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Doing rote memorization drills to memorize new Spanish vocabulary words can be a real drag. Flash cards can help liven up the learning process, but why not go another step further and use Spanish vocabulary picture cards -- flash cards with pictures on them -- to help you drill vocabulary?
Download the rough sketches that accompany this article here, and either use them for your own learning practice or as inspiration to make your own Spanish picture cards. If you’re going to use the cards provided, cut them out along the dotted lines. Then write the Spanish word you're aiming for on the back for reference. Include the English translation too, if you must, but keep in mind that your goal is to skip translating between English and Spanish -- instead linking the Spanish word directly to its meaning, by way of the images on the card.
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In previous examples of Spanish picture flash cards, we’ve discussed how to come up with images that prompt you to recall a familiar word that either looks or sounds almost exactly like the Spanish word you’re trying to memorize. Sometimes you have to get a little silly to make the association. In this case, putting grains of rice in “a-rows” prompts us to remember the Spanish word for rice, arroz. Usually, the sillier or more outrageous the images on your vocabulary picture cards are, the easier it will be to summon up at need.
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If we take the idea of silly associations and run with it -- or let a train run with it, anyway -- we arrive at the vocabulary card image of a train full of lettuce. Lettuce leaves come out of the smoke stack, a line-up of lettuce heads wait eagerly beside the track, and lettuce cars trail behind the engine full of -- you guessed it -- lettuce. And what sound does a lettuce train make? Perhaps you guessed it again: Lechuga-chuga-chuga-chuga-chuga.
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This image was suggested to me, and it was so unique that it immediately wiped any other associations I'd had for turkey (pavo) out of my head. Imagine a fat turkey perched on a paving stone: Doesn't that bring the word pavo to mind? Given my basic art skills I sketched a turkey sitting on the sidewalk instead of paving stones. You can modify the cards you create to match your art skills, too. In this case, any image that prompts you to think of pavement should do the job.
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You can't get much sillier than the image of a zany carrot. And if that carrot can only be zany for an hour? Combing zany and hora (the Spanish word for hour) gets you very close to the Spanish word for carrot, zanahoria. Exactly what a zany carrot looks like, on the other hand, is entirely up to you; this one is a great candidate for making your own Spanish picture flash card.
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There's only one real rule when it comes to making Spanish picture cards: Anything goes. Here, I've used a talking onion as my absurd mental image, but it's what the onion actually says -- "Say, boy, uh..." that triggers my recall of the Spanish word for onion, cebolla.
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Enjoy embellishing the ideas here or coming up with your own. Remember, the wackier your Spanish vocabulary picture cards, the more likely you are to make a solid association. The act of dreaming up crazy images, drawing the cards and pronouncing the vocabulary words as the cards are shown also helps draw in students with various learning styles. If your students enjoy this activity, they might also like to play a few picture games in Spanish.
- Source: Author's own experience