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Anyone have tips on learning new words for someone who flashcards aren't working for?

I don't think I'll completely stop using flashcards. Maybe a combination of methods will help me retain words. But lately I've come across a lot of words when talking in my target language that when I say I don't know the word & then I hear what it means I get frustrated with myself because it's a word I've studied A LOT with flashcards.

Does anyone have other methods than flashcards they use for learning specific new words?

August 15, 2017



In my opinion, it's important to learn words in context. So I do use flashcards, but I add the sentence in which I found the word, and other information (such as funny sayings including this word etc).

In this way, I do not have the isolated word alone, but also the structure(s) that can be combined with it. This helps me memorize the word, and, above all, I get a feel for the flow of the language and the possible combinations.

This is, of course, a lot of work. But in my opinion, it pays off.


I always read on Polyglot blogs that learning in context, multiple varying example sentences to a single word shall (better) help to hammer it into your head.

The other blog suggested to "simply delete the flashcard and forget the once learned word which you can't remember/recall on review", as it is not "the right time to learn it - as you have no need to use it".

So what shall I recommend to you with your level 25?

  • Learn those words you actually can make use of
  • Which you can use in context in real life.
  • and try to SKIP those (harder) words which you simply can not hammer into your head, even after 25, 50, 100 tries without using it in a real way....

Q: How well do you do on Lingvist or BliuBliu?

Q: Can Lingvist be used with upper-intermediate/advanced++ skills or does it start from zero/beginner?

Saying the above, I have to admit, that I do exactly the controverse:

  • I do not have my own flashcards and software, which would allow skipping / parking words (I am not talking about Memrise "Ignore" function) or move a word to index card box 6 without any further reviews
  • I do not learn in context (DuoLingo is no real context, Memrise PT1-7 have some basic sentences, Mondly has some specific topics and sentences)
  • I do not use multiple example sentences per word
  • I just use Memrise, 50languages, DuoLingo, Mondly and pre-built courses for now

  • Focusing on Memrise on L2 target (PT) language RECALLS, I often even fail to remember the L1 PT translation on DuoLingo :-)

  • my only excuse is: I am not upper-intermediate/advanced in Portuguese, so I still have to learn much basic stuff :-)
  • www.languagecourse.net vocabulary trainer VT FAQ suggests to "simply learn" the basic vocabulary without context, single words, but to change the way afterwords (and they support theme topics)

Sometimes I know the words on DuoLingo or Memrise, sometimes I don't.
So it works for me after ~9 months like it does for you :-)

If you feel you have a need for some of those important words, which you can't remember/recall, you need IMHO to optimize the learning path (which I don't do at the moment).

Compare Memrise, 50languages, DuoLingo and Mondly to Digital Publishing software CD:

I tried French shortly and got overwhelmed by DP with all those dialogs and context.
It may work with 6-12++ month previous skills, which vocabulary I successfully built-up on the other portals.
Q: Have you had a look at FSI / DLI courses and scripts for classroom drilling?


Years ago when learning to read Latin I'd write out each word (of 15-20 per lesson) and its definition 3 times, not copying things out but being sure I could repeat (to myself or aloud) from short-term memory before writing, and saying the words and definitions aloud while writing. Then having done all that, I'd review the list and any word that wasn't remembered would be written out 3 times again, w/ its definition, of course. Later in the day, the next day, and a few times w/in the next week I'd review the list and again write out the words still not known. It was basically spaced repetition.

Nowadays, w/ Duo simply writing out the words or sentences (usually sentences) without definitions that give me trouble works well enough. For particularly troublesome words collecting several sentences that contain these words will help.

There's something about writing out longhand that aids memorizing,. Flashcards and electronic flashcards have never worked for me.


Maybe you learn better in a more passive way. Personally, I like to listen to short easy audios when I'm on the bus/train. Reading easy texts is also good. The more you do it, the better you will understand longer and more complicated texts.

Once you have a good passive vocabulary, you can activate the words with flashcards (it'll be more fun and with more success at this stage) or by doing free writing / speaking with people.


Do you mean actual, physical flashcards? Like 3 by 5 index cards (or something similar)?

I use Anki (https://apps.ankiweb.net/), a digital flashcard app/program, in conjunction with what I do on duolingo, and I find the two combined make for much more efficient language learning.

re: learning words in general, I usually use the English sound of a word in some silly way to remember the word, if I'm having trouble. The sillier the better!


Both, I usually make a flashcard set on quizlet.com and print the words & glue them to index cards. I study the words both on the site/app & study the physical cards.


Ah, okay. Sounds like you've got a pretty good set up already. I would just do my best to find a (preferably silly/crude) way of remembering things, if you're having trouble!


It's different for everyone. I had the same problem. Try writing the words and saying it out loud several times. Your brain can store the memory better with hand actions and auditory learning.


Try to associate each word with a picture or story. The more ridiculous you can make it, the better for memorizing. If you do this once for each word, at first it will take longer than studying with flashcards, but you usually end up remembering the word more easily, so less practice is needed. For example, to remember the Chinese character for 'friend', I pictured a dirty sheep on a road (because that is what the character components look like). Of course that is not the correct etymology of the character, but I have learned and forgotten lots of characters, but I have never forgotten that one. Another example is the dutch word for 'hill' - 'de heuvel'. I thought of a hovel on a hill, and have remembered that word better than those words that I am just trying to memorize through repetition.


draw really dumb pictures alongside the words. for example, sister is souer, so draw a picture of a sister in a sewer.


It sounds like learn the words in context and use mnemonics are popular advice. I've heard that before too about learning the words in context being a way to make them stick but I'm not sure how to go about that. I know that's the learning method at lingq but I don't know if I could input specific words I want to learn to find stories with the words in them. Sometimes I try to find songs with a word I'm trying to learn in it but that can be harder with some words than others. I like Heike333145's idea of using the sentence you found the word or a funny saying. Maybe I should make some flashcards translating whole sentences instead of single words. I'm also thinking of making some audio flashcards.

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