Memory is the ability we all have - to a greater or lesser degree - to store, retain and recall information.
It obviously plays a key role in the learning process and teachers should take it into consideration when planning lessons and activities for their students, and make optimum use of learning strategies such as mindmaps, for visual stimulus; chants, for auditory stimulus; and role plays and simulations for "hands-on" stimulus.
Recent research in psychology and the neurosciences has helped the experts in these fields understand many things that are applicable to the language learning process.
Among the different memories studied are declarative memory, episodic memory, semantic memory and autobiographical memory.
What we know about memory
- The brain retains more at the beginning and at the end of a task or activity than in the middle.
- It is difficult for the brain to retain something it doesn't understand or something that is unfamiliar.
- The brain retains words better when they are connected and in context.
- The brain retains images, i.e. colours and objects, especially when they produce a clear picture in our mind.
- The more often we see or do something, the more likely we are to remember it.
- Mood and emotions, such as humour, have a strong influence on what we remember.
- Method 1: A systematic technique for "learning" a word is to revise it six times after coming across it for the first time. Once a vocabulary item has been written down in a student's notebook, a series of boxes can be drawn on the same line and ticked off corresponding to the following intervals: no more than 1 hour later; 24 hours; 3 days; 1 week; 2 weeks; 1 month.
- Method 2: Another technique, less systematic than the above, is to put a dot next to each word in the notebook/dictionary each time you have to look it up. When the same word has accumulated three dots, it's probably a word that is sufficiently important to warrant spending time to learn it once and for all...
- Acheson DJ, MacDonald MC. "Verbal working memory and language production: Common approaches to the serial ordering of verbal information." in Psychological Bulletin, Vol 135(1), Jan 2009, 50-68.