Build vocabulary the No 1 way? No way!
Building vocabulary has always been an ordeal for many learners. Long lists of words…trying to somehow memorize them with brute force and repetition…but your mind starts swimming with all the information and you start to tire…. then you test yourself and find that the new information just won’t stick…so you repeat the process. You become more tired and before long, your mind starts to shut down. You feel deflated, demotivated and just plain exhausted.
So much effort and so little reward.
Rote learning from lists is still the No 1 method for learning vocabulary and, believe it or not, it is the absolute worst. Put simply, our brains are not computers into which we can pour random data. And even if we do manage to cram it in through attrition, it sits in the short term memory and will soon be forgotten.
Let’s hear it from the Doctor
Dr. H. Douglas Brown in his classic language acquisition book “Principles of Language Learning and Teaching” states that if you learn through lists you are likely to suffer from “Systematic Forgetting” – a scary thought which roughly means “in one ear and out the other”. Drawing on extensive research he summarises as follows:
“In a meaningful process like second language learning, mindless repetition, imitation and other rote practices in the language classroom have no place. Too many languages are filled with rote and practice that centres on surface forms. Most cognitive psychologists agree that the frequency of stimuli and the number of times spent practicing a form are not highly important in learning an item.” – Principles of Language Learning and Teaching, Pearson Longman, 2006, 5th Edition
Having condemned learning by rote as having “no place” in language learning, the question remains, what does work? Well there are ways which are super effective and we’ll be coming to those soon.
You’re not a Chip!
Don’t treat words like data