Getting to Know Individual Words: A Reflection

Singlanguages/ March 24, 2022/ Tamil, Vocabulary

In Tamil, there’s a lot of English words that are composed of several tamil words. For example, “News Stand” is “Seithiththaal Nirbanai Nilaiyam”. I was having difficulty learning “news stand” because it was very long and, besides “Seithiththaal”, which I knew to mean “news” already, the rest of the word was meaningless to me. I felt a form of “repulsion” when it came to learning this word.

Today, discussing vocabulary with my teacher, I learnt that “Nir” means selling, and “Nilaiyam” means “a place that is related to selling”, so a news stand is “a place where news is sold”. Suddenly, since I already knew “news” beforehand, I’ve learnt 3 words together: “selling”, “a place that is related to selling” and “news stand”.

The immediate effect is that the sounds are meaningful to me now. “News stand” suddenly became “attractive” rather than “repulsive” and it seemed more palatable to say the word.

However, this by itself is not sufficient for me to remember the word “Seithiththaal Nirbanai Nilaiyam”. I still need to remember the words “Nirbanai” and “Nilaiyam”. What’s happened is that what was once a large unit, “Nirbanai Nilaiyam”, has been broken down into two individual, bite size units for me to tackle.

There are now several methods I can resort to to remember this word, along with the others.

I can break each individual sound of each word down to remember as images. For example, “Nirbanai” becomes “Nir”, “bah”, and “nai”. I can then associate each sound with something that I find meaningful, like the game “Nier”, a sheep going “bah”, and “milk” in Chinese or “no” in German for “nai”.

I can use flashcards to remember each individual word and then combine them together in my head to form “news stand”.

I can aggressively seek out articles that are likely to include “news stand” in Tamil, although this will have to compete with all the other vocabulary words that I’m trying to learn, like “palace” (“Aranmanai” in Tamil).

It’s probably best to do a combination of all 3 techniques to remember these vocabulary words. Let’s see how many I can remember by mid-April.

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