Sunday, March 16, 2008

Colour your words

Previously I wrote about word lists and that I believe they don't work. Don't worry, I still think they don't work, but I had some discussions the last few days about it with some people. They find sentences way too confusing to learn the most important words. Also, I've noticed something in my own learning method which should boost your learning progress aswell. But first I'll tell you how I used to create my sentences in Anki.

When I first began to use sentences I was worried about the fact that I wouldn't learn individual words. So instead of just adding sentences I'd first add the infinitive or noun and then the example sentence. Something like this:

La gasolina es más cara que el gasóleo

Petrol is more expensive than diesel

First I thought this was perfect. But I soon found out that adding the infinitive is just useless. I don't want to use Spanish like it's a programmed language. I don't like to think too much about grammar which causes me to be less fluent. I want to be able to get an intuition, just get the flow of the language and understand most of what I hear in a small amount of time. So I decided to get rid of the infinitive and make sentences like this:

La gasolina es más cara que el gasóleo

Petrol is more expensive than diesel

Ever since I've been using this format. And it works, it simply works. After a few months practicing my few hundred sentences like this I was able to have nice conversations and even pull off more complex presentations. But after a update of Anki, which enables people to add colours to their words and sentences, I've come up with the idea to colour the hard words to help them stick better. So instead of just making a word bold, you can simply add a colour to it, which (according to some studies) boosts the learning progress. And again, everything is much more clear right now, because of the extra attention to difficult words and parts. This is how my sentences look like right now:

La gasolina es más cara que el gasóleo

Petrol is more expensive than diesel

Of course this is just a simple example, most of my sentences are more complex than this. Besides, it's possible that I have only one coloured word in a sentence, or none. But the thing is that you need to analyze your sentences, read them aloud (if you're alone, of course), write them down (if that's possible, I don't do it normally), etc., etc. Giving colour to the words not only helps you with remembering them in the future, it also helps you with analyzing them because you can distinguish the coloured words easier and see their translations faster aswell.

So bring colour to your sentences and let your learning be more fruitful!


Bilingual Blogger said...

I think you've found an excellent way to help you learn Spanish and it is good advice to other people studying the language.

I think that writing in Spanish is an underutilized way of improving one's Spanish. Having a list of words and memorizing the conjugations and forms is all good and well but it's really not going to stick in your memory until you use the new words and use them a lot. That's where writing helps. Using the new words in sentences can help make those words come alive and seem more relevant and memorable.

Jeffrey Hayes said...

I definitely agree that writing is a great way to improve your language acquisition; however, you should also make a real strong effort to use new vocabulary in conversation as much as possible.

I think if you learn a new word, you should think of as many examples as possible in which to use it in a sentence or conversation. That will help you use the word or phrase in a whole lot of different situations.

Using different color schemes to match up parts of a sentence is definitely beneficial so that you can re-apply it accurately in the future.

Hasta luego!


Rmss said...

I use a thematic dictionary to get my sentences from. Since a few days I also use SpanishPod for sentences (each and every lesson has an expansion part with over 15 sentences).

Jeffrey Hayes said...

What is the name of the thematic dictionary that you have? I could definitely use something like that...

Rmss said...

Unless you speak Dutch fluently, I don't recommend using that book. If you do speak it fluently; ask me again.

A book I do recommend it Webster's New World 575+ Spanish Verbs (

It's not only a great reference work, but it also contains over 2500 example sentences so far I know. So getting it is certainly a good thing to do (and it's cheap aswell).

For themathic words; check out Spanish Pod. Each and every lesson has a vocabulary part with loads of example sentences under the expansion tab. VERY use to me!

Graham said...

Very interesting. Do you have a particular colour coding scheme? Is there a particular reason for using certain colours for the different parts of the sentences? Or is it just a matter of using the same colour for the corresponding parts of the sentence and its translation?

Rmss said...

I have a particular colour scheme, but just because I like the colours. Just be sure that the colour is corresponding with it's translation.

Why did I decide to do this? Some studies say that people who are extremely good at remembering words, often link them to colours (at least, their brain is doing that). So why wouldn't I do it, although I'm no vocab genius? It helps me, and makes my sentences clear to read and analyze.