By Gabrielle Guichard
Scientific studies about memory can help you to enrich your
vocabulary quickly and, if not easily, far easier than you
think. According to the criteria for accessibility, a website
menu should not count more than 9 items: it is the larger
number of items that blind people can memorize at once. And,
most of the time, the blind are more able to focus than
In a previous article, you read that to establih your own
was the best way to learn vocabulary as fast as possible.
study what an effective list looks like. Among prejudices
languages, there is the following: you need to establish huge
lists in order to acquire as many words as possible. WRONG!
The most effective list contains 5 to 6 words at a time. Yes!
Your larger list contains 6 words. Are you still afraid of the
task? I'm sure you can deal with 6 words at a time. If you
could draw your memory, you would draw a two room flat. The
first room, your instant memory, is large enough for 6 items.
Your deep memory, the second room, has no limit, but it can
receive no more than 6 items at a time and wants you to
What happens when you fight against Nature?
If you go on solliciting your instant memory and try to add a
new item when there is no room left, it will make room for
new item (your memory is obedient, from a certain point of
by pushing out something else. The newcomer is not added, it
replaces the older in the queue. If you are lucky, the
6 items in your deep memory had been stored when you tried to
add one and the pushed-out word enters your deep memory. More
often, as you have experienced, it disappears. That's the
reason why the memory seems a bit temperamental as long as you
don't know how it works.
If you are determined to learn a foreign language, you can't
rely on luck to enrich your vocabulary. Don't fight against
Nature, use it. Take advantage of this human feature instead
struggling with it. You have got six-item boxes, but the
of boxes is unlimited, and anyway, long lists are boring.
Fill a box, send it, confirm your order! again and again. It
the fastest and best way to enrich your vocabulary. Do you
recognize the "first five minute factor"? When you begin a
novel, when you start watching a movie, you meet the
characters. Honestly, how often do you have to rewind the tape
to encounter them a second time? Never. Neither need you to
re-read the first chapter of a book. (Though I admit I have
some trouble with Dostoievski's characters.)
Make the first five minute factor the slave of your memory.
1- Check 6 words in a dictionary.
2- Learn them. Each time it is possible, learn words in
association (see part II): table/chair, son/daughter,
inside/outside, high/low etc. Make associations that are
meaningful for you. I think easy to learn "son" and "daughter"
but you may feel easier to learn "son" and "boy". Any
association that works for you is a good one.
3- Take a break in order to empty your immediate memory. (For
me, singing a verse is enough.) Let the new words "sleep" for
an hour while you fill other boxes. At the end of the session,
4- The day after, revise the whole list again, carefully, box
by box, before filling a new one.
It seems slow to learn that way? It is not. Remember the waste
of time it has been to learn and re-learn the same words in
your school years, and still not to know them. Put this method
on trial while waiting for the next issue: why and how to
become a kind of ventriloquist.
About The Author: Gabrielle Guichard, a French teacher who can
be reached on www.gabrielleguichard.com and listened to