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  Category: Articles » Education & Reference » Language » Article

Foreign Language Memory Technique

By James Dunn

Learning a foreign language takes a lot of time and effort. Even so, most people spend countless hours memorizing vocabulary lists, when there is a better way. The Dunn memory technique is a faster, easier, and more enjoyable way to learn a foreign language.

In order to understand how the Dunn technique works, a little knowledge of memory is necessary. You have several levels of memory retention. Here are the levels of memory from worst to best.

1. You are able to relearn the material faster and more easily than new material.
2. You are able to recognize it in a group or list.
3. You are able to remember it if you are given a hint. (e.g. It starts with the letter H)
4. You can recall it without any help.

The Dunn technique makes two assumptions. One is that when you study new words, some of them will naturally fall into the deeper levels of memory than others. The other assumption is that it is more effective to have many words at a lower level of memory than to be able to perfectly recall a few words.

If you are able to recognize many words, even at a low memory level, then you are able to talk to native speakers, watch a foreign TV show, or listen to music in the language you are trying to learn. Since these activities are more enjoyable than staring at a vocabulary list for hours on end, you will probably do them more often. Every time you listen to that song or watch that movie you are actually practicing your vocabulary and moving your retention of those words to deeper levels.

Memorizing words this way is also more natural, and you will learn words in order of their importance. The importance of knowing a word is the frequency it is used in the language. Therefore the more important a word is, the more often you will hear it on TV and in music, the better you will remember it.

To learn a list of vocabulary words with the Dunn technique, you look at each word with its definition, and memorize it using whatever technique is most effective for you (e.g. form a mnemonic, picture it in your mind, repeat it a dozen times, etc). You need to memorize it well enough to have total recall for the entire list without looking at it. Once you can do that, forget about the list for a while. Review it every once and a while, but not too often. Don't worry about forgetting a word or two. It is easier to put more new words into the lower levels of memory, than to try to forcefully pound those difficult words into the higher levels of memory.

If you keep a list with you everywhere you go, and continually review list over and over again, you are training your brain to memorize words that way. Then every time you want to learn a new word, you'll have to go through that whole process again. It is better to memorize the word once, and let it fall back to the recognition level of memory, because then when you hear that word on a TV show or a song, your brain will realize that word was important, and it should memorize those words better.

It is also better for pronunciation to memorize a word from hearing native speakers say it than to memorize it from a list, since it's your own voice in your head, and you have an accent. Your brain also prioritizes words more highly if you hear them in a real situation. Then your brain realizes why you needed to know that word, instead of just being another word on the list.

By focusing on quantity instead of quality, you are able to better learn from real life situations, just like you learned your first language. You will be able to learn words better, and more enjoyably by talking to native speakers and watching foreign movies than from memorizing lists. The Dunn technique doesn't work for everyone. You have to know how good your own memory is, and adjust the method to fit your learning style. However, once you know how you memorize, you will be able to memorize words faster, more easily and more enjoyably with the Dunn memory technique.
About the Author
James Dunn is the owner and operator of Language School where you can learn a foreign language

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