What’s the best way of learning reams of words in another language? I’m not yet really at the stage where I can figure out the meaning of words from context, although I can hear them and repeat them back understandably.
Right now, I’m just trying to learn batches of word pairs. The first incarnation of this, in Japanese, involved taking an entire list of new vocab from a fairy tale I was reading and trying to learn the whole lot in one go (we’re talking almost 100 assorted words here). This was a failure.
It’s been shown that humans can remember 7 plus or minus 2 bits of information at any given time, and it wasn’t until I started learning words in batches of seven that the technique became easy. Interestingly, this rote learning is something I’m getting faster at with time, which is odd – I’m sure I read somewhere that memory couldn’t be trained. Perhaps it’s just that I’m getting more and more familiar with Cantonese words in general (I think there are only 700 or so possible sounds; the number actually seems smaller than that).
I go from reading the Chinese characters to recalling the English meaning from the romanization to recalling the Chinese word from the English – the words are usually quite well cemented in my mind from then on. I only wish there was a more entertaining way of doing so (as with scales and studies) – I guess it’s just one of those boring-but-necessary things.
P.S. I’m not planning on doing it this way for long, and I do learn a lot of vocabulary from TV/radio too (but only by asking a native speaker). Figure rote learning is just a way of accelerating being able to understand the 20% of words that make up 80% of speech.