Have you ever met your idol in person? Would you know what to say in such a situation? How would you start a conversation? You probably get nervous just by the idea, right? This is exactly the situation that happened to me a few years ago and, interestingly, it helped me understand how to learn vocabulary.
Meeting my idol
When I started searching the internet for information about language learning, I came across the films of several polyglots who were a great inspiration for me. Among them were Richard Simcott, Benny Lewis, and also an Italian, Luca Lampariello.
One day, quite by accident, I found out that Luca was organizing language workshops in Poznań. I knew I had to be there and bought a ticket right away.
A few days later, I was sitting in a room with about 30 other people – all eager to gain more language knowledge. There was also Marlon Couto Ribeiro, a crazy Brazilian polyglot living in Poland, whom I met a bit earlier.
During the break, I began to wonder if I should approach Luca. But, what would I ask him? How should I start a conversation? As a typical introvert, I had a thousand questions in my head, but also a thousand excuses for not asking them. I felt quite nervous.
However, at that moment, I noticed that Marlon was approaching Luca and began to speak to him. “Luca, I heard you know Japanese?”, exclaimed the nice and always smiling Brazilian. “Maybe we can speak this language?”
It was the perfect opportunity. As I knew Marlon, I stood next to him, which made it easier for me to join the conversation, and this is how my acquaintance with Luca Lampariello began.
The whole situation gave me a lot to think about.
Often people ask, “How can you learn vocabulary effectively?“
Do you sometimes ask yourself this question?
Many of us are looking for some unique methods for remembering new vocabulary. The truth is: no memory tricks are ever going to work. Although we are able to remember words for a while, we’re often unable to use them in sentences. We also can’t easily catch new words when we hear them in a conversation. I’m sure you know what I’m talking about, right?
Learning vocabulary gives us a false sense of security. It seems to us that by learning more words, we move forward. But is it true? Is it a waste of time? So, how do you learn vocabulary effectively?
Well, the best way to learn vocabulary is… NOT to learn vocabulary.
The meeting with Luca Lampariello helped me understand this concept. Our brain is a bit like a typical introvert. It usually avoids what it doesn’t know; so in our case: new words. Whenever it can, it avoids them and tries to ignore them at every opportunity.
However, if a new word is surrounded by other words that we already know, it is enough for magic to happen. Suddenly, the brain starts understanding the word. Just as it was easier for me to approach Luca given Marlon was standing next to him, the brain will remember a new word much easier when it is in context, i.e. part of a sentence.
To understand it even better, I invite you to a little experiment.
Imagine someone knocking on your door. You see it’s some suspicious person that you don’t know at all. In what situation would you open the door for this person?
That’s right. If this person was in the company of other people that you know well. For example, if your crazy uncle brought some guest with him to your home for a dinner party.
To sum it all up, give up memorizing words. It doesn’t work. It’s much more effective to surround yourself with sentences. You can translate them from English into the language that you’re learning. This way, you will remember many more new words and, importantly, you will also learn how to use them in practice and how to combine them into whole structures.
So, to learn vocabulary: don’t learn words, learn sentences!