First, we can create connections by using mental pictures or images, for instance. The trick for constructing associations is to make these as concrete and tangible as possible. A striking image like a flower will always be easier to remember than random abstract information. Since when you're gradually building your new vocabulary for the new language you will inevitably translate and think those words out in your mother tongue, you can use such a mnemonic to make this translation easier to memorize. For example, if you've just learnt how to say "seaside" (rand) in Estonian, imagine a picture of the seaside and then switch back between the native and foreign language words of what you're seeing. The image, which is easier to remember than a word, will act as an intermediate between the two languages. All you need to do is make a picture for the word, a picture for the definition, then link them together.
The point is to create a linkage from existing information to the new information. The shortcut to memorizing new information is to use what you already know and then create a “memory-placeholder” so you can retrieve the new information when you need. Instead of trying to translate phrases in a new language word by word and make sense of it, try to link these phrases to your own language, where you would need and how you would say these in your own language. It would also help when you're trying to remember these associations by adding emotions (how it makes you feel). If you have to remember for example the phrase „Kui teil on küsimusi, siis andke teada“ you can link it at first to your own language („If you have any questions, then don’t hesitate to ask!“), then you can link the Estonian words by making fun of them and add some emotions and pictures, for example, the word „küsimusi“ (questions) has also anothe meaning „Küsi musi!“ which means „Ask kisses!“
The main principle is that no matter what kind of image you create for the association, it must be exaggerated or strange. In fact, the stranger and odder the image is and the stronger emotions are linked to it, the easier and longer you'll remember it.
Ülle Rannut, PhD
Integration Research Institute
Information about Estonia