A common problem i face in familiarising myself with the Spanish language is words that are common but hard to remember. Sometimes, i have made an effort to learn these words by association only to remember the association but not the definition. For example, with aconsejar (a-con-say-harr) meaning to advise, i trained myself to bring to mind the image of a criminal-saying-ahhhhhh which always worked. The next move, finding the English word i want, consistently finds a blank spot in my mind. This is because my association is strongly about the con part and weakly about the advise part (say-ahhh, was suppose to be his giving advise, a very tenuous link).
We must be more direct in order to correct. By associating the word with someone who is both a bit of a con but more of an adviser, like dick Chaney for example, we give ourselves a better chance of coming up with the distant English word.