3 tips to use memory to learn a foreign language

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I share with you 3 tips for using your memory in a simple and effective way to learn a foreign language.

  • When you learn French, do you know what types of memory you use?
  • Or rather, what types of memory are involved at different times of learning French?

I talk you about it in this article!

The memory

Memory stores information, sensations perceived by the organism, either temporarily (short-term memory) or long-term to preserve memories and knowledge (long-term memory).

The short-term-memory

The short-term-memory

  • Is a temporary memory (less than a minute) of very limited capacity (about 7 elements)
  • Has the function of storing data

It allows, for example :

  • Hold a phone number before dialing
  • Read, be interrupted, and repeat in paragraph or phrase where I was
  • Remember the beginning of this sentence while continuing to read it

Short-term memory is the first step in longer-term memory.

If we want to learn information, we can engage in a voluntary learning process (repeating the information many times) to store it in the long-term memory.

The Work memory

It is a sophistication of short-term memory.

The Work memory

  • Is a temporary memory (less than a minute) of very limited capacity (about 7 elements) Has the function to store and simultaneously work a data
  • Indeed, according to Baddeley (Baddeley’s_model_of_working_memory), working memory is "a system that temporarily holds and manipulates information while performing tasks such as understanding, learning and reasoning".

It is essential for performing cognitive tasks.

It allows, for example :

  • Perform any mental operation that consists of classifying, organizing, ordering, prioritizing, sorting, comparing data
  • Listen to a speech while taking notes
  • Remember a few words in a foreign language to be able to structure them into a sentence that makes sense

We are capable of such performance thanks to our working memory.


The difference between short-term memory and working memory

  • Short-term memory = ability to retain data for a very limited time without being manipulated

When these data are manipulated, transformed → is working memory

There is therefore a management function related to the working memory, but absent from the short-term memory

  • Short-term memory can operate independently of long-term memory

Working memory is fundamentally related to long-term memory

  • Short-term memory can operate independently of working memory

Working memory needs short-term memory to function

The long-term memory

The long-term memory

  • Stores information almost permanently
  • She interprets them, recomposes them, reorganizes them

Its main role is to store permanently (or almost permanently) relevant information from short-term memory (or working memory).

It allows, for example :

  • Remember the address of your home, your place of work
  • Remember vocabulary words, sentence structures to communicate in a foreign language


How to use memory in language learning (3 tips)

1 - The transition from short-term memory to long-term memory

Repetition (Learning by repetition) allows to pass, for example, a vocabulary word from short-term memory to long-term memory. The more I repeat a word of vocabulary, a sentence to integrate its structure, the more I repeat a conjugated verb at a given time, the more this information will be anchored in my long-term memory. They will go from my short-term memory, where I can remember them for a very short time, to my long-term memory where I can remember them all my life!

Example :

  • A word of vocabulary → une chaise = a chair
  • A sentence to integrate the structure → Je mange des pommes = I eat apples

Je = the subject

mange = the verb

des pommes = the direct object complement

  • Conjugated verb at a given time → the verb Eat conjugation in present tense

Je mange / tu manges / il-elle mange / nous mangeons / vous mangez /ils-elles mangent

I eat /you eat / he-she eat/ we eat / you eat / they eat


2 - The amount of information

The amount of information can also vary depending on the material you need to store, it can be affected, for example according to :

  • The length of words, sentences
  • The emotional importance of stimuli

I invite you to learn short sentences (with few words) at first, and little by little, when you feel more comfortable, increase the length of words and phrases.

Example :

  • Short phrase : Je mange des pommes
  • Longer sentence : : Je mange des pommes avec es frères et sœurs = I eat apples with my brothers and sisters

I also invite you, at first, to learn words that affect you, which have an emotional meaning for you, it facilitates memorization.

Examples :

  • If you have back pain it will be easier to remember the sentence phrase J’ai mal au dos (I have pain in the back) rather than the sentence J’aime la soupe (I like soup), especially if you do not like soup.
  • If I like the mountain it will be easier to remember the sentence J’ai fait du ski cet hiver (I went skiing this winter) rather than the sentence phrase J’ai fait du bateau à voile cet été (I went sailing this summer).

3 - Group information

On the other hand, if the information is grouped together and makes sense, the amount of items we can memorize increases.

Example with vocabulary words :

  • Using the lexical field of the sea

Je suis à la plage, je vois des îles, des bateaux et des goélands.

I am at the beach, i see islands, boats and gulls.

Four words from the same lexical field are grouped in this sentence : plage, îles, bateaux et goélands (beach, islands, boats and gulls).


Thanks for reading this article 🙂

What do you want to learn about the French language? What are your needs ?

Tell me in the comments, I will write an article about it !

Thomas Ricomard

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2 thoughts on “3 tips to use memory to learn a foreign language”

    1. Thomas Ricomard

      Bonjour Odat,

      Merci pour ton intérêt, cela me fait très plaisir 🙂

      Je suis au début de mon projet, mon projet va gandir et je mettrai en place une newsletter à laquelle tu pourras t’inscrire pour recevoir tous les artilces par mail.


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