This might seem super obvious on paper, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to forget to carry around some kind of recording device for the new words you’ll discover in your target language.

I take a belt-and-braces approach with my word collection and carry a paper notebook and have the Anki app on my phone for creating electronic flashcards.

Why the two? Several reasons:

  1. Not everyone is good at spelling. In fact some people I come across can’t read and write. That doesn’t mean that I can’t learn new Arabic words from them, I just need to be cautious about creating a long-term record based on what they tell me. If I put the words straight into my phone, I’ll end up learning an incorrect spelling (and pronunciation) of the word.
  2. There are local variations of how you say everything in Arabic. Even simple things like what people call their parents can be different between towns. I like to record what I’m told while on visits and double check with another person, sometimes a teacher, sometimes a friend, who help me filter what I’m learning.
  3. Repetition. It’s actually really helpful to write the word down, as well as to type it. With Arabic, I’m learning a whole new alphabet, and writing right-to-left, which means that I can use all the practice I can get.

So I usually scribble down my best attempt at a spelling for the word, check it with someone else, add it to my electronic dictionary and regularly revisit my new words until they’re committed to memory.

(Image source: Kevin O’Mara)