3 Strategies for Retaining Vocabulary when using Vocabulary Flashcards

After using the Brainscape app for almost two weeks, I realized something interesting about using flashcards to practice vocabulary. Let’s say I practiced 10 new vocabulary flashcards on Monday. On Monday, I’d remember all the words for the entire day! But when Tuesday came around, I could only remember maybe 1 or 2 words out of the original 10.

And this terrible routine would happen over and over again. Simply reviewing vocabulary flashcards was not enough to remember new words. Why? Because there was no context. 

How can you add context to the words you’re learning? Here are several strategies:

1.) Use visual cues. When practicing words, create a visual representation of that word in your mind. Sometimes I’ll add images to my vocabulary words sheet to help me remember the word better. For example, when I learned the word bouger which is means “to move,” I thought of boulanger or “baker.” Since the words sounded similar, I would imagine a baker moving around in his bakery.

For example:
Le boulanger arrête de bouger.
The baker stops moving.


2) Make associations between words that sound similar to each other (ex: cognates). Words that sound like each other, or cognates, are your best friend! Cognates are especially useful because they work across different languages. For example, blue in French is bleue. Also, green in Spanish is verde and green in French is vert. Green is even berde in Tagalog!


3.) Make associations between words that relate to each other. When I learned the phrase “to descend the stairs,” I also learned the phrase “to go up the stairs” since they related to each other. Now when I think of someone descending the stairs or descendre les escaliers, I similarly think of someone going up the stairs or monter les escaliers.


It’s not enough to simply memorize a word. It takes extra effort to add context to the words you learn, but the payoff is worth it!


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