Do you consider your emotions a friend or foe? We typically think of emotions as something that gets in the way. Emotions could hold us back, embarrass us or make us look stupid in front of a friend.
But are emotions entirely bad and could we use them to help us instead of hinder us?
One of the obvious challenges of learning language is the sheer volume of information that you have to commit to memory. You have to learn grammar rules, verb conjugations and a large quantity of new words if you are to be successful.
You may, at times, find it frustrating as you commit a new word to memory and find an old one pops out in its place. Or worse you learn one new word and its gone 5 minutes later.
It maybe helpful to know that your memory isn’t static can be improved overtime. Simply starting to learn a new language will improve your memory as you stress and challenge your brain to a new set of stimuli. But, you can help accelerate the process with a number of different techniques.
One technique for improving your memory is linking new information to something that already exists in your mind.
A common practice is linking a new word to something that the word reminds you of, for example, ‘gracias’ is sometimes remembered by thinking of a ‘grassy arse’.
The imagery of the ‘grassy arse’ is something that you may have seen before which links the new information easily to the old and will allow quicker recall in the future.
Linking New Information With Emotion
Have you ever had a time in your life where you were felt extreme emotion? It doesn’t necessarily have to be negative emotion; it could have been a time when you were extremely happy.
Once you have something in mind, think about how vivid the memory of the event is in your mind.
Now stop and try to think about what you were doing last Thursday. Can you remember?
What you may find here is the strength of the memory is almost matched by the emotion that occurred at time.
When you feel minimal emotion (last Thursday’s events) the memory tends to fade quickly. But when you feel a high level of emotion during an event the memory of that event will stay with you for a long time whether you like it or not.
How To Strategically Leverage Emotion
Given that we tie stronger memories to events or information that carry emotion, the question becomes how can you apply emotion to what you have to memorise for your language learning challenge?
In a previous post I talked about going out and experiencing the language in a place other than behind a desk because that will bring with it a sense of context and add emotion as you experience the language in the real world.
But there is a way you can manufacture this in your training at home.
One of the easiest ways to combine emotion and study is through music.
Spanish music is a fantastic source of both emotion and vocabulary useful for practicing your Spanish. The best bit is if the song makes you feel something you are more likely to remember the words or ‘letras’ (for song lyrics)
Take the following song as an example:
This eerie melody comes with fantastic imagery and a strong story. The music is moving and something that is easy to tie with a strong emotional response.
I listened to this song for the first time a few years ago. But I still remember the lyrics easily.
For me, the opening line sets the mood and is impossible to forget
En estos días oscuros, se me ha olvidado quien soy yo
As an aside, this song is actually how I remember that ‘día’ is a masculine noun (estOs días oscurOs).
Another song that I find it difficult to get the lyrics to is Shakira’s Rabiosa:
For this song it’s tough to forget the imagery of Shakira asking: ‘muerdeme la boca’ (bite me in the mouth) ouch!
But again this song is filled with a strong beat and a lot of emotion which again makes the lyrics and vocabulary stick in your mind.
If you want to build your vocabulary faster look for strong emotional songs.
Go out and find a song / band / album that you like, do a google search using the song name and ‘letras’ to find the lyrics, you should be able to find almost any Spanish song pretty quickly.
Work out the translation, look for any words that you don’t already know and then listen to the song a few times and then sing along to your hearts content.
Here’s the thing it doesn’t matter where you learn a word, if the context helps you retain the information, it’s a good technique.
The last song that I was recently introduced to is Vetusta – Valiente:
The great thing about Spanish music is that it is generally makes it fantastic for this style of learning. It should make the vocabulary building not only more enjoyable but more effective.
Now the last thing I wanted to mention is I know that not everybody likes popular music so an alternative is to find emotional poetry or stories.
I recently came across this poem:
The poem was written by Pablo Neruda, a Chilean poet, and is part of a greater work of 20 love poems. This poem, number 20, is about an ‘amada pérdida’ (a lost love). Again the poem uses a lot of emotion and is perfect for helping you tie some emotion in to your Spanish training practice.
Hopefully this post has given you some inspiration to go and find some new sources of Spanish vocabulary training and given you an extra tool to help you commit the new vocab to memory.
How could you use emotion to help improve your memory?