Just saw a great video from Pr. James Paul Gee from Arizona State University.
When learning new words we need to have an image, an action, something tangible to associate to that new word. If you have nothing but a synonym or a definition or even a translation, you don’t really grasp the meaning of that new word.
In order to understand this, go to a video game shop and buy a brand new video game. Go home and start reading the manual. See if it teaches you to play the game… You will most likely not understand anything this is about. It will like a sequence of unrelated words with no meaning whatsoever.
Then start playing the game for some time.
Take the manual again and start reading. You should be able to understand everything it says. That’s because you can now easily associate the words on the manual with the actions you’ve just been performing.