Forget It: How to Learn New Words for Real

Words are without a doubt the basic elements, the “bricks” of a language. And if you want to learn new words and remember them, then you've got to face a serious challenge. Acquiring lots of words fast is a dream for every language learner.

For some, it is a real obsession. Quite often, these efforts are met with disappointment and frustration. It is no surprise, then, that one of the most frequent questions that I get here and on YouTube is about how to learn vocabulary.

Why is it so hard to learn new words?

Memorizing new terms seems a difficult task for many reasons. In general, the brain tends to select the information that it receives, discarding what it considers unnecessary.

Imagine remembering every single detail that enters your brain: you would remember thousands of words effortlessly, but would also be paying a terrible price: your brain would be constantly fighting against a permanent, unwanted and annoying interference of useless information.

Fortunately, our brain works on its own rhythm and it “self-regulates” when it comes to organizing information. So, forgetting information is actually a good thing. The goal is to help the brain to remember the information that we consider important.

Language learners want to remember as many words as possible and they often cannot. They come to the conclusion that they simply do not have a good memory and thus language learning is not for them. This is another myth that must be dispelled.

Whatever its limitations, the brain possesses an extraordinary ability to learn and retain information. The secret is to learning how to really use it.

There's a famous graph called the “forgetting curve”:

If we learn a new word or expression on day X, this information will fade in our memory within just a few days. Do not be surprised, then if you cannot recall a given word after having learned it just a few days earlier.

How can we improve our capacity of retaining new words?

The process of acquiring new information can be generally divided into 3 categories: decoding, storage and retrieval. When the brain receives new information, it decodes it and then stores it. The stored information can then be retrieved in the future. If we cannot recall something (the so called “knowledge-gap”), something went wrong during one of these phases.

There are several types of memory: short and long-term memory, sensory memory etc. The latter receives information through the stimulation of the senses such as sight, touch, smell. The short-term memory, also called working memory, retains small amounts of information for short periods of time.

We use it when we do mental calculations, remember a password, a code or a phone number. If we want to store a word, we have to put it into our long-term memory. How can we do it efficiently?

Memory is like a muscle, it atrophies if it does not work. Each capacity/faculty that is neglected tends to weaken and eventually disappear. So it must be constantly stimulated. The best way to do it is to repeat continuously.

If you want your memory to work well, make it work a little bit everyday. The repetition of an operation has a cumulative effect whose main goal is that of forcing information into our brain without us making deliberate efforts.

9 Key Factors 

Here are some key factors for improving your overall capacity to learn new words and expressions.

1. Interest

In order to improve your ability to recognize and learn new words and expressions, you need to be interested in and passionate about what you are doing. Cultivating an interest in a particular field and constantly reminding yourself why you are doing it provides an incredible boost in your learning process.

When you start learning a language, imagine the immense possibilities that speaking it would bring in terms of work, friendships, feelings. Emotions enhance memory. It is up to you to make this happen.

2. Attention

Concentration and attention are key factors in the learning process. In the Internet era, concentration is diminished due to multitasking. So, I suggest you eliminate the music radio and all other potential distractions and focus on the task at hand. Concentration helps boost your performance enormously.

3. Comprehension

We only learn what we can understand. Whenever you fully understand a sentence or a concept, you also understands its single parts and the connections among them.

An engineer who figures out how an electronic circuit works is more likely to understand its single components. The same goes for a language learner: if he understood a given sentence, he will remember the words better.

4. Association

Our brain is a huge network of neurons: every single neuron is connected with tens of thousands of other neurons So if we want to make the best of learning processes we should adapt them to the way our brain is structured.

One of the most effective tools for doing this is association, that is, linking new information with old information, which is stored in our long-term memory. This can be done in many ways.

5. Visualization 

One of these ways is through visualizing images. Our brain also processes information via colors, forms, etc. If you link a given word with an image, that word will be more likely to be linked with other information already stored in our memory. 

As a result, we will remember it better. For example to remember the name of a person, you can put it in relation to a particular feature of his appearance. The more the association is absurd, the easier you will remember that person’s name.

6. Consolidation 

Take the time to process and store information. One of the best and simplest ways to do this is simply to review what you have learned at regular intervals. Repeating something makes your brain realize that it might need that information and it helps you to fix that information in a much more effective way.

7. Context

Context is king in language learning. It is important to always learn new words in their context which helps your brain to form images, associate the word to other words. The more interesting a text is, the more we will be motivated to understand it and thus remember it.

8. Reading

Reading makes us connect the dots. When we read a lot, we enormously raise the possibility of finding the same word in different contexts, which enormously reinforces our capacity to retain it. Once again, association plays an important role here too.

9. Dynamism

Learning a language is a skill that we acquire. A dynamic learning process is preferable to a static “study” of the language, where parts are analyzed in isolation and without a context instead of being absorbed within interesting content.

How to Learn New Words: Final Thoughts

If you want to learn new words, you first have to throw traditional methods out of the window and change your mindset. 

Acquiring new vocabulary may seem like rocket science at first,  but by now I hope you're convinced that it is just a natural process that is built up on your interests and passions surrounding your target language.

Keep in mind that forgetting is actually great for your brain and that you should use it to your advantage in order to learn new words. 

Do you have any special techniques to learn new words? Let me know in the comments because I am always open to trying new methods. 

Written by Luca Lampariello

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  • In one of your recent video interviews, you mentioned that you hoped your book would be finished by the end of the year. I’m really looking forward to it! Do you have any plans for how and/or where it will be made available?

    • Hi there!

      Well, I am currently overwhelmed by things to do and it is slowing me down. This summer, though, I’ll have two “free” months that I’ll entirely dedicate to my book so hopefully it will come out by the end of 2012 🙂

      It is a real pleasure to know that there are quite a few people out there who are looking forward to it 🙂


  • Great and very useful post. It´s great to see that you master the theory as well as the practice 😉

    ¡Un saludo!

  • You are making some great points here Luca! Good job!

    The brain needs reinforcement (repetition), it needs to do something that it feels is beneficial to the person whom it serves (use it or lose it) and it needs context. If you fulfill those conditions, you can and will remember anything!

  • Luca, let me first wish you a good luck with your book project, I hope it will be available in Brazil, if not, I’ll have to import it.I have a lot of difficulties to memorize words in Hebrew and in Germany, for example, when i learn a new word in Hebrew, i can say the word by heart, but when i need to write it down, i always forget it, you know hebrew language don’t use vowells,so i feel so insecure when i’m reading, to pronounce and remember the word.

    I’m so anxious to buy and read your book.I’m sure it’ll be so hepful for language lovers, and i’m so eager to know all about your methods.


    Wellington Dall’Apollonio

  • Buongiorno Luca,

    Mi chiamo Jean-Baptiste. Abbiamo parlato l’altro giorno nel Facebook. Sono francese da Parigi ma adesso vivo a Vigo in Spagna. Ho avuto la sorpresa di trovare il tuo blog a caso nel Youtube, e devo dire che non pensava che c’era una comunitá poliglotta tanta importante online.

    It’s really been a pleasure to discover all the information you share on your experience of language learning. I’m sure that many people already and will benefit from it. Languages are an excellent way to get closer to people and to broaden one’s personal culture.

    En cuanto a mí, pues tengo un camino bastante parecido al tuyo. Empecé a estudiar inglés y alemán con 11 años como muchos niños en francia. Con 12 años empecé a estudiar japonés yo solo, y el español con 16 años. Cuando entré en la facultad, estudié el sueco y el chino mandarino, y ahora por fin el malayo y el thai. Sin embargo, entre tanto, estuve investigando el funcionamiento de muchos idiomas, y de eso vengo a hablarte ahora.

    Jag är inte säker om du förstår svenska, då fortsätter jag på tyska.

    Als ich dein Blog gelesen habe, habe ich auf etwas gesucht das ich nicht gefunden habe. Ich denke, dass um verschiedene Sprachen zu können, das heisst, um Polyglott zu werden, muss man viele Sprachen vergleichen. Ich lehre dich nichts wenn ich sage, dass alle Sprachen gehören einer Gruppe. Dann kann man die Sprachen einer Gruppe vergleichen und Regeln ausbilden. Ausserdem, die Wörter einer Sprache haben eigene Geschichte und gehören einer Geschichte. Wenn man diese Geschichten studiert, wird es direkt viel leichter eine Sprache gut anzugleichen. Ich wollte nur wissen, was du darüber hälst.

    De mon expérience, je retiens que l’assimilation d’une langue est beaucoup plus aisée lorsqu’on l’approche d’un point de vue étymologique, plutôt que purement grammatical ou lexical. Evidemment, cela demande plus de travail d’étude, mais il me semble que dans ce cas, l’oubli de vocabulaire est moins facile, puisque le mot n’a pas été appris ex-nihilo. En étudiant son origine, son histoire et ses usages ainsi que les petites anecdotes qui peuvent éventuellement l’accompagner, on a créé au mot une véritable identité, moins asceptisée que le mot seul avec son équivalent dans la langue d’origine.

    La notion de groupe linguistique est particulièrement intéressante. Au sein du groupe indo-européen, par exemple, on retrouve des traits communs d’une langue à l’autre, aussi bien au niveau de la grammaire qu’au niveau de la construction du vocabulaire.
    Ex. Le mot „mère“ qui dérive du sanskrit „matar“ a donné tous les équivalents dans les langues du groupe (madre en espagnol, mutter en allemand, mother en anglais, mater en latin…).
    Ensuite à l’intérieur du groupe les sous-groupes présentent aussi des similitudes de construction du vocabulaire.
    Ex. Dans le groupe des langues romanes, les mots français en „-tion“ comme „attention“, se terminent en „zione“ en italien, en „ción“ en espagnol, en „ção“ en portugais. Ou encore, dans les langues germaniques, les verbes qui se terminent en „ern“ en allemand prennent la terminaison „ra“ en suédois: „sich erinern“, „erinra sig“, „wandern“ „vandra“…

    Les exemples précédents concernant les langues indo-européennes ont déjà été bien étudiés et il est très facile aujourd’hui de trouver des ouvrages qui traitent de l’histoire de ces langues et de l’influence qu’elles ont eues les unes sur les autres. La chose devient moins aisée lorsque l’on cherche à comparer des langues qui n’appartiennent pas à un même groupe. C’est cependant possible avec un peu d’histoire et d’observation. Par exemple, le thaï qui semble à des années lumières de nos langues indo-européennes, présente tout de même quelques similitudes lexicales.

    Sous l’influence indienne, et notamment à travers le sanskrit et le pali, le thaï a assimilé une énorme quantité de vocabulaire qui n’était pas originaire de la région. Comme le décrit l’auteur du blog Women learn thai, le mot thai „tohra sap“ est à comparer avec notre „téléphone“ où „tohra“ et „télé“ ont la même racine sanskrite qui signifie „à distance“ et où „phone“ et „sap“ signifient tous deux voix/parler.

    Un autre exemple est celui du mot roi, prononcé en thai: „phramahakasat“ . L’orthographe correcte de ce mot en thai est: „phramahaksatriy“ où la dernière syllabe est muette. On retrouve ici le mot thai „phra“ qui signifie „moine“, le mot sanskrit „maha“ qui signifie „grand“ (maharaja=grand roi) et le mot „ksatriy“ qui dérive du sanskrit „kshatriya“ qui signifie „guerrier“, nom de la caste la plus élevée après celle des brahmanes (Brahmanes, Kshatriya, Vaishyas, Shudras).

    Enfin, si l’on pousse l’analyse encore plus loin, en comparant le thaï avec le malais (groupe Tai Kadai VS groupe Malayo-polynésien), on retrouve, toujours grâce cette influence indienne, que deux des mots basiques du vocabulaire de ces deux langues sont quasiment égaux: „Bahasa“ et „Phasaa“. „Bahasa melayu“ = Langue malaise en malais et „phasaa thai“ = „langue thaïe“ en thaï. Les deux mots phasaa et bahasa dérivent du sanskrit Bhãsa, qui signifie tout simplement, langue.

    Lorsque l’on sort du contexte des langues européennes et que l’on s’attaque à des langues moins connues comme le thaï ou le malais, sachant que les ouvrages analytiques ne présentent pas toujours précisémment les combinaisons de langues recherchées (peu d’ouvrage à ma connaissance comparent le thaï et le malais), il peut être intéressant de se plonger dans les cultures et les mouvements d’influence communs à une zone. De cette manière, on parvient à créer de nouvelles connexions logiques en dehors de son mode de pensée traditionnel et à adopter une logique d’apprentissage plus pertinente à la langue cible.

    Mon approche pour parler les langues étrangères a été celle-ci. J’ai commencé para faire une étude comparative pour ensuite me plonger dans l’apprentissage concret. Et maintenant que je commence à pratiquer, les mots rentre dans ma tête beaucoup plus facilement et je peux même deviner beaucoup de mots dans les langues que j’étudie. Ainsi, j’ai peu étudié le portugais, ce qui ne m’empêche pas de le parler puisque c’est une langue que j’ai devinée plus qu’autre chose.

    Podería falar assim durante muitas horas mais, mas após tudo o que já escrevi penso que seria melhor parar antes de que seja indigesto. Espero que gostaras deste comentario, que me daras a tua opinão e que podremos falar disso pronto.

    Iîù cordiali saluti,


    • Merci pour ta passion et tes idées Jean-Baptiste! Ta méthode me paraîs très logique et interesante et je vais l’essayer 🙂

  • Hey Luca, great article. I recently stumbled upon this language game called “where are your keys?” at I haven’t had a chance to try it yet but I thought you should check it out. Basically it’s a way to get a grasp on any language by having a native speaker and a few objects to talk about. Everything is done in the target language so there is no need for translation. By using sign language as the “bridge” language one starts thinking in the target language immediately. Anyway, love your blog and videos!

  • hello Luca! I thought the article was awesome and it came just in time for me!
    This summer I am going to be spending 8 weeks in the andes mountains in a community that is bilingual in Quechua/Spanish. But I really wanna learn Quechua. The thing I’m finding the worst is REMEMBERING these very long very foreign words!
    What is your opinion on “Speed Studying” what do you suggest?
    I once learned Spanish to about b2 in 6 months but I’m Italian American so I had a HUGE advantage, and I’m leaving for Peru in 9 weeks ;P
    What’s your advice?

    Mille Grazie!

  • Hi Luca,
    I definitely agree with you with all you say. ‘Learning vocabulary’ is a still a highly controversial issue in language learning and pedagogy. Opinions vary, of course. Flashcards and systems such as Anki are highly regarded as tools that can help people to learn new words. However, as you say, whatever the method you use, learning words from a given context is always key. Reinforcing memory with visual associations and reviewing at fixed intervals of time helps even more. Thanks a lot for sharing your experience with us, Luca!

    Ciao Luca,
    sono completamente d’accordo con te su tutto cio’ che dici. “Imparare parole nuove” resta ancora una questione molto controversa nell’apprendimento e nell’insegnamento delle lingue. Chiaramente, le opinioni sono varie. Flashcard e sistemi quali Anki sono tenuti in grande considerazione come strumenti per l’apprendimento di parole nuove. Tuttavia, come dici, qualunque sia il metodo che uno usa, impare partendo da un contesto e’ fondamentale. Il rinforzare la memoria con associazioni visive e il ripetere a intervalli di tempo stabiliti aiuta poi ancora di piu’. Grazie mille per aver condiviso con noi la tua esperienza, Luca!

  • Ciao Luca. Sono Marian. Le miei lengue (fino adesso) sono francese, spagnolo, italiano, serbo-croata (adesso “BCS”) e l’inglese. Sono statunitense di nascita, e “afrodescendiente” degli USA. Vivo anche in Italia. Molto lieta. A presto!

  • Thank you for sharing your experiences. I totally agree the fact that you mentioned about motivation. I have a personal experience that clarifies it.
    But this approach totally changes the role of a language teacher.

  • Hello,

    The Top 100 Language Lovers 2012 competition hosted by the language portal and the Lexiophiles language blog has started and your blog has been nominated in the category language learning blogs. Congratulations! The nomination period goes until May 13th. Feel free to spread the word among other bloggers writing about languages or to suggest one blog yourself.
    Please email me so I have your contact details and send you details on the status of the competition and the badge. For further information on the Top 100 Language Lovers 2011 competition, visit

    Best wishes,
    Stefanie for the and Lexiophiles team

  • Remembering words is a really weird area of language learning. I find that when I actively try to remember a word, it doesn’t stick. However when I’m having a conversation and someones says something and I ask what it is, it seems to stick. Similarly, when I am reading in L2 or L3 and stop in my tracks to look up a particular word (after relying on context only for the other non-known words), I seem to remember it.
    Keep up the great posts Luca!

  • Luca, as I recently comment in your ytbe channel, I had the doubt of how important is it really to get material in you mothertongue, as I explained I have been trying to teach myself some Finnish as well as French and German but the material I use its mostly aimed for english native speakers when my mother tongue its spanish.

    Dada tu experiencia con los idiomas, tu normalmente usas libros enfocados al italiano o al ingles para aprender algun otro idioma? el problema es que es mucho mas facil encontrar material en ingles que español, pero logicamente busco agilizar mi aprendizaje lo mas que pueda. Hay realmente una diferencia en el modo de aprendizaje o es algo mas de comodidad personal?

    Abraço Luca.

    • Hi Jorge.

      I generally suggest you get hold of bilingual material with L1 being your native tongue – English-Spanish in your case. Many people think that using another language – be it a L1 or a language you know well – might hinder or slow down your language learning process. I think that it facilitates it, especially in the early stages, provided that you follow certain rules. Once you get to a certain level, you reach the so-called “linguistic autonomy” and you don’t need but the language you have been acquiring.

      Having said that, even if I generally use italian (L1) in order to learn a foreign language (L2), it did happen that I had to use either English or French in order to figure out the meaning of texts in Swedish and Dutch.

      So, the answer for your is:

      If you can get Finnish/French/german-Spanish material, it would be great. If you can’t and you speak good English, material in English is great as well.

      Remember: L1 is only a tool to learn L2. In other words, you have to focus on L2 through L1/other language you know well. The key is to use a language you know well enough to figure out the one you are learning/acquiring: we only learn what we can understand. This will be clear when I will publish all the articles I am preparing for you guys 🙂


  • Hey Luca! I’ve been following you for years, but this is the first time I leave a comment. Your advices and reflections are always usefule & interesting. I’m eagerly waiting to hear about the 2 techniques you mention at the end.
    Un saluto dalla Slovenia!

  • Ciao Luca,
    per curiosità, in che lingua lo stai scrivendo il libro?
    Secondo te su un determinato argomento pensando in una lingua diversa, si elaborano le informanzioni seguendo altri pattern e si generano pensieri diversi?
    Se si, approcciare un problema/tema in più lingue potrebbe essere una buona strategia per aumentare la creatività. Cosa ne pensi?

    • Ciao Miglena

      per curiosità, in che lingua lo stai scrivendo il libro?

      Lo sto scrivendo in italiano.

      Secondo te su un determinato argomento pensando in una lingua diversa, si elaborano le informanzioni seguendo altri pattern e si generano pensieri diversi?

      La risposta è sì 🙂 Ti consiglio di leggere a questo proposito “Through the language glass – why the world looks different in other languages”, di Guy Deutscher. Offre una prospettiva molto interessante e controtendza sul fatto che le lingue influenzano i nostri pensieri.

      Se si, approcciare un problema/tema in più lingue potrebbe essere una buona strategia per aumentare la creatività. Cosa ne pensi?

      Direi proprio di sì 🙂


  • hai luca, i’ve been learning english for a very long time now but it is still very difficult for me to speak and write in english. i’d just encountered your method and very interested to follow the learning plan, do you have any recommended sources of audio files or script that you used when you were studying english?.

  • Luca, I was looking for some explanation in youtube about why is so difficult to control another language specially on adults, and I saw one of your videos! In my case, I received bilingual education in Mexico practically all my life! but I never learned english well, Indeed I was a very bad english student, I always had fear and felt insecurity in front of the teacher and classmates. Right now I am coursing a master in USA, and I am still feel insecure when I am infront of the classroom God damn it! jajaja, well this message is a kind of “get -out” energy exercise, any comments? abrazo. Gerardo

  • Luca, Thanks for the wonderful website about language learning. I have been looking for websites like yours that talk about the process of learning a language and you touch upon many different aspects of the process. As a language teacher I am constantly looking for new ideas, so I will be going through more of your materials. As regards this article, I think the same words in multiple contexts is really important. When I take vocabulary we have been learning for a week and throw it on the smartboard in a new different way, I can see their neurons firing as it becomes a fixture in their brains, but one point I do need to check on is do they remember it 30 days after. You brought that up in the article, and I think I need to do more long term reviewing in my class, so the kids do not forget what we learned earlier in the year.

    • Hi George

      As regards this article, I think the same words in multiple contexts is really important.

      Yes, that’s a very important step, but there are other things that you can do so that the information sticks for good in your student’s minds 🙂


  • Ciao Luca sei un grande!!complimenti!
    anche a me come a te piacciono le lingue e le vorrei imparare tutte,in questi giorni mi trasferisco a Torino,ma a Marzo andro a vivere in Austria,sai mica qual e il modo migliore per assimilare e imparare il tedesco e eventualmente libri da comprare che mi possono aiutare?
    che dici,ce la faccio a imparare anche un altra lingua insieme al tedesco,tipo portoghese?
    hai mica qualche consiglio su quali siano i libri migliori da acquistare per imparare la lingua portoghese?
    Un ultima cosa, e poi smetto di farti domande,che mi starai odiando haha,senti mi piacerebbe sostenere l esame dello IELTS per entrare all universita del Sud africa tra un anno,qual e la miglior bibliografia e il modo piu consono tu reputi necessario per passare quest esame?
    ti faccio il mio in bocca al lupo per ogni cosa,

    Gianni da FIRENZE

    • Caro Gianni,

      la maniera migliore per assimilare il tedesco è comprare un libro che si chiama ASSIMIL e cominciare ad usarlo in maniera efficace. Come ripeto sempre, se da una parte avere buon materiale è una condizione “sine qua non”, ciò che fa la differenza è come si usa questo materiale a disposizione.

      Nessuno ti impedisce di imparare portoghese e tedesco allo stesso tempo, ma questo significa meno tempo per il tedesco stesso, e se a marzo ti trasferisci in Austria, sarebbe meglio concentrarsi su una sola lingua. Stabilire priorità è un altro segreto nell’apprendimento delle lingue e nella vita in generale.

      Per quanto riguarda la preparazione all’IELTS la maniera migliore di procedere è:

      I) due mesi prima dell’esame comincia a fare tutto in inglese: pensare, parlare il più possibile (magari su Skype) scrivere, leggere ed ascoltare almeno 2-3 ore al giorno, compatibilmente con i tuoi impegni

      II) Comprare un libro specifico per la preparazione a questo esame è fondamentale se vuoi conseguire un buon risultato. Molte persone sottovalutano l’importanza di questa preparazione ed all’esame prendono un voto basso rispetto alle proprie aspettative e capacità perchè non sono psicologicamente preparati. Avendo sostenuto 4 prove C2 in 4 lingue, ti posso dire che è una cosa abbastanza comune, non commettere questo errore 😉

      Lasciami infine dire che Firenze è una città stupenda, spero di venirci ad aprile per rilassarmi un po’, dato che non sono mai stato così occupato in vita mia..ovviamente mi piace perchè ormai lavoro con le lingue a tempo pieno, ma dopo un po’ diventa impegnativo.

      Un abbraccio!


  • I’ve always supported learning and practicing set phrases in context. In my opinion vocabulary should be learned and practiced first through input (listening and reading), and then used through output (speaking and writing) on each real life topic. But vocabulary is a broad concept; it includes not only phrases, but also separate words, idioms, proverbs, sayings, etc.

    My idea below may be important to you to improve your language materials.
    As you know word combinations in speaking are unpredictable. There are different word collocations/phrases and synonyms to convey a thought in a language.

    It’s possible to encompass in ready-made materials a wide variety of phrases for each conversation topic. It is a good idea to prepare a potential list of phrases with sentences on each conversation topic, for example fixed conversational phrases that do not require English grammar knowledge (greetings, forms of addressing a person, thanks, well-wishing, apology, agreeing, disagreeing, emotions, etc.). Practicing with such materials can help a learner easier choose the most appropriate word combinations to convey a thought. Multiple frequent reading of such sentences will gradually ensure firm memorization of vocabulary and contribute to developing good speaking skills.

    By combining the most inclusive phrase books, conversation books, general English thematic dictionaries, software, audio and video aids and websites you can create the most practical and thorough content for mastering each conversation topic in English for all levels including a wide selection of ready-to-use phrases, vocabulary and sentences for daily use. Your own ready-made materials could be superior to (more helpful than) any conversation book or a phrase book in terms of useful comprehensive content and vocabulary.

  • This design is incredible! You definitely know how
    to keep a reader amused. Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to start my own blog (well, almost.
    ..HaHa!) Fantastic job. I really enjoyed what you had to say, and
    more than that, how you presented it. Too cool!

  • Ciao Luca and world’s polyglots,

    I am from Verona and speak 7 languages (european + russian)

    Regarding your article about remembering Words, I would like to comment about the tecnique of Association.

    It is – in my opinion – the strongest and I found useful to use multilingual dictionaries, because different languages share the same roots and that helps memorization a lot. Of course this works well for indo-european languages which are more or less related.

    In this case I noticed an Economy of Scale in learning (that is, starting for example from a basis of one latin + one anglosaxon language, learning the third one and so on will be considerably easier.

  • Hey Luca!

    I’ve been reading your blog recently and I must tell you that you’re doing a great job! 🙂 Thanks for the amazing and useful articles/videos!

    I’ve got a question, though, which can be related to this article: what do you think about Spaced Repetition Systems (for example Anki)? Do you use such a thing or do you think that they are not necessary to reach, let’s say, fluency? Doesn’t refraining from their usage slow down the whole learning process? I mean – but it’s only a hunch on my part – one can study many more words by means of an SRS. (I know, quality over quantity, but quality can be sustained by an SRS, methinks.)

    I’d be grateful if you could share your thoughts with us on this topic. 🙂

  • I’ll allow myself to “butt in” a bit.

    I apologize if I’m about to say something already mentioned but I can’t watch the video since my internet connection has declared a war on me. I’m an avid 18-year-old polyglot whose mother tongue is Bulgarian and from all these years of studying languages I’ve discovered a few tricks to avoid having all your words jumbled up in your mind and your brain having to try hard to retain them – GROUPING is the king.

    A lot of people have tried to convince me that reading whatever I get my hands on, highlighting all the unfamiliar words, looking them up and just studying them like that is going to enhance my vocabulary. No, that’s not how it’s done. You WILL retain most words, but not all of them. Everything has to be organized accordingly. If you follow this way of studying you’ll only end up feeding your passive vocabulary. The words have to be integrated into your active memory so that you use these words actively. If you opt for grouping them then here’s how it look like:


    -to boil (Derivatives (if any) – boiling, boiled, etc.)
    -to blend
    -to garnish

    -grater (Derivatives – to grate)

    -ambrosial (Derivatives: etc etc)

    Successful retention is more likely to be achieved with this tactic.

    Also, a lot of writing. Writing is the key. I love studying new words and then organizing them into a short story (maximum 10 lines long). I found that this tactic succeeds in allocating all the studied words into your active vocabulary. Mainly because you have them in context and you start associating similar situations with the story or parts of it.

    Of course, every person is different, I’m just sharing my own opinion and views based on how I’ve been studying languages up till now. I have a lot more to learn, I admit I’m not so good at it yet but I’m improving.

    I’m looking forward to more articles, I enjoy reading everything posted here.

  • All of the concepts mentioned above are important and play a big role in learning new words. In my opinion, the most important one is CONTEXT. When I am learning new vocabulary, I am always trying to learn them with some context. So, if I am studying a new word, I always write down a whole sentence or maybe even several sentences to learn a specific words. This works best for me when creating an odd sentence. Odd things are more likely to “stick” in your brain and therefore you are more likely to remember a specific word later on. Of course you will need to write down the sentences several times and repeat on a regular basis for a couple of weeks to make sure that they will remain in your long-term memory.

  • I consider you an amazing polyglot. I hope you´ll sell your book on amazon. _The first day it will be available, I´ll buy it. You are a master of foreign pronunciation, in spanish my mother tongue you sound exactly like a native. I hope you´ll explain in your book with detail how to improve pronunciation.

  • Hi! I have recently taken an interest in learning German. I have watched many of your videos, but I’m still unsure where to officially START. I am a beginner and have not began learning yet because I do not want to start learning the wrong way. What I want to know, for now, is what should be my FIRST step? Should I look for a language learning application on my phone, should I buy a book, should I listen to lectures or stories through my phone, etc.? I have enjoyed watching your videos and I am truly inspired by what you are doing. Any type of answer would be much appreciated!


  • Ciao, Lucca, come stai?
    Sono brasiliano e sto imparando l’italiano da solo.. Questo non mi dispiace, invece, mi piace tantissimo essere il mio insegnante e il mio alunno, allo stesso tempo. hehehe
    Voglio imparare più parole, ho un po di fretta, sai?
    Quest’anno ero in Copacabana Spiaggia, Rio de Janeiro. Ho visto gli italiani parlando.. CHE BELLO!
    Ancora il mio desiderio è stare lì nel Capodanno e poter conversare con loro senza molta difficoltà.
    Un’idea che mi sembra moltissimo brava è ascoltare tutti i giorni una stazione da radio, perché così sarebbe più facile e utile da imparare meglio.
    Cosa ti piace?? Conosci qualche stazione per suggerirmi?
    Può essere qualche on-line, per Android oppure altro suggerimento, boh.
    Aspetto riposta.
    Grazie mille!

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  • If there is one guaranteed way to retain what you learn then it is this:
    Develop a keen interest in the subject matter. To illustrate what I mean I shall relate my own experience. I am British and live in the UK and I am absolutely passionate about American geography and history. I devour everything I can find in printed matter on those subjects and consequently I consider myself something of a buff on the US. I visit the US every year on holiday and Americans I speak to are amazed at my comprehensive knowledge of the US. I am now convinced beyond a scintilla of a doubt that I have found the Holy Grail as far as committing knowledge to long term memory is concerned. The bottom line, as far as I am concerned anyway, is that if you are really interested in a subject you will excel at it.

  • First of all I want to say excellent blog!
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  • Luca, I have to say that in the day that I’ve known about you, you’ve successfully impressed and inspired me. I dream of communicating with people from all over the world, and of opening doors to entirely new paths of thinking by accessing people in their own language. Right now I’m at the very start of my journey. I’ve been learning Latin American Spanish in Mexico for six months and can comfortably travel and discuss things. But I have a problem.

    First, my mind works with pattern recognition, which is fantastic for finding shortcuts and skipping unneeded steps in many areas of life. The issue is that with many language learning tools (I’ve mainly used Duolingo to this point but am looking into LiveMocha, too.) I defeat much of the purpose by seeing patterns in the programming, and once I’ve done that, I know the answers without knowing or needing to access the language. The main source of my learning right now is with people and applying the language through listening to speeches and starting to read the language, but I’m finding that even at the base of the language with grammar/etc, I put things in a box and create patterns for everything. The issue is that once a pattern is established, I’ve basically restricted myself to it and have difficulty breaking from the pattern to engage in normal and fluid dialogue. I’m hoping you have advice for this. I won’t be able to access a country full of native spanish speakers all the time, but I hope to continue my language acquisition.

    My second issue is probably more common. Whenever I know that someone in the group speaks English (my first language) my mind throws up barriers to Spanish. I can speak pretty well in a group that only speaks Spanish, but once I have the crutch of English to fall back on, I cripple myself. This is really only for bilingual participants, as when I’m in a mixed group and the only one who speaks both, I’m back to being able to translate pretty well.

    Thank you for all the work you do! I hope to buy your product after I return to the states and get a job. The reviews are so positive I can’t wait to jump on the bandwagon.

    God bless you!

  • […] Luca Lampariello at The Polyglot Dream discusses how we can improve our capacity to retain new words in our memory. He talks about how memory needs to be constantly stimulated, and the importance of repetition. He also talks about the role of interest, attention and comprehension in the process of memorising new words. […]

  • Luca, I would like to know when your book comes out! Because I would benefit a lot from your memory techniques to learn vocabulary. Can you give a preview? At least for beginners? Thanks

  • Friend Luca, I already have seen this awesome article, and actualy, it changed completely the way I learn English, since then I started using Anki every single day in my life. Recently I am making flashcards with real audio from series and movies, I have even uploaded some audios from it at soundcloud. You can see them here:
    Thank you for so increadible dedication.

      • You can use any audio recorder on your computer, in my case (using linux) I am used to recording audios with VLC or audio-recorder, after that, I open the audio with Audacity (audio editor) to clip the part I want to use. Almost every sound comes from a tv-series, a movie or a real audio from “youglish” (find it out on Google).

        Afte clipping the audio you must have to put it into the correct folder on Anki (a little research on google on Where put my Anki audios?)

        To me the greatest advantage of this method is that you can use it not only to develop vocabulary, also you can underline linking words in order to learn connected speech, using Anki also to a kind dictation.

  • Ciao Luca, per me eri e resti un mito. Solo che qualche anno fa trovavo i tuoi contenuti più interessanti. Non che ora non lo siano, ma sono pieni di marketing superficialone all’americana… segreto quà segreto là, le tre regole per… manca solo la pillola magica che vi farà dimagrire ed allo stesso tempo apprendere 2 lingue in 7 giorni.

  • Olá, Luca. A melhor forma de ampliar o vocabulário na língua estrangeira é mesmo ler, sem preocupação com memorização deliberada?

  • If you want to add learn and remember vocabulary quickly, then I recommend using the Magnetic Memory Method by memory pro Anthony Metivier.

    Basically you create a memory palace (like Hannibal Lector) and you put all new words into it like in a store house. Like that you can ‘go’ there anytime and get your stored vocabulary with translation.

    Marko gives all details in a summary here:

  • I have an English exam tomorrow, and my teacher said to memorize 100 words. The problem is she’s only putting 50 on the exam. We have to know our grammar, the 50 FULL definition (if we don’t know the exact definition she’ll count it wrong), and we have to do an essay as well. I’ve tried flash cards, which only helped me memorize about 10 words, when I need like 40 more. This is just awful. I’ve done well on all the other exams, but this is the only one I’m having a struggle with. My teacher says that the essay is more important than the words, and we also have a Literature exam with the same teacher. This is just giving me anxiety and I am so stressed out right now. I’ve tried almost everything, and none worked. I know by the time I someone reads this, I’ll be either taking the exam, or done with it. I have a B, and if I fail this exam, it will drop my grade big time. If someone reads this, which will be a miracle, before my exam I am urging you to help me…please.

    • His concept of context applies here. So you are immersing yourself into that culture and everywhere you go, you see that language in different contexts. Your brain learns many different nuances and starts to get the complete feel for the language.

  • When my daughter was little and acquiring her native language she automatically practised every new word she learned, she kept inventing reasons for using the new word – even if just to point to something and say “that’s not a XXXXX”. I found this fascinating!

  • It was really great for me because I am studying English for IELTS exam and I really need a good way to memorize words. For those who are in a situation like me I wanna to share my experience. Among all application I had, there is an app which it’s really can memorize and learn a large number of words with a little fun. Called “WordUp”. I wanna strongly recommend all of you to use it.this app will help you to learn words and realize when or where you need them to can learn the root of each word, synonyms and all conditions of a word!
    It’s available at
    Good luck everyone.

  • I want to share my experience about using an application named WordUp which is so useful to help in words so you can introduce it to your readers to develop their english easily.

  • Thank you so much!I am studying English and trying to get ready for IELTS exam,all my teachers told me not to try to gather a vocabulary notebook, because it’s less than 1% you go back to check the words wrote down before. So I needed something to memorise as well. In my opinion all the suggestions properly work when we are trying to study for some special exams for instans. I really need such tips to improve myself in writnig. In my opinion one of the most important way to achieve good grades in writing is learning words and absolutely have good knowledge about when we need to use them or how we should use them indeed.I personally need text, sentences or even movies which include meaning of that special almost hard word and need to undrestand when/how I can use it.
    Recently I have found an application which is really helpful. I can say it’ an “all in one application”.It contains lots of movies, text, synonyms and etc.”WordUp” is an amazing app that you can enjoy your studying with. For those who want to see “Wordup” have a look at .

  • Tsm, I’m having a lot of trouble with my German and French classes. Maybe this’ll help. 🙂

  • Hi Luca, your work advice is mastery, and teachable you never wanted to stop reading. Don’t be afraid to be different, be afraid to be overage!

  • I am learning Turkish with interest and passion as I am elderly and it is suggested learning something helps to delay dementia. I also know some Turkish people. I find it absolutely enthralling, agglutination is so clever. I also find the explanation of grammar very informative, helping my interest in my native language, English , immensely. I have loved your videos . My problem is I became behind in my revision and it is too daunting to start. I agree daily study helps retain my learning, and your comments are applicable to many fields of study, such as learning a process with IT.
    I also tried to brush up my schoolgirl French and Italian learnt at a later stage, and surprised at what I remember.
    Thank you very much for your wonderful lectures

  • I forgot to tell you I am very deaf, and have great trouble repeating words which are corrected for pronunciation in my program

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