How to Use Flash Cards to Memorize Vocabulary

If you want to speak another language, you have to memorize vocabulary. There is no way around it! The simplest, most effective way to learn vocabulary is to make your own flash cards. It’s easy. Just get a pack, or two, of 3 X 5 note cards and follow this procedure.

1. On one side of a card, write the vocabulary word you want to learn. On the other side, write the word in English. Do this for each vocabulary word you want to learn.

2. Now separate your cards into stacks by category, for example, “food,” “colors,” “numbers,” etc.

3. Pick up a stack of cards, and look at the top card, English side up. Read the word in English. Now flip the card over and read the word in the target language. Pause for a moment, look away and try to remember the word in English and then in the target language. Put the card at the bottom of the stack. Repeat for each card in the stack.

4. Shuffle the cards. Look at the top card, in English. Now try to recall the meaning in the target language. If you recall it correctly, put the card to the side. If you get the answer wrong, put the card at the bottom of the stack. Do this for each card.

5. Repeat step 4, using only the cards you did not recall correctly. As you do this, your “correct” stack will get bigger and bigger, until you have gotten each word correct.

6. Now all your cards are in the “correct” stack. Pick them up, shuffle them, and repeat the process until you can go through the whole stack without missing any.

7. Once you have memorized several categories, start mixing the stacks together. This will help you practice using the words outside of their categorical context.

IMPORTANT: With new vocabulary words, do not make stacks of more than 25-30 cards. It is not efficient to memorize too many words at once. Also, make sure you continue to shuffle the cards as you learn; otherwise, your mind will memorize the order of the words, and you will have difficulty recalling their meanings in a different context.

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