“The discipline of writing something down is the first step toward making it happen.”
– Lee Lacocca
Pocket Palabras essentially refers to 2 items that I carry with me wherever I go. The first being a little notebook I carry in my back pocket, a practice that has become daily routine for the past 3 years now. And along with that notebook I carry a Bic soft feel medium pen, preferably made in mexico, with either blue or black ink — writes smooth as hielo.
These two items have become such a necessary part of my daily life that they have incorporated themselves into what I like to call my “P-C-Double-P,” a little reminder I say to myself before I leave the house, or leave from wherever as I don’t really have a house nowadays, to make sure I remember all of my necessary goods for the grind.
That’s right, the P-C-Double-P:
Plata (money) — Celular (cell phone) — Pluma (my pen (literally “feather”)) — Palabras (“Words” referring to my notebook)
With these two items, I hunt and capture words, unfamiliar spanish words that I hear and read in my daily encounters with the universe.
I have found, especially regarding spoken Spanish, that if I don’t write down a new and unfamiliar word almost immediately upon hearing it, it will be lost into the ether, gone, slipped far away from my working mental dictionary.
So I combat this problem, this lack of short-term memory I possess, with my trusty Bic and little blue notebook (I prefer the “moleskine volant series,” as they can take a little more abuse, however any will do).
Once I have the new word, if I haven’t figured out the definition right then and there from the context, I’ll either ask a native speaker or look it up later once I have access to a computer using wordreference.com.
If you don’t know about wordreference.com, all I can say is this, to play on a line from the movie “The Crow:”
“Word reference.com is the name for god on the lips and hearts of every language learner.”
I then will either review my notebook that same day I’ve collected the word(s) before I go to bed, 15 minutes or so of study every night, or I’ll add them to an ever-growing Anki deck, a virtual flash-card application for your computer and iphone/ipod that works wonders at helping you remember things.
For a vast list of more resources such as anki and others, may may I refer you here
Even better though, would be to journal at the end of that day — in spanish — incorporating those words into your writing. This will no doubt help you connect those words to the context of your everyday life, making them much, I say, much easier to remember.
You could also start a free account at Lang-8.com or italki.com, two websites where you can not only find language partners with whom you can practice speaking, but you can also create online language diaries and blogs that can be read and corrected by native speakers.
Now, you may be saying to yourself, I don’t hear a lot of new spanish words in my everyday life, where am I going to find these new words to write down in my notebook?
Puuuuueeees, I have a solution, at least another way I like to find new words while also reading interesting articles.
Every morning, I try to start my day off with, first, a huge mug of hot, sweet, delicious, colombian coffee and 2 articles from different spanish-language publications. As of late my favorites have been the Discovery en español blogs, National Geographic en español, as well as the BBC spanish language counterpart, BBCmundo.com.
Now try this out:
1.) Open up a tab on your browser with one of these publications.
2.) Open up another tab with wordreference.com (or you could regenerate the article page using lingro.com, an amazing online dictionary that makes it so you can click on any word in an article or webpage and get an instant definition. Furthermore, you can save those words for futre review. I highly recommend this site).
3.) Bust out either your pen and notebook or open up your anki deck. Another good flashcard program/website is called memrise, check it out here)
4.) Now get your read on taking note of every word you are unfamiliar with!
5.) And any new word you see, just add it to your little notebook or anki deck or memrise deck, etc. You also might want to write down the sentence in which the word appears so you have a little context.)
6.) Give your new words a glance when you have a minute in the day or before you go to bed and I guarentee your range of expression is going to expand just like your mind.
How you do go about learning new vocabulary and expressions? Do you use a notebook? In your experience, what do you think is the best way to learn and remember new vocabulary?