Translated by Alanna Quintyne

Do you know the words Riconoscimento and Rievocazione? They are mechanisms that we put in place to remember what we have memorized. If you want to know about them, keep reading this article called “Recognition and Recall “! :)

When we study, not just a foreign language, but any subject, there are two fundamental mechanisms that we put in place in order to remember what we have memorized. These are recognition and recall.

But what do these two terms mean? Which of these mechanisms is easier to set in motion? To answer these questions, I would say to consult an Italian language dictionary.

  • Recognition = the identification of something or someone you already know.
  • Recall = the action of calling something to mind.

From these brief definitions you can deduce that recognition is a much simpler process than recall.

Let’s try to give an example to explain what I mean with recognition:

Suppose you’re reading in Italian, or in any other language other than your native language. Even if you don’t know all the words in the text and cannot translate some of them, you are able to understand the overall meaning of what you are reading. In addition, another thing to keep in mind is that there are probably some terms that you have seen before, and thanks to the context as well as the fact that you have already been in contact with them (through reading or listening) you would be able to identify them immediately by giving them meaning, even if you rarely use them and even if you don’t know how to translate them.

However, the case of recall is different.

Let’s assume that this time you have to give a speech in a foreign language. In this case the effort becomes markedly greater because you are not simply identifying the meaning of words you read or hear, but you must precisely recall them by bringing them to mind and then using them. You’ll have to find all of that information within yourself, be it words, expressions and why not, even structures to use in order to communicate effectively. It is obvious that if this information has not been well stored it will be difficult to use.

So, how can we succeed not only in recognizing words but also in recalling them?

We have to do a little more “active” study, and in order to make this information active, we have to use it.

In fact, very often I hear from my students that they have come across specific words more than once but are unsure of either the meaning or how to use them in a conversation. And I won’t hide from you that the same thing happens to me for example when I read or listen to something in English. Even though I know I don’t know a word I keep going, partly because the context gives me the opportunity to understand what is being talked about, so in this case, I don’t worry about it, and consequently I do not deal with it.

However, the consequence of this way of doing things, is that it can lead to a kind of failure to recall a term or expression as well as the inability to use them when necessary.

Make the information that is still passive, active.

In previous articles, I have already discussed some techniques for increasing vocabulary, but to make these efforts really effective, one must try to actually use the new words and expressions by putting them in context.

One thing I often ask my students for example, especially when we study ambiguous words such as proprio, ormai, magari, ci mancherebbe, etc., is to write sentences for each of the corresponding meanings.

Instead, when I use words and expressions that they do not yet know, I first try to explain to them the meaning in Italian (obviously if they are not beginners) and try to provide them with other sentences and examples that contain them. After that I ask them to create sentences of their own.

I will not hide from you that sometimes a large part of the lesson is devoted to new terms, just to make sure that both the meaning and the way they are used in context are clear.


All that has been written above leads me to emphasize once again one thing that will seem a bit trivial: in order to make the information acquired active one must use it.

So, spend some time creating texts, sentences, using concepts with which you have come into contact and experiment with them. With time and practice all the information will readily come to you and you will be able to use it at the appropriate time.

ila firma

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