Two tips to share with my fellow students:
The first is mnemosyne, the second is get a monolingual dictionary.
Thanks to Tim Ferris for the link that introduced me to mnemosyne. It’s a piece of free software that acts like a study companion – every day it throws questions at you and you get to grade your replies so that the stuff you know well doesn’t come up too often and the stuff you hardly know hits you over and over until you remember it. Here is the link
Here is a screenshot:
Screenshot – Mnemosyne Software
When you answer the prompt you are invited to click a number from 0 to 5 depending on how easy it was. Click 0 if you didn’t have a clue, 5 if you know it intimately. It’s a painless way of drilling vocabulary. You make your own lists or import other people’s, and you can modify to your heart’s content.
The second tip is linked to the first. You don’t want to spend precious time learning phrases and words that might be wrong. Buy a monolingual dictionary (I bought Salamanca, about £40 from Amazon) and use it to find good sample phrases that you can type into mnemosyne. A useful tip is to search words that you already know and see what examples it gives.
Someone asked me how I knew which phrases to save into mnemosyne. I think you just know instinctively if a phrase or word is going to be useful. Choose examples that you can easily imagine yourself saying to someone. And choose examples that make good templates where you can easily change one word 50 times to make 50 new sentences, for example in Spanish: ¿Qué tipo de XYZ tiene? or in French Qu’est-ce que vous avez comme XYZ? are well worth learning; just swap XYZ for whatever interests you.