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This Simple Trick Can Turbo-Charge Your Memory

*Prefer to listen? I cover this subject in episode 2 of the Vocabbett Podcast!*


Well, hello there!

You've probably stumbled upon Vocabbett thanks to a benevolent friend or teacher, and I'm thrilled you're here.

For anyone who's new, I'd like to take a minute to share what's so unique about my approach to vocabulary acquisition.

Basically, it boils down to this:

1) Storytelling is a uniquely effective and relatively painless memorization tool.

Did you know that there are elite memory athletes? People who can memorize a shuffled deck of cards in less time than — I kid you not — it would take me just to look at them?

How do they do it? Almost universally, they say they make up a story to remember the cards.

I do something similar in my vocabulary workshops. I project five cards on the board and ask the students to remember them. Then I have them say the "A,B,C's," count to ten, spin in a circle, and by that point, almost no one can remember the cards!

After that? We do it again, but this time I tell a silly story associated with the cards. "The king of diamonds was the richest man in all the land, but he could never make peace with his greatest enemy, the queen of spades..." That sort of thing!

After that, I have the students do the same "shake it out" dance — basically, knocking any short-term memory tricks (like obsessively repeating the numbers) out of their minds. Then I ask them what the cards were.

Almost every hand in the room shoots up. When I ask if they could still remember the cards by the end of the day, they say it would be easy!

Moral of the story? Stories are an extremely effective memorization tool...and they're entertaining, too!

Selfie-ing before a recent vocabulary workshop!

2) Most people need to see a new word eight times in order to remember it.

You can get those eight impressions through flashcards, Membean, OR incidental encounters (ideally in story form!).

In my opinion, your brain is predisposed towards incidental encounters. After all considering the average person knows 20,000-40,000 words those incidental encounters are probably how you learned the majority of your native tongue!

It's the same reason immersion is the fastest way to learn a new language. Your brain likes to live new words, giving them context and a story.

Part of my obsession with making vocabulary acquisition easier comes from my international background. I studied abroad in Costa Rica, Mexico, Italy, Egypt, and Israel, and therefore have a lot of experience in what works — and what doesn't! — when it comes to language acquisition!

3) Combining storytelling with the intentional repetition of new words is an extremely effective way to improve your vocabulary.

I believe your vocabulary could continue to expand, incidentally and with little conscious effort on your part, if the words you incidentally encountered continued to grow with you.

Babies and children learn thousands of words in their early years, yet I've never seen flashcards in a crib or nursery. Kids simply pick up the

language they're hearing because it's a fundamental human urge.

But the vocabulary we encounter in the day-to-day tends to stagnate by 9th grade, so we're forced to result to alternative learning methods like flashcards or computer games to rectify the problem.

As such, we largely abandon the neural pathways our brain has already developed. Is it any wonder that these new methods are for many less effective and less pleasant?

Now, I want to make it clear that I have nothing against flashcards or computer games. In fact, I'm very grateful for them! They've stepped in and filled a crucial gap in the system, like doctors when we get sick!

However, I'm also a big believer in prevention.

4) The earlier you start, the easier it will be (within reason!).

As I mentioned above, our vocabulary continues to passively expand until we reach about 9th grade. At that point, most of the books we read, the TV we watch, and the people we talk to all start to use — more or less — the same words.

As such, this is when we really get serious about other learning tools. Thousand-page study guides are bandied about. Tutors step in. SAT prep becomes all kinds of arduous.

However, if around that same time — say, 9th grade — you intentionally started supplementing your linguistic diet with vocabulary-rich food? Er...stories?

Well then, my friends, you could save yourself a big old headache down the road. You'd be that far ahead of the game when everyone else is banging their head against flashcards in an attempt to remember what "impecunious" means.

How I Can Help:

At Vocabbett, I have a wealth of entertaining and vocabulary-rich content that embodies everything I mentioned above — repeated, incidental encounters with new words, all seamlessly blended into stories so entertaining, you'd want to read them anyway!

The Book

If you haven't already checked it out, I recommend starting with Ahead of Her Time, my young adult novel that takes place in Egypt. It's SO much fun, and if you're worried about all the vocabulary words in it, there are definitions at the bottom of each page and a glossary at the back — this way, you can enjoy it even before you've hit all eight of your impressions!

The Masterclass

When you're ready to take it to the next level, I highly suggest enrolling in The Vocabbett Masterclass. I've steeply discounted it for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis (down to $187 from $499), and it gives you a story-based roadmap to mastering more than 500 high-frequency SAT words! (Plus, daily access to me through virtual "office hours"!)

The Game

I also have a hilarious card game that helps students master more than 100 high-frequency SAT words by making up their own stories (and it comes with the Masterclass, by the way!)

You can learn more about it here!

The Rest

Check out The Vocabulary Shop for more fun, story-based learning tools! : )

I'm adding more content all the time, so be sure to subscribe below ("Join the Club!" at the bottom of the page) so you don't miss a thing!

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