Thinking up creative ways to break down new words into familiar, memorable sounds can be a challenge. Story-based methods have always helped me, creating lots of funny hooks to grapple with. That said, a couple of them this week have really stretched the limits of my imagination…
Here are a few recent off-the-wall ‘scenettes’ I’ve come up with. I’d ask you kindly not to laugh, but actually, that’s the whole point!
(I’ve just noticed they all begin with α, too – a complete coincidence, as they’re just words related to whatever I was chatting with my iTalki tutor about!)
αποταμιεύω – to save (money)
The story: I know a girl, Tammy. She hasn’t got much money. A poor Tammy, if you will. And that is why she has to save money! A-poor-Tammy + évo (a pretty common verb ending in Greek) = to save money.
αγκαλιάζω – to hug
Hugs are great, but they can be awkward. Sometimes, I’ll go in for a bearhug and we’ll meet at a really strange angle. Angle + ázo (another common ending!) = to hug.
αηδιάζω – to disgust
I’m actually very good friends with Cameron Diaz (honest – not). But once, she did this really horrible thing. Seriously, I was disgusted. I just screamed AYYYY Diaz, OH! so my feelings were pretty clear. Ay-Diaz-oh = to disgust.
Multi-language Word Play
All fun and games, for sure. And honestly, it can really help with vocab learning.
But if you study multiple languages, one concern might be that your stories get mixed up. When thinking of ‘to save money’ in French, for example (probably something like économiser), the a-poor-Tammy story looms large, and might threaten to blow you off course. In this case, just add an extra layer of storytelling: Tammy lives in Greece, of course. When picturing her, she’s looking forlornly across the bay, ruing her lack of dosh, from the caldera of Santorini.
In practical terms, imaginative techniques like these aren’t exactly a one-stop shop for fluency. The catch is that retrieval still isn’t instant, initially; you have to access those funny memories. What they are, though, is a first leg up to remembering a content word in the flow of conversation – a set of extra grabbers for your word-by-word lookup mental dictionary. It’s the actual use of those words in conversation that really starts to cement their foundations in long-term memory and begin to make them automatically available.
Note to my Greek teacher: when my attention wanders and I appear to be looking into space blankly, I’m thinking of Tammy. Don’t worry – I’ll be right back with you.