When I learn, say, Spanish vocab, I read a word once or twice and usually know it. When it comes to Arabic, however, it takes around 10 minutes longer (okay, well, maybe not thaaat long), which is according to research the norm, but seems incredibly long to me.
Studies show that the brain can learn a new word in less than 15 minutes, or by listening to it about 160 times. This process involves new neural networks being formed and happens faster than previously assumed (!).
“Repetition is the key, but the best time for the brain to learn is when you’re relaxed and don’t try to remember anything”, says Dr. Shtyrov from the Medical Research Council’s Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit. Furthermore, the mind choses (not) to remember (un)important things (incl.words). That’s a pretty good and cool thing, because otherwise our brains would be crammed with useless data while that space could be used for more important information (and I really don’t mind not to being able to remember “business administration” in Arabic (actually, I do remember it now after ‘accidentally’ reading over it again yesterday)).
Generally, languages that are more closely related to your native language(s) are easier to pick up because they share more (phonological, morphological and syntactic) characteristics, so there are fewer new concepts to deal with.
I assume new networks in my brain for Spanish vocab can be formed much quicker due to the similarity between this language and the ones that I already know; it is easier to recall phonological strings that are familiar to you and could exist in your language.
There doesn’t seem to be much research done on this yet, I might end up doing some myself later in life.
Nevertheless, in the end of the day, just knowing loads of words won’t automatically make you able to understand, let alone speak a language. It’s not only about words, you also need to know a language’s grammar.
1 new word in 15 minutes. 96 words in 24 hours. Okay, realistically, if you were a normal human being, spent some time sleeping, eating and doing other stuff, and say about 4 hours learning new words, that would make 16 words per day. About 480 per month. 5760 per year. That should get you pretty far, seeing that, according to Professor Arguelles,”5000 words constitute the active vocabulary of native speakers without higher education“…