To learn a language, you need to memorize a lot of vocabulary, and memorizing lots of vocabulary can be tricky. You’re faced with unfamiliar spellings and unfamiliar sounds, which makes foreign words significantly more difficult to remember than words in your native language. In this article, I’ll show you how to remember words more easily with the help of mnemonics.
Tips, tutorials and resources to aid you on your path towards fluency.
Alphabets (and syllabaries) are the first barrier of entry to any new language. If you want to learn a language like Russian, you’re basically paralyzed until you’re familiar with its letters. But even if you’re learning a language with familiar characters, like Italian, you’re going to feel uncomfortable and wobbly at first; those familiar characters aren’t particularly familiar in words like “zaino” (pronounced dzaino), “gli” (pronounced ʎi) or “cena” (pronounced tʃena).
I’ve always liked learning alphabets; while I don’t know more than 10 words of Hebrew, my seven years of Hebrew school did leave me with a decent ability to read the Hebrew alphabet. Yay. I had a similar experience in Russian back in high school. For me, alphabets seem to stick in my brain when nothing else will.
But if learning a new alphabet doesn’t sound like a fun way to spend your weekend, what can you do? This article is about one simple idea: How to learn the alphabet in any language quickly, and how to remember it for good.
Part two in Reader Q&A, we’ll talk about the order that you should learn things.
Q: I got one of the Pronounce it Perfectly Books. How do I use it with your approach? Should I learn the base vocabulary concurrently? A: I’d follow the book and put the spelling rules into my Anki deck (so words ending in ‘ou’ are pronounced /u/, and words ending in û are pronounced /y/, for example). At the point where you can easily hear the differences between words (between roux and rue, for example), and you know what to expect from a given spelling, then start adding words to your Anki deck in a hurry. At that point, you’ll know how to say 95% of the words you encounter, and if you look a word up in a dictionary and discover that it has an irregular pronunciation, then you can add that pronunciation to your Anki deck.