How To Memorize New Vocabulary – Utilizing the Substitution Technique
Memorizing vocabulary can sometimes be a tricky and slightly difficult proposition, and it seems everyone has different techniques that they use to assist them with this at times. One technique that works well is the substitution technique. This technique breaks up complex or difficult words into more easily memorable parts and substitutes the difficult parts with words or associations that trigger the definition.
Let’s start with a relatively easy example: claustrophobia – the fear of tight spaces. Let’s take parts of the word and associate them with other visual cues. Phobia is a generally known word meaning “fear of”, so we will then link that word with another. Imagine “claus” as part of “Santa Claus”. Now picture Santa Claus stuck in a cramped chimney. The image in one’s mind of Santa Claus stuck in a tight chimney will trigger the meaning of “claus” which in turn will help you remember the meaning of the word.
Upping the difficulty, let’s try belonephobia (the fear of sharp objects, especially needles and pins). Obviously, we already have the phobia bit down pat. Now for the “belone”, which is strikingly similar in sound to “balloon”. Understandably, a balloon would not want to be near pins and needles, so putting the two together paints a vivid mental picture to trigger and bring to mind the proper definition.
Let’s try another: opprobrium (which means scorn, contempt, or severe criticism). The word that emerges most clearly is “probe”, which in recent news most likely is associated with misconduct, wrongdoing, or corruption which inevitably leads to scorn, contempt, or severe criticism.
Try this technique with foreign languages as well, and you will be well on your way to overcoming any and all vocabulary obstacles.
Paul is the founder of Iris Reading, the largest provider of speed-reading and memory courses. His workshops have been taught to thousands of students and professionals worldwide at institutions that include: NASA, Google, HSBC and many Fortune 500 companies.