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Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Why Can't I Remember That Word?

It happens often to language learners that there are some words that don't want to be remembered. It could be a simple word or a complicated one. For some reasons, we just can't remember them. Different people will have different group of words which fall into this category.

There are some similarities between a newly acquired language and the language you have already spoken. A science article Why your brain just can't remember that word gave some insights on tip-of-tongue experience, especially for people who are bilingual. And I believe it applies to language learners as well. From the article:
One possible explanation is that similar-sounding words compete for our brain's attention. Since bilinguals know twice as many words as monolinguals, there's more chance for tip-of-the-tongue experiences. Since bilinguals, by definition, speak two languages, they are bound to use many individual words less frequently than monolinguals.
The key issue is right there. If we use a word less frequently, we tend to have this experience. And it applies to language learning. When we use a newly learned word all the time, and even it is a rather complicated word, we will remember it. But for less frequently used words, they are easily forgotten.

To activate a second language is to use it as often as possible, even when you are talking to yourself.