread; even though I’m not sure of the grammar, I still want to express this idea. So when I pull any card that pertains to liking delicious bread and cheese, I just link all the words that I know in this field: ‘letheeth’! ‘oheb’, ‘khobz’, ‘wa’, ‘jobna’ (‘delicious’! ‘I like’, ‘bread’, ’and’, ‘cheese’).

Wobbly in grammar, but strong in meaning.

I am hoping that knowing lots of words, and knowing them well, will help me later when I’m struggling with grammar. I feel that learning new words and new grammar is all a bit too much at first. So if my vocabulary is strong, the learning burden will be much less when I come to face the dreaded grammar section. (There is more about the LEARNING BURDEN HERE).

blogwordlink.png nicknames.jpg

My next reflection on word cards will look at my progress with word cards.

Got any tips to share?

Click on the comment feature at the top of the page.

What do you recommend for learning new vocabulary in the early stages of learning a language?


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