Words get caught up in our memory much more easily when they have hooks to hang them on. Stories act as great hooks for these words.
I find this particularly true of stories that I know well in my mother tongue. Movies are great for this. Or if you know a lot of Bible stories or fairytales. Anything that won’t take effort to reconstruct the basic narrative.
Using stories like this means that we can focus on our target language and not on some complicated and unfamiliar narrative.
Once you’ve chosen your story, work through it in your head in your target language, identifying any words that you need to look up or learn.
Make a list of these words and find out what they are in the language you’re learning.
Then tell the story as best you can in your target language.
Write out the story in your target language. Read through it.
Then put away the text and tell it back to yourself without referring to your notes.
Then go back to your notes and re-read the story to see if there’s anything you missed out.
Once you’re confident that you’ve memorised your story, go and tell it to someone else. The pressure of an audience will help you to assess how well you really know the story.
(Image source: Celeste RC)