Memorising words

I have French to at least a good B2 level, and I am learning German from scratch, having started late last year. I am using native podcasts for French and the mini stories for German, plus Anki for vocabulary.

I understand some of the research on memory. Nineteenth century work by a German showed that we forget words very fast unless they are in long term memory. Later research showed that a word moves into long term memory if we come across it regularly over a period of time e.g. months. That of course is the basis of Anki,

And yet I am now finding that I can often remember new French words after one session. Last night I listened to a podcast, and learnt the following:

Le sas - the airlock
L’écluse - the lock (canal)
Faire surface - to surface (submarine)
La citerne de ballast - the ballast tank

Today I can recall them all, no problem. Why is this? I spent quite a bit of time thinking about the words, and how you use them, and it seems that that act of concentration has moved them into long term memory. Clearly there is an association between the way that one encounters a word or phrase, and the efficacy of storage in memory.

I also find French much more easy now, which is probably because I have built up a good foundation.

With German I really struggle, words are often so alien, verbs are especially hard, and after many months I still cannot recall many basic verbs. I assume that will get easier with time.

I find that learning German phrases is more useful than verbs, it seems that the context helps greatly.

Are there any good works online that summarise how the memory works in terms of current research? Or do you have helpful thoughts based on your own experiences?

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