137 Banner Memory

Improve Your Memory

I respond to a listener question on how to improve memory and retain vocabulary. I share some tips on having a better memory, especially for English learning, as well as my current method of learning Japanese.

Go back and listen to Episode 132 about learning vocabulary if you need some more help on this topic.

Some Tips

Spaced Repetition

Spaced Repetition is the idea (proven by science) in which you learn better when words are repeated at specific intervals. Software like Anki helps this occur automatically really well. Olly Richards also spoke about natural spaced repetition in reading in Episode 105.


Get Musical

The brain seems to retain things more easily when associated with music and rhythm. How can you make your words more musical?

Go to Bed

A good night’s sleep is vital for memory retention. Sleeping allows things you learn in the day to move into your long-term memory and you won’t forget when you wake up.


We’re All Different

I could easily give tips here on things you should do, but I think it’s important to keep in mind that we’re all different and learn in different ways. Rather than blindly following the advice of others, find a way that works for you.

The Best Way to Remember New Words

In my experience, the best way to remember new words can be broken down into two tips.

Use in conversation and make mistakes with them.

If I use a new word in a conversation, I think it becomes easier to remember because I associate a lot of emotions and other things with that word. I remember the feeling I had when I used the word, I remember the mood of the person I was talking to and all that kind of stuff.

Making mistakes words in a similar way. Last week I wanted to say “13 months ago” in Japanese, but I ended up using the wrong word and made up a new month after December. My language partner laughed at me and I felt a little stupid. Because of that feeling of stupidity, I likely will remember how to say it for a long time now!


  • Knackered (10:43) – Very tired, exhausted (British slang)
  • To practice what you preach (11:37) – To do the things you say to others (follow your own advice)
  • To retain (14:02) – To keep, to not lose (eg. information in your head)
  • Conducive (20:57) – To make a certain outcome likely or possible

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2 thoughts on “#137 How to Improve Your Memory”

  1. Hi Michael! Thanks so much for this episode. Nice to listen to. You said: “but just the fact that I’m using them in the conversation makes them so much easier to remember.”
    What if there is a more appropriate word to use? Then you have to relearn. What do you think?

    1. Hi Jorgen, thanks for listening, as always. It’s a good question. I suppose if you’re talking to a teacher or native speaker, they will let you know if it’s an appropriate word or not and then you can realise before you cement that word too much into your memory.
      But otherwise, I suppose you have to relearn. I’ve had that experience before when I’ve spent a long time trying to get a word to stick, and then I discover it’s not that natural, so I have to learn a new word. I never feel bad about it though because I always enjoy learning more obscure vocabulary too. Maybe I’ll be able to use it one day!

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