A giant squid has the largest eye of any creature on the planet – each of the eyes of an adult squid is the size of a basketball! It needs the plate-sized pupil to gather all the light possible in the deep, dark depths of the ocean where these squid live. Like most other animals, squid depend on their eyes to learn about their environment, and to identify and remember information about objects, locations, and other creatures. Although humans don’t normally have to fight off whales or keep track of where fruit trees are blossoming in order to survive, we still need to learn and remember information, and we still generally depend on our eyes to help us do that. In fact, we’ve used our eyes as learning tools for thousands of years, and this long history has made visual-based learning strategies very effective for most people. You can use these strategies for vocabulary improvement by incorporating images and illustrations in your study program, and by using “maps” to create connections between different words.
Images and Illustrations
Some words are easy to illustrate, and you’ll probably quickly find an image on line for almost any noun. If you’ve got the words pendulum and amoeba and labyrinth on your vocabulary list, you’ll probably find the words easier to remember if you call up an illustration or image of the word, and study it while you’re studying the word’s definition, pronunciation, and spelling. The Vocab1 system allows you to add images to your words, but you can do the same thing yourself by copying and pasting images into a document, or even printing them out and gluing them onto your flash cards.
Verbs, adjectives, and adverbs can be more difficult to illustrate, because there’s often no one image for words like confuse or sparkling or quickly. As long as there’s an image that brings the word to mind, it will work, so don’t worry if the picture you choose to match with a word doesn’t make sense to anyone else. It’s important to find things that have meaning for you, and that help you make those mental connections that link the visual center of your brain with the language center, and create a long-term memory of the word so that you make it part of your permanent vocabulary.
Mapping and Linking
Speaking of connections, another important visual tool is learning to “map” the way words are connected. This will help you remember words in clusters, and will also help you learn groups of words all at once, rather than one at a time. For example, if you have the word arbitrary as your word of the day to learn, you can easily add the words random, erratic, capricious, irrational, and inconsistent because they are all synonyms for strategy. You might draw this out by putting the word “arbitrary” in the middle of the page, and writing out all the other words to the right of it, using red ink to draw lines between each synonym and the base word. Then you can use another color to draw lines between the main word and its antonyms, like consistent, logical, dependable, and unchanging. Add more lines in a different color for derived words like arbitrarily. You can make as many connections as you need and want so that you have a good understanding of the word and all its meanings.
How do you use visual aids in vocabulary improvement?