What to do if there’s a French word you just can’t remember

When you’re learning a lot of vocabulary, there’ll often be the odd few words that you simply cannot remember

Kieran Ball
3 min readJun 17


Whether you’ve only just started learning French, or you’ve been learning for a while, there’ll always be a word, or two, or three that you just cannot seem to remember no matter how hard you try. What you should do first is make a list of those words you’re struggling with and start to tackle them one word at a time, using this technique.


Grab a small piece of paper and write the word you can’t remember, in English, in the centre. Fold the piece of paper up and put it in your pocket. Don’t write the word in French; only in English.

A few times a day, take out the piece of paper and look at the English word, and try to remember what it is in the language you’re learning. The first few times, you might have to watch one of the 3 Minute French videos again or look through your cue cards to find the word, but having to do this each time will annoy your brain, since it’s a lot of effort. Consequently, your brain will start to make the word into a memory just to make things easier for you.

Build sentences, too

Each time you take the piece of paper out, try and remember the foreign word, but also try and think of a sentence that you could use that word in. For example, if the word you struggle to remember is “very”. Write “very” in the middle of the paper and then whenever you take it out of your pocket, make up a sentence such as “it is very good” (c’est très bon) or “it is very good here” (c’est très bon ici) or “it is always very good” (c’est toujours très bon) and say them out loud in French. By making sentences, it will give the words more relevance in your mind, making them easier to remember.

This technique is something you should only do with any words that won’t stick after trying the cue card techniques. You’ll find that the majority of words will go into your brain and become memorised quite easily, but there will always be a couple that won’t.

Tackle only one word at a time



Kieran Ball

Teacher and creator of 3 Minute Languages — a series of books and online courses that help you to learn a foreign language quickly and easily www.3minute.club