Familiarization Of Words

THE principle of familiarization is especially useful in learning the words of a foreign language. In this connexion let me enunciate again two important points. Do not try to put an unfamiliar thing into the mind, and do not try to do two things at once, namely, to remember an unfamiliar word and also its meaning. To learn foreign words always reduce them to familiar sounds; then associate them with their meanings.

First take the foreign word which you have to learn, and repeat it to yourself without thinking of any meaning until you are able to find its resemblance to some other word that is quite familiar to you.

Suppose I have to learn the French word "maison." As I turn it over in my mind there comes up the similar English word "mason." I am told that the word "maison" means house. Well, a mason builds a house. I have just asked my wife to give me another French word at random. Her reply is "livre," which means a book. Pondering for a moment on the sound "livre" I find that the English word "leaf" comes up in my mind, and I think, "A book is composed of leaves."

Very often when we are learning a foreign language there are many words which are similar to words having the same meaning in our own language. So, first of all, if you are free to choose your words, look over your vocabulary, and learn all the words that clearly resemble English words, such as, for example, in German—

Wunder (wonder), Vater (father), Nord (north), Sohn (son), Schuh (shoe), Ebbe (ebb), Ende (end), Ochs (ox), Dank (thank), Eis (ice), Wasser (water), Donner (thunder),

Ohr (ear), Krone (crown), Dorn (thorn), Schulter (shoulder), Seele (soul), Kuh (cow), Strom (stream), Garten (garden), and hundreds of others.

If, however, the student is compelled to follow a course of study in the order of a prescribed textbook, he will have to take the words as they come, and will at once find many which do not appear to resemble English words. He takes the first word, Saal, room, and repeats: "Saal, room, Saal, room ..." until his head buzzes; then he goes on to "Schutz, protection, Schutz, protection, Schutz, protection . . ." until his brain throbs; and then "Schön, beautiful, Schön, beautiful, Schön, beautiful . . ." until his mind whirls; and then "Trennung, separation, Trennung, separation, Trennung, separation ..." until he nearly drops from his seat, and yawns and rubs his eyes and wishes—oh, how longingly—that it was time to go out and play cricket; and he looks up at the clock and sees there is still twenty minutes to playtime—oh, endless and unrelenting time—and then he tries to fix his burning eyes upon his book again, once more to grind out " Fürchterlich, terrible, Fürchterlich, terrible, Fürchterlich, terrible . . .", once more to swoon, once more to look at the clock—oh, mercy, nineteen minutes more!

Do not grind like that, dear boys! Take the word Saal ; look at it; shut your eyes; repeat it audibly and visually three times without thinking of the meaning. You have already noticed that it means a room, but do not dwell on that. Dwell on the mere sound of Saal, and look out for familiar words that sound something like it. You may think of sale, salt, and saloon—ah, that is the best word, Saal is like saloon, which is a kind of room. Then repeat Saal three times while thinking of the room. Do not think merely of the word room, but think of a room known to you. Then take Schutz, meaning protection; repeat it three times, thinking only of the sound. Think of some words that sound like Schutz, say shut or shoot. Do you not protect a thing by shutting it up ? Do not the soldiers, who shoot, protect us ? Once more repeat the word three times, thinking of the idea.

Schön is like shining—beautiful; and for Trennung you might think of a trench or chasm which separates, separation ; and for Fürchterlich, fear-like. Always repeat three times, and always think of the connexion, such as: the soldier, who shoots, protects us from aggression.

Now I will give a few words from the Spanish—

Mesa, a table—mess; libro, a book—library; ventana, a window—ventilation; verde, green—verdure; tiene, he has —tenant; levantar, to raise—lever; escribir, to write—scribe, and so on.

As another example, a few words from the Russian—

Koleso, a wheel—kaleidoscope; komar, a mosquito—no comrade; derevo, a tree—a country drive among trees; bratstvo, brotherhood—fraternity; palatko, a tent—not a palace; skala, a rock—scale it; osel, a donkey—O slow one; reka, a river—yes, if rocky and rapid it may be a wrecker; lozhka, a spoon—food lodges in it, temporarily; molot, a hammer—moulds hot iron to shape; nasos, a pump—noses are air pumps; and so on.

The words that must be learned are not always quite so easy as these, but if you practise this like a puzzle-game for some time, you will be able to find something for every word. Preferably take the accented syllable of the word that you art going to make. Let us take some difficult words from Sanskrit, as an illustration. They are difficult because they are very unfamiliar, and because they sound somewhat different from English words.

Kama which means passionate desire, sounds like "calm," and you might think in the form of a contrast, "When a man gives way to passionate desire he is not calm." Karma, which means work, sounds somewhat like " cream." Cream is made into butter by constant motion—or work. Sharira, which means body, sounds like " sharing ": we can share with others in bodily work and the produce thereof. Or again, it sounds like "shear": wool is sheared from the body of the sheep- Manas means mind—man has a mind. Prana means vitality; you may think of a high-spirited horse, prancing along, full of vitality. Surya means the sun; it sounds something like "sower." The sun stirs up the life of all the seeds that are sown in the ground.

But really, these are too easy; let us try something more difficult. Indriya, which means sense-organ, sounds like india-rubber, which has no sense! Jagat, the universe. The universe is jogging along all right. Raja, a king. A king is nearly always rich. Bhakti, devotion. The devotee bends his back when worshipping. Saundarya, beautiful and graceful. A sound and healthy body is beautiful and graceful. Naga, a snake. Always catch a snake by the neck. Kshira, milk. The wool that is sheared from sheep is as white as milk. Kshattriya, a warrior. A warrior shatters his enemies.

Expressing the connexions in briefer form we may use our four roads of thought. It is an additional aid to memory to discover and name the roads when associating two ideas— not that the roads are to be remembered, but the two things are automatically held in close proximity while you are trying to identify the road. Thus—

Harmya, a palace—harm, (Road I), luxury, (Road II), palace. Pada, a foot—pedal, (Road IV), foot. Kama, an ear —cornea, (Road II), eye, (Road I), ear. Grama, a village— gram, (Road IV), agriculture, (Road II or IV), village. Kama, passion—calm, (Road I, contrast implying similarity), excitement, (Road I), passion. Pushpa,flower—bush, (Road II), flower. Madhu, sweet—mad, (Road IV), intoxicated bear, (Road IV), honey, (Road III), sweet.

I have looked through my Sanskrit dictionary for half an hour, and have failed to find one word that could not soon be resolved in this way. We might take the most difficult words from Latin or Greek, or, I think, any European language, and we should find them much easier than the Sanskrit.

You will discover that by this method you can happily and easily remember quite a large number of foreign words in the course of an hour, and your memory will not be burdened afterwards by all the fancies in which you have indulged; yet you will remember the words better than if you had learned them by rote. As a matter of fact, you really get to know the words as usable things when you read a number of books in the language or practise conversation in it. The real difficulty which you will have to encounter at the beginning is that of introducing the unfamiliar words to your mind.

To show how even the most difficult words can be dealt with, we may form uncouth words, such as the following, at random. Let labagart be synonymous with tametac, emattle with revilog, ebpetag with thodge, nadard with smecia. We might associate them thus: Labagart—lovely cart—market—fruit—tomato—tametac; emattle—metal— rifle—revilog; ebpetag—potato—cottager—cottage—thatch — thodge; nadard — adder — field — labourer — smock — smecia.

If for the sake of exercise, or for amusement, you wish to remember a long, uncouth word, such as hturtnahtrehgih-noigileronsiereht, you can easily do so by forming a series of words such as the following: hat; upper; ten; ah; tower; eh, gari (cart); hen; obi (magic); gai (cow); love; rao (king); ness (nose); isle; rope; height. It will be noticed that each word of ours represents two letter:, of the long uncouth word —the first and last letters only being taken into account, Thus one can do a thing that most people would think well-nigh impossible for an ordinary brain; though, like many things generally regarded as more dignified and respectable, it has no particular value beyond the exercise that it provides.

In some languages we have the additional trouble of genders in the nouns. There are several ways to assist the memory of these. The student may keep lists of masculine nouns in red ink, feminine in green, and neuter in black.

Dr. Pick, a famous mnemotechnist who wrote about seventy years ago, recommended the student to learn the exceptions. For this, however, one must have a teacher or expert who will be accommodating enough to make a list. When teaching the French language Dr. Pick wrote that except for the following words all nouns having these endings are masculine.

Amitié (friendship), moitié (half), pitié (pity), foret (forest), paix (peace), fourmi (ant), merci (mercy), brebis (sheep), souris (mouse), vis (screw), perdrix (partridge), eau (water), peau (skin), chaux (chalk), faux (scythe), glu (glue), tribu (tribe), vertu (virtue), toux (cough), syllaôe (syllable), clef (key), nef(nave), sof(thirst), cage (cage), image (image), nage (swimming), page (page—of paper, not a page-boy), plage (plain), rage (rabies or violent passion), tige (stem), voltige (leap), part (part), mort (death), foi (faith), loi (law), paroi (partition-wall), dent (tooth), jument (mare), gent (race), faim (hunger), main (hand), fin (end).

I have given this list only as an illustration. Similar lists may be formed in other languages. If, however, you have no such list, and no expert available to make one for you, the following method will help. The genders of many words will impress themselves upon your mind without special attention, as in the case of a child who is naturally picking up the language, but there will be a residue which may give you trouble. The items in this residue may be associated with qualities or objects familiarly regarded as masculine, feminine or neuter.

Thus, in Sanskrit, padma, a lotus, is neuter; ghata, a jar.

is masculine; mukti, liberation, is feminine. We may then, perhaps, think that the lotus is both bold in pushing its way up through the mud and water to the air, and gentle in resting its soft leaves upon the surface of the water; so it may be considered neither one nor the other—hence neuter. As to pot—where do you find pot-bellies but in men?—a masculine shape, surely. To avoid earthliness and to seek retirement are feminine virtues, so mukti may be remembered as a word of feminine gender.

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