SERIES: How to Learn Russian #2

Tip #2: Here's how to remember Russian words by using mnemonic devices.

QUESTION: "What's the best way to remember Russian words?"

The answer involves good news, and bad news. The bad news is, in the first few years of its life, an infant has more than twice the neuron connections as you do. It gives them a big edge in learning language. There's not much we can do about that. And yet, the good news is that adults -- myself included -- are still able to fluently learn a 2nd language despite this handicap. How?

Here's the key, and it's my #1 Tip for learning any language: Learn words in the way your brain is designed to learn them, by using contextual learning.

In Tip #1: How to learn Russian series, I showed you the power of contextual learning. That technique makes the meaning of words effortless to learn. But still, students sometimes struggle with recall. After all, it's one thing to learn the meaning of a new word. It's another thing to try to recall it weeks later. It's a serious issue for students of any language, but especially one like Russian, where the sounds are so different from English.

Many people seem to think their problem with remembering words is that they are getting older, and their memory isn't what it used to be. That may be true, but it's not the reason they're having trouble remembering Russian words.

If you're trying to remember a word simply by thinking of it, your progress will be very slow going. The sounds of Russian aren't in your language center. It's like trying to recall some bizarre, made-up sound. That type of recall is known as "rote auditory recall" and it's the least successful method for remembering words. It's also the main reason most people quit.

Luckily, there's a solution! A way to recall words instantly. And memory experts have known about it for a long time.

You see, there are two things the human brain responds very well too. The first is stories, and the second is visual input. As adult learners, we can put these both to our advantage to easily recall any Russian word. I call this technique 'Power Phrases' but other language experts call them “mems”, or “building a memory palace” and so on.

What is a Power Phrase?

A Power Phrase is a type of mnemonic device. It's a way of using an English phrase and a mental image to recall both the meaning and pronunciation of a Russian word.

For example:

Let's say you've learned that the Russian word for tea is "chai," but you're having trouble recalling the word when you need it. Here's our Power Phrase:

Repeat the following, and associate it with this picture:

Image Description

"I wouldn't drink that. Not for all the TEA in China!"

Notice that the above phrase has both the English meaning -- TEA -- and the Russian pronunciation. (The first three letters of CHIna.)

Or, perhaps you're having trouble remembering the word сок (sounds like "soak") which is the Russian word for "juice." What you need is a way to associate it with something you can easily recall.

Image Description

When the waitress spilled the JUICE on me, I got soaked.

We notice again that the above phrase has both the English meaning -- JUICE -- and the Russian pronunciation: soak

What's so interesting is that, by recalling the English sentence, you are given the Russian pronunciation.

When I was first learning Russian I made a PowerPhrase for just about every new word I learned. It's amazing how much you can remember that way. And I use those same ones in our Russian Accelerator videos, along with pictures to really drive home each phrase. The visual part is really important, and it's a limitation of an audio-only format. Because you really want to associate an image with each PowerPhrase....that helps to make it memorable.

These kinds of mnemonic devices are used by all memory experts and advanced language students. Ask anyone who's learned a 2nd or 3rd language quickly, and they'll admit they used these kinds of memorable phrases to help them recall words. The bottom line is: If you learn the meaning of a word from context, and then create a PowerPhrase for it, you will never struggle to learn any Russian words.

In Tip #3 we discover How to Learn Russian Grammar by Using Pattern Recognition!