Monday, October 18, 2010

Rote Memorization for vocab learning

I went to a couple sessions with Paul Nation, who is generally considered to be the expert on vocabulary acquisition.  I'll probably do another post with some details from him, but the one thing that resonated with me deeply was his emphasis on rote memorization of vocab as an essential part of learning another language.  It's quick, easy and effective.

From my own experience in studying Korean and Greek, I understood intuitively what he was saying.  I've picked up some Korean words simply by being exposed to it to such an extent that it'd be impossible to not remember it.  Hello, here, thank you, it's okay.  I knew the Korean word by sound even before I knew the meaning of it.  But, most of my vocab acquisition in Korea came through flashcards.  And what I know of Greek was exclusively through flashcards.  And it's actually the stuff that I still remember.  The videos I watch or the books I study seem like grains of sand slipping through my fingers.  It's there, somewhere, but not in a place that I can easily access it when I need or want to.  Vocab that I've studied with flashcards is there, right in front of me, and comes to me almost instantly with little recall effort. 

And so I tell my students, especially the ones that actually want to learn English but are quite weak on vocab this but they don't seem that excited by the idea.  For some reason they love to write out the word over and over and make lists with them.  I'm not sure this is so helpful because it's usually not random, which is a much greater challenge for the brain to accomplish.

Anyway, time for me to study!  Where are those flashcards I made?!

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