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language learning in the digital age

How to memorise vocabulary: User tips

Posted on June 4, 2014 by

How to memorise vocabulary

We asked you for your favourite ways to memorise vocabulary, and the tips were great. Some are old classics and some are slightly more off-the-wall. Which ones do you use, and what would you add? Tell us in the comments!


1. Exercise while saying the words – Joseph

This has been proven to be effective. A study in 2010 tested subjects who bicycled while learning vocabulary, and found “that simultaneous physical activity during vocabulary learning facilitates memorization of new items”.

2. Singing the words I’ve learned (translated from French) – David (also Charlie)

Singing is a great way to learn vocabulary, and is extremely helpful for language learning generally – check out Benny Lewis’s post on the subject, complete with karaoke. Researchers at the University of Edinburgh found that adults who sang foreign words or phrases were twice as good at speaking them later.


3. Write the words down on small cards and work with the cards wherever possible – Stefan (also Milène)

Using vocabulary cards is a tried and tested technique. Some people like flashcards with a picture on one side and a word on the other, while others prefer to write short descriptions or translations on the back. One advantage is the sheer number of games you can play with them – memory games, mixing and matching, sorting them into categories, combining them to create sentences, and lots more.


4. Using the word in a sentence or mock conversation (yes, I have conversations with myself in foreign languages) – Chris (also Zelu)

Don’t be embarrassed! One of Babbel’s resident polyglots, Matthew Youlden, uses this technique as well.


5. I always watch movies in mother tongue with subtitles in mother tongue; when I find a word that I don’t know, I write it down on a sheet and look for meaning. Then I watch the movie again with all translated words. It works – Claudio

A great one for movie buffs. Time-consuming, but if you love languages and movies, what could be more satisfying than enjoying Almodóvar or Bergman in the original language?


6. Playing video games in the language I’m learning (translated from French) – Julius

Absolutely. Video games constantly reuse and recycle vocabulary. In fact, it’s surprising how little focus there is on the power of video games as a language learning tool: with the birth of online multiplayer games and the ability to change the region settings, it’s about time this was taken seriously. Games often create authentic situations that require real and immediate action – there’s no time to reach for a dictionary when an army of orcs are bearing down on you.


Finally, a hat-tip to Lavinia, Iyes and Nicole, whose favourite way to memorise new vocabulary is… to use Babbel! Thanks to everyone who contributed via Facebook. Please leave your own tips in the comments below.



I am also learning Russian using Babbel, but agree that the speaker is so abrupt that its almost impossible to lean the word in such a short time. Howver Babbel is a good program

I am also one who learns well through childrens television. I watched Dora the Explorer, aimed at Dutch children to learn English. However, since the main stories and explanations are in Dutch, it helped me greatly getting a good start with my Dutch language learning.

Nice ideas.. when will Babbel take the big step and launch in Chinese languages (Mandarin and Cantonese)?

Films with subtitles in the same language would be very useful but… most (all?) films have subtitles in a different language. Even in multilingual films the subtitles only appear in the other (translated) language.

I find that hearing someone say something in English and trying to translate it into your language works VERY well. You get used to the language this way and how it works, also, you start to become more fluent!

Lisa, the lesson on the Set verbs like son and sois. I would like to review that lesson. If possible. Maybe it I could see it in the future.David

the game is a great idea

Great Help
Thanks so very much

As an ex-london black cab driver i am using a system i used to past the knowledge which is all about memorising street/road names and points along routs.My system is to a draw box and put a heading i.e (greeting) and then draw out lines from the box and write one word per line with the translation related to the word in the box under the line like a map. Then shut your eyes and you will have a photogragh in your minds eye like a street map.

I like to download a free online newspaper and read my way through it, looking up any words I don’t know. It’s always really rewarding to realise you know and remember more words than you think!

I prefer singing and write down the vocabulary, for it’s easy.

You know what works too?
Watching a children channel or programs on television. Specifically designed for young kids! You learn to count, colors, animals, etcetera. For instance like Sesamystreet!

I will put some of these tips into practice. I have used singing which is great and movies. Babbel is also great.

Thanks a lot. Continue sending me yours best ideas to learn languages

What I also do is listen to the news on TV in the new language. As I know some of the subjects by watching the news in a lamguage I know, I can fill in the blanks for the new language This of course only work for international news items

I learned Spanish, in addition to listening carefully and asking to be corrected whenever making midtakes, via children’s comic books, with lexicon in hand.
It makes for easy and fun language acquisition.

I have tried a lot of diffrente courses . But until now babel is the best

The first thing I like to do when learning a new language is adding it to my phone keyboard. That allows me to play around with new words and quickly learn how to write them and differentiate between them. Later I like to set my phone on that language so I have to handle it in different situations. It takes some time to get used to, but it works wonders!


For two years I learned one new spanish word every day by looking into the dictionary, choosing one word by random and memorizing it. That was something between 700 and 800 words of all kind. (But, alas, I’ve forgotten some of them!)

About user tips: I like number 3, write the words down on small cards…. and number 4, using the words in conversations with myself…

Nice tips!

Just trying Babbel was more helpful than Rosetta Stone that my husband bought.

My way of learning and memorizing new words is to write them down then immediately forming a FEW sentences using these words and recording these sentences down, in your computer, special pad or flash cards, which ever is handy for frequent review. I personally use a dedicated word file called “Spanish.doc” to record and review my sentences on my computer.

I always see a new word in mind , how it is written and so , with closed eyes , and repeat this several times. I can tell you : it works !!!

The User tips were very good! Thank you!

Hi Lisa,
I stopped learning Indonisian.Since at that time then I couldn’t continue my studies. In the meantime I am studying Spanish. The tips you brought were very good and i intend to use them in my studies.

I have learnt some of the Russian Language….But what is putting me off learning Russian from “your Babbel program” is the very abrupt way the speakers say the words in Russian …so quick and concentrated that I lose hearing contact..

Wow, great article.Thanks Again. Fantastic. Sebron

How do I find My personal ciurriculum?
How do I find my latest chapter when I jump between different devices?

Hi Jan – please send an email to and they will answer all your questions.

What worked for me – during studying Italian – was to set my car navigator on the Italian mode…

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