Someone sent me a list of verbs that they were hoping to memorise. They wanted some tips and suggestions for different ways to approach the task. You can see part of the image above. Verb, translation and a sample sentence where the word is used in context.
Arabic verbs are unique in that they often share a similar / familiar rhythmic pattern (da-da-da), so it can sometimes feel like they're all the same.
I sent him the following suggestions and thought it might be useful for others so I'm reposting it here. For verbs, it helps to attack from multiple angles simultaneously.
- Make sure you understand the meanings
- Make sure you know how they sound. (Use Forvo or check with a native-speaker if there's any confusion)
- Go through and say them out loud. Take time with each word, saying it out loud a number of times. Get a sense of the physicality of the word
- (Ideally, add them in Anki, though that's more for long-term preservation rather than short-term passing a test etc)
- Look up each word on Reverso Context. The online dictionary will give you a translation and then a bunch of different examples of other sentences using that word or verb. Look to see how it's used. Study the examples and try to identify what is unique about the word - its meaning may not be exactly translatable into English/French.
- Look up each word on Tatoeba. Repeat the same steps as you did for Reverso Context in the previous suggestion.
- Go to Google News and type in the word in Arabic. Take a look at the examples that come up. Copy them out onto a piece of paper if you feel like the language is interesting.
- Try using them in a sentence out loud. First repeat the sample sentence given in the example. Make sure you understand how the word is used in the context of that example. Then make a sentence of your own that uses the word. Say it out loud. Make another sentence.
- Write two sentences for each of the words. Try not to go through the list in order. Either do every other word, or pick at random. Point is, don't get used to going through the list in order, since that'll only make you good at remembering the list rather than the words on their own. (BONUS: Post these sentences to Lang-8, get corrections and make Cloze Deletion cards on Anki so that you're not just learning from single word cards, but you're learning words in context.
- Do Back Translation with the sentences you've just had corrected on Lang-8. First translate them into English on a new sheet of paper / file on your computer. Then close the original Arabic sentences and see if you can translate the sentences back into Arabic from the new English sentences. This will really test your command of the vocabulary and phrasal structures you just learned. You can do this in writing or just orally.
- If you have problems with spelling, use Iverson's lists: Take a blank piece of paper - A4 is good (or whatever the US equivalent is) - and write a list of the words you have to learn today on the left side of the page. Try not to take up too much space. Maybe it's 20 words. Write them down on the left side of the page. Then take a ruler or draw a line alongside that list and to the right of the line, (perhaps in a different colour pen), write the translation of that word. Do that for all the words. If you don't know the word, then the memorisation image/association hasn't stuck, so you can look up the correct answer and make sure that your association sticks this time. Once you've completed this first test, take another piece of paper (or, better still, something thicker like a book so you can't cheat) and cover up the first column. Now you only have your answers to look at, and you should draw another line and then write the translations. (i.e. translating things back into the original language). Do all the translations for the list, then check whether you got them right. Then you should repeat this until the entire piece of paper (both sides) are covered with translations back and forth. If you write small-ish, you should be able to get a good 6 or 7 rounds of translations/testing in (if not more). Perhaps don't do all of these sessions at once. Do one side of the page in one go, and then leave other sessions for later in the day (for reasons I'll explain now). Once you've taken the time to make the sound association, write down the list of words that you're learning that day on the page as described in my blogpost. Do one round of translating them. Then during the day, every so often, do another round, translating the words back and forth etc.
There are other ways you can practice words, but this is probably enough to get started with. You don't have to do all of these steps, though if you get through them all I pretty much guarantee you'll be better off than doing none of them!