In our last post we talked about the many words that are the same or similar in French and English. These can be a great bonus when learning French but, of course, there are many more words that are totally different. So what are the best ways of remembering French words?
The old, traditional method of ‘rote’ learning isn’t very efficient. Fortunately, there are a couple more modern alternatives that can be a great help in remembering French words.
Mnemonics is a way of improving our memory and goes back to ancient Greek times. Modern exponents of this include Tony Buzan, Dominic O’Brien and Paul Daniels. It’s best deployed to help remembering French words by associating an image with the word. For example, the French word for ‘rabbit’ is ‘lapin’ so try to imagine a rabbit drinking from a pan of milk. Unless you’ve got a vivid imagination though it can be difficult to think up images, so you might find the next solution more beneficial.
Spaced Repetition System (SRS)
SRS works by increasing the intervals of time between reviews of learned material. Stuff you’ve absorbed quickly is reviewed less often than stuff you’ve found more difficult to remember. This can be done manually through flashcards (a card bearing the French word, a memorable image and the answer on the reverse side) stored in a box. Those words you can recall instantly go to the back of the box and those you struggle with nearer to the front so that you review them more frequently.
However, software has now taken a lot of the hard work out of this and many free apps are available. You can use these apps any time you have a few minutes to spare; while you’re on the bus or train, waiting for friends or bored with the telly.
Just put terms like ‘french SRS apps’ or ‘french flashcard apps’ into your browser to see what’s available.
Be aware though that remembering French vocabulary is only part of the solution. The key to learning French is to jump in and use the language.