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Remember Vocabulary Without Flashcards

Kevin Naglich
Founder, Deliberate English

If you're sick of reviewing flashcards and feel like you never remember the words, then I have an excellent tip for you.

There's a way to turn your flashcards into a fun, memorable activity that actually helps you remember new words in a conversation.

Let's say that you are watching an episode of the TV show Friends and you hear a section with some new expressions you didn't recognize:

I mean, this has been like my dream since I got my first Easy-Bake Oven and opened Easy Monica's Bakery. I mean, I would kill for this job. I mean, I can totally do this job, and God knows I paid my dues. But Pete's just doing this because he has a crush on me.

If you were just passively listening to the episode, your brain would ignore all these new expressions.  

If you were actively listening, you might have made flashcards that look like this: 

You'd write the new expression in English on one side. You'd write a translation to your native language, or the definition, on the other side.

  • I mean… is a filler word used to clarify something.
  • I would kill for is an expression that means you really want something.
  • God knows, is a way to say that something is completely true. 
  • I have paid my dues is an expression that means you did a lot of hard work that people expected you to do. 
  • And have a crush is a way to say that you like someone romantically. Usually, someone that you aren't dating or married to yet. 

This is better than nothing, but this is how you end up with massive lists that you stop reviewing and never internalize.  

Seeing a word or expression without its context makes it hard to remember exactly how to use it or why you cared about it in the first place.

Without that emotional connection, your brain won't want to remember it. 

You can learn English vocabulary without a ton of flashcards

Here's a better way to review new vocabulary that keeps all the original context and your emotional connection to tact. 

To start, just open a google doc (or really any word processing application). 

Next, write down the context that you want to use. You can either write this out yourself as part of a dictation or copy and paste it from the transcript or subtitles of what you are watching. 

Now, find the first new expression that you want to memorize. Highlight it, and change the font color to one that stands out, but is easy to read. 

Next, do the same thing with the text highlighter and pick the exact same color. 

Your new word is now invisible, but if you simply highlight it again, you'll see the answer.

To the left of the highlighted word, you'll want to make sure you place the translation to your native language or the definition. 

You can repeat this for each of the words you want to study. All you need to do is highlight the first word you covered, and double click the paint icon. This will copy the formatting.  

Next, simply highlight all the other words you want to study, and they will automatically be hidden like this. 

If you prefer keyboard shortcuts, you can go up to the help menu at the top, type "formatting" and see the shortcut for you. For me, it's ctrl - alt - c to copy the formatting, and ctrl - alt - v to paste it. 

Now, anytime you want to review these words, you can come back to this document and test yourself.  

Instead of looking at each word without any context, you'll think of the Friends episode you watched and how you felt when you watched it. Both are great "anchors" that will help your brain remember these words. 

This is a great technique, but you also need a vocabulary system

You might have more questions like, "which words are worth studying?", "how many words should I study at the same time?", or "are there other exercises I should do in addition to this?".  

You can find the answers to all of those questions in my "How to Improve Your Vocabulary" video.

You can learn even more great techniques like this in the Deliberate English Community

This is just one of many techniques that you'll learn as part of the Deliberate English Community

The Deliberate English Community is designed to help get you out of English intermediate purgatory by building the right habits and teaching the best exercises to help you improve. 

In the Deliberate English Community, you'll be challenged to actively practice with everything you learn. You'll do activities that force you to actually speak, write, and use the language. 

Everything you do will also be reviewed and corrected by native English speakers. You'll learn exactly how to sound more natural and speak more confidently. 

On top of that, you'll be surrounded by an active community of motivated students. They'll help you get out of your comfort zone and give you the motivation to continue.  

If you're ready to get out of English Intermediate Purgatory and become a confident English-speaking business professional, you can learn more about the community and join here.

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