Better Ways to Learning Vocabulary
Have you ever faced the terrible prospect of having to plow through yet another endless vocabulary list when you are trying to learn a new language?
Learning vocabulary, when done wrong, is usually one of the most boring and repetitive parts of learning a new language. When done right, however, it becomes an integral part of the learning experience that can help you gradually become more and more comfortable in your target language.
Most modern language courses will make a point of interlacing vocabulary lessons with all the other aspects of language learning, and will start teaching new words regularly after the basics of grammar and pronunciation are taught. This was certainly my personal experience when I recently decided to learn French in Switzerland and, although the methods are generally effective (because they work, eventually) I realized that they were not the optimum way for students to become familiar with new words.
One of many dual language books.
Helping our Brains
Our brain is a great machine (so to speak) that has a superb ability to take information and process it in a myriad of different forms. People have been using vocabulary lists and even learning directly from the dictionary for years and still we have a lot of speakers with amazing skills on their second or third languages. The fact remains, however, that there are much better ways to improve our learning ability and make sure that all that brain power is used to the full potential.
In particular, we should start producing new learning methods that put a greater emphasis on the context of the content we are learning as well as the clear and immediate application of what we are learning. Imagine our brain as a processing unit with information getting in from different sources: all our senses, our memories, the images we hold in our brain and our beliefs take part in the process of dealing with information. If we learn our vocabulary on a content that is significant to us (that means, that is meaningful to us so we can relate to it) and make it so we can immediately apply what we are learning (by reading and writing, or listening and speaking, by using the new information) we re-wire and connect that old vocabulary list with a huge number of images, sensory information and activities, making it much easier to remember.
Use the Right Tools for the Job
A great way to get introduced to a foreign language literature is by the use of dual language books, also known as parallel text. These books are designed to have the original text on one page and the translation on the opposite one. This is usually great for beginners to slowly get used to reading in their target language and work as a nice reference that can minimize the use of a dictionary (using a dictionary is great but often horrible for the pace and flow of reading.) It is very important to make the experience of learning pleasurable. Scientific information shows that we remember what is interesting and block out what is boring, as simple as that. A caveat, however, is that you should make sure to get a good language translation when you purchase these books. Not every translation is top notch and, if there is something I surely learned on my stay at that summer school Switzerland, is that you want to make sure you don't build your language skill on erroneous information.
It is clear that if you want to learn French a French course France based will give you a premium experience. That being said, don't fall into the trap of thinking that you need the perfect setup, books or instructors to start your language learning experience. You will get excellent results based on your work, patience and perseverance so make sure to take the plunge.